|IEEE Canada Newsletter / Nouvelles de IEEE Canada|
|Issue: December 2001|
News of Interest
IEEE Canada Presidents Report Fall, 2001
We have probably all heard the saying “May you live in interesting times”. In the year 2001, we have certainly been ‘blessed’ with such times. Not only in world affairs, where we saw one of the most horrific events of all time – a terrible, unimaginable attack on the US by terrorists, with all the associated deaths, damage, injuries, intense sorrow and general confusion. But also in IEEE, some of the most interesting issues which have surfaced over the past many years caused our volunteers to devote considerable time, thought and effort into deciding how the organization should best be run. In the US incident, the world has joined them in sorrow, and the support pouring out is probably the strongest unification of the world’s cultures and countries that has ever occurred. Although the IEEE issues are hardly in the same ballpark of seriousness, some are quite intense, and perhaps this will generate some of the same teamwork and understanding. The most significant of the IEEE issues is the budget, given that the Board of Directors voted, for the second time, to work with a deficit budget. This has spawned side discussions not only on the financial model, and on how to deal with the current problems, but also on the organizational structure, the modus operandi, and even where the Board meetings should be held. But, let’s step back for a moment to assess what the crucial issues are.
Looking back over the year 2001 we find many significant items, which affected IEEE Canada, which is also IEEE Region 7. Most of these issues are interrelated with each other, and to do them justice I’d need at least four times the space I plan to use here. To condense the information I will try to select the most significant issues, and cover them at a high level, to give an understanding of the concepts at least. At the IEEE and Regional Activities level, these include the overall budget of IEEE, the structure of IEEE and the Board of Directors, the method of election of the RAB VP, and the need to build better interdepartmental trust and communications. Another issue being addressed is the scope of the membership criteria. Yet another is how we will handle intellectual property in the upcoming electronic environment. Within IEEE Canada some of the biggest issues have been the management and the future of our electronic services, the formation of the life members chapter and the handling of our Journal. We are also facing the issue of how to ensure that we have a staff signature on all of our bank cards, and what our investment policy should be, given the IEEE-wide requirement to have one common set of investments.
Let’s start with the budget. Over the past five to ten years, IEEE has been doing very well financially. We have started a number of successful initiatives which have not only improved customer service, but which are also bringing in additional revenue, either in terms of sales of publications, or in terms of additional members. At the same time, the IEEE investments have had returns, which were significantly above the market average, due to the volume of dollars to invest, and also the strong investment staff. When the stock market crashed, we were hit in the pocketbook in a few ways. First, of course, is the significantly lower return on our investments. This alone gave a shortfall of multiple millions. In addition to this, with companies downsizing and people out of work, the membership numbers and the sales were also hit to some lesser extent. The end result was that there was a deficit in 2000, which had to be covered, The resources could come from the reserves. However, if this sort of spending were to continue it would be only a matter of a few years before the reserves would be depleted. So the decision was made that the initial shortfall would come from the reserves – but this means tapping the reserves of the organizational units, since it is not possible to cover it with corporate reserves, and to address the financial model for going forward. At the same time, the Board of Directors, before it was fully aware of these problems, had approved a deficit budget for 2001, and had rejected a proposed new financial model. The reasons for these actions are fairly complex, but they amounted to basically lack of enough information at the right levels for the Board to make decisions – the budget book of 1200 pages, with no summary, had been received one week prior to the meeting, as one example – and not enough trust amongst the entities. We’ll come back to the trust issue later. So this year much energy has been spent defining and implementing a model, which will fairly tax all organizational units in order to, cover the deficit. Also, energy is being expended to define a workable financial model to deal with future finances, and to mitigate the impacts, which might occur from potential future problems. Our own Ray Findlay, as IEEE President Elect, has been very proactive in helping to resolve the issues on the table. There are too many recommendations to cover the details here, but most of the impact in not on our Region, but on the Societies. One proposal, though, is of interest. Over the past 5 years, IEEE has not increased member dues. This is now seen as a mistake, since we are now charging dues well below the going rate. Therefore general member dues will increase. In addition, many Societies and some Regions are also looking at increasing their dues. So a few members will see significant increases, if they belong to a few Societies on top of their basic membership.
Let’s look at the matter of trust amongst the organizational units. IEEE is a huge and extremely complex organization. At the moment, despite efforts of a number of people, myself included, there is little interaction amongst these units. There are two significant barriers to this. The first is time. Board series meetings used to span a two-week period, which allowed all units to meet independently, and allowed for time for discussion and resolution of major issues. In today’s business environment, no one can afford to attend multiple two-week meetings each year. So the Board series was shortened to 5 days, over a weekend, and meetings are held in parallel. The end result is that one individual cannot easily be active in two or more units, and even attending partial meetings is almost impossible. The second barrier is the financial model. The money seen by each unit as being ‘theirs’ even though all money is really IEEE money. Naturally, the unit that makes the money expects to use this income to fund future initiatives to benefit their own members. This is good thinking, unless some units are not in a position to make money – requiring that there be ‘overhead’ to carry these units. Also, when there is a problem or a need for significant contributory funding, this environment encourages each unit to protect its own resources before thinking of the common good. So, while everyone is stepping up to assist with resolving the budget situation, everyone also wants to put in place both a financial model and an organizational model that are more supportive of overall teamwork. This will address the longer-term financial problems as well as the overall issue of trust.
Thus the organizational structure is being addressed, to find ways in which we can continue to encourage volunteerism, continue to serve our members, continue to honour the time that volunteers can spend in meetings, but at the same time, encourage much more cross pollination and co-operation amongst the units.
Even the structure of the Board of Directors, now a 31 member Board, is being reviewed, by a committee headed by Wally Read, Region 7 member, past Region 7 Director, and past IEEE President. Their proposal is still under discussion, so it will not be addressed in detail here.
As for the Vice President of Regional Activities, this position has been shared with that of the Chair of the Regional Activities Board. The RAB Chair has been elected, till now, by the RAB Assembly, which consists of the Regional Directors and the IEEE President. This is fine for the RAB Chair, but when the lawyers pointed out that the VP needs to be elected by the membership, all the various options had to be addressed. The RAB VP will now be elected by the full Assembly, which includes both RAB Directors and Technical Activities Directors. All of these are elected by the membership, so this approach meets the legal criteria.
The issue of the scope of membership came up because of the fact that today there are many university programs that produce graduates who are probably qualified to be full members, but these are not included on our standard lists today. The main issue is IT. There are many, many IT professionals who are working in jobs that would qualify them for full membership, but the programs sprang up so quickly, in such diverse departments, that it is almost impossible to write criteria to cover them all. In addition, there are others we would probably want as members – consider the lawyer who spends his entire career working on telecommunications regulation – should he or she qualify for full membership? These are the questions being addressed by a committee hoping to extend the membership criteria to include all those who have qualifications which would qualify them for full membership. Today these are assessed on an individual basis, but with the increase in volume and diversity, there is a danger that we’ll lose many qualified members before they even get in the door.
The IP issue is a new one, which people will be addressing over the next year or so. With many services going electronic there will be issues of how we handle intellectual property. Should it be given free, how much should be given for a fee, under what model and at what price. I suspect this will pose some interesting problems going forward.
Within the Region we will be impacted to various extents by these larger issues. There are also some hot issues we are struggling with internally. Probably the biggest is the future of our electronic services. We have enjoyed some excellent service with internally hosted electronic services, managed initially by Jacek Chrostowski and more recently by Philip Choy. Hanna Chrostowski, as a volunteer, has done significant volunteer work for the region, and through her company, has managed our facilities, equipment and content. This year, due to many concerns, including hackers attacking our services, an IEEE concern for business continuity due to some water problems, not to mention the whole Y2K picture, an IEEE desire for consolidation of electronic services where possible, the increase in spam and viruses, it was decided that we could best address some of these issues by having our services hosted in Piscataway. The first action by the Board was to vote a motion of thanks to Jacek Chrostowski, to thank him for his vision and leadership in setting up Regional services which were at the leading edge of technology world-wide, and also to thank Hanna for her tireless efforts and contributions over the years. Next Philip did extensive assessments on a large number of possibilities for solving some of these problems, with all resolutions leading to the Piscataway solution. The move has started. There have been a few issues to deal with en route, as with any such move, but I am confident we’ll complete the move shortly with minimal service disruption. Through all of this, the new service potentials have continued to appear. We will be linked to two career databases. One is the IEEE database, which currently has mainly US postings, but their intention is to expand internationally. The other in a Canadian site, which has been joined by the organizations belonging to the Engineering Institute of Canada. It is provided by Brainhunter, and promises some small revenues to IEEE Canada along with the job potentials for our members. Also under investigation is the electronic distribution of our newsletter, already underway to those members we have email id’s for, and possible electronic publication of our other pubs in the near future, under the guidance of Bruno Di Stefano.
Ron Potts has been very active establishing a Canada-wide Life Members Chapter of IEEE Canada. This fall he is working to break this Chapter into three, one in each of our Councils. We hope to see more life members out to local meetings as a result, and also to be able to offer support to the Sections from the life members.
The Canadian Journal ran into a small snag, which has been resolved. As a result of the budget restructures at IEEE, a pay-by-the-drink model was adopted for services provided by staff. The staff has had some involvement with the fulfilment of the Journal orders. However, our editor, Om Malik, already did much of the work. The charge assessed to us for this item was far above the cost of doing the work internally, so for the moment Om has taken over the total fulfilment. Cathie Lowell may assist future editors as well.
Another item, which has been addressed this year, is that of IEEE staff signatures on all bank account signature cards. All section, conferences, chapters or other units which have a bank account must get a staff signature on the card, to meet IEEE audit requirements. This has proved to be somewhat of a challenge due to the reluctance of the banks to send original signature cards out of the country. However, we are progressing with this to meet the IEEE auditor requirements. Anyone who has an IEEE bank account without such a signature should contact Cathie Lowell to get assistance with the process.
IEEE has prepared two seminars on Leadership and Project Management, and Region 7 had two people trained to lead these, myself and these, myself. Slawo Wesolkowski and Ray Findlay also do the Leadership training. The sessions have been given a few times, and we are planning to give these presentations in as many areas as possible in the future, hopefully with more trainers trained as well.
There are, of course, many other activities underway, but no room to cover them here. To mention only a few thanks to Vijay Bhargava many of our members have received well-deserved awards from IEEE, from Region 7, and from EIC. Thanks to Cathie Lowell most of our members concerns and questions have been quickly addressed. Thanks to Dave Kemp, much Section rejuvenation work has continued. Thanks to all our Section Chairs for many, many technical meetings for our members. Thanks to Hilmi Turanli who makes sure that we work within our budget, and that executive expenses are paid and tracked. And to many more who have given their time this year to make IEEE experience rewarding to members in Canada, including, but not limited to Rob Anderson – Membership Development, Dominic Rivard – Student Activities, Gerard Dunphy – Professional Activities, Eric Holdrinet – Educational Activities, Jorge Aguirre – Student Representative, Abdel Sebak – Conferences, Doug Topping – Standards, Ivana Vujosevic – GOLD, Slawo Wesolkowski – Chapters coordinator, and almost 100 Chapter Chairs, Vijay Sood – Canadian Review, Abhi Gupta – Electronic Newsletter, John Mowbray, John Maniawski and Ferial El-Hawary – Council Chairs, and Mo El-Hawary, President Elect.
Summary of IEEE Meetings Attended in 2001 by IEEE Canada President
|IEEE Canada Newsletter - December 2001||Nouvelles de IEEE Canada - décembre 2001|
Last update - 2002,07,07 - la dernière mise à jour