2018 – A Great Year for ComSoc
It has been a privilege and a great honor serving our members for the past year as the IEEE Communications Society (ComSoc) President. A year ago, I strived to build upon the outstanding efforts of our volunteer leaders, staff, and members to take our beloved society to new heights by addressing many challenges, including industry engagement, membership decline, and relevance. To do so and in order to make ComSoc stronger and bring it to a new level of excellence, six key priorities were set forward at the beginning of my term in January 2018 as listed in Fig. 1.
I am happy to report that 2018 has been a great year for ComSoc with many achievements on many fronts along with a plurality of ongoing exciting initiatives, which were designed to meet our goals. In particular, the objectives listed in my first President’s Page in January 2018 are showing good progress, and the next year will be mostly devoted to the further execution of our strategic plans and initiatives
In the following, we will briefly report on the progress made during the last year to meet three of our key priorities, namely, membership, fiscal and structural efficiency, and relevance
As is the case with most IEEE societies, ComSoc has witnessed a decline in membership, especially student members and practitioners, because of multiple factors. For instance, students obtain many of the benefits of membership through their universities and colleges, and hence they do not see obvious reasons for joining ComSoc. Likewise, the corporate R&D landscape has dramatically changed over the past years, and incentives for industry people to join IEEE do not appear that trivial. To adequately address these challenges, we initiated various activities to reverse this trend by enhancing benefits and developing value-added programs and succinct value propositions for our members. Examples include the establishment of special activities for our students and young professionals at our flagship conferences GLOBECOM and ICC. One new popular initiative that was very well received by our members is the organization of a Network with Leaders Reception (Figs. 2 and 3) for our students attending ICC and GLOBECOM. Attendees are invited to a special and distinctive reception where they will have the chance to meet and network with thought leaders from industry and academia.
I am pleased to note that the results of our membership drive efforts so far have been positive. Our membership decline this year has stopped, and at the end of 2018 we saw a slight increase in membership compared to one year ago. It is also gratifying to note that our 2018 membership retention rate has been phenomenal at 80% compared to 53% in 2015, and more importantly compared to a 69.80% average membership retention rate across IEEE in 2018. The increase in membership has been witnessed around the world, and especially in the Asia-Pacific region. For example, in just two Chapters, Xian and Harbin Chapters in China, we saw an 83% and 110% increase in membership, respectively.
Fiscal and Structural Efficiency
For any organization, fiscal and organizational efficiency is of the utmost importance for its success and continued growth. Over the past year, fiscal efficiency was one of our key priorities. In this regard, our treasurer has spent significant efforts to improve the operation of the finance committee, to reduce costs, and increase revenue opportunities without compromising our services to members.
I am very pleased to report that our financial situation significantly improved in 2018. Indeed, our budget is quite healthy, moving from a budget deficit in 2017 to over a half million dollar surplus in 2018. The forecast for 2019 is also positive, and we are planning to spend our additional income to increase services to our members.
Another important development in 2018 is the reorganization of our Board of Governors (BoG) structure to improve our operations and, more importantly, to allow ComSoc to stay ahead and relevant. After a thorough review of our operations and structure, we realized that our operations and portfolios are too fragmented and there was a lack of synergy between the different Vice-President (VP) operations. This is especially true with our drive to increase industry engagement. Our findings indicated that acquiring and maintaining “engaged” industry members requires coordinated and synergistic efforts from all ComSoc souls (educational, geographical, and technical). That is, it requires the synergistic efforts and participation of both the academic and industry communities within ComSoc. It also requires the creation of appropriate products and content that are right for different types of audiences, rather than privileging only scholarly work, for instance, of which some of our publications have been accused of. To achieve our objectives and address our challenges, especially vis-à-vis industry engagement, we concluded that such lofty goals would not happen if we continue separating our industry communities and technical communities. This is the case with our current structure that defines an Industry and Standards Activities organization, which has been operating as a separate structure and in isolation from our core technical activities.
I am happy to report that during its meeting at GLOBECOM 2018 in December, our BoG unanimously decided to introduce fundamental changes to our BoG structure in order to strengthen and streamline our operations, efficiency, culture, and effectiveness by eliminating the position of Vice-President for Industry and Standards Activities and creating a more lenient structure that is designed to better pursue our goals of producing excellent products and services along with member values for all of our members, including academics, practitioners, young professionals, researchers, women, and students
Figure 4 shows the new approved ComSoc BoG organizational structure, which will take effect on January 1, 2020.
Relevance and Leadership
To maintain our global leadership and continue revolutionizing, it is crucial that we evolve and continue to be at the heart of communications technology development in the world. It is also critically important that we continue to enhance our relevance by broadening our scope to emerging technology areas while exploring and exploiting new technologies. In this regard, we have now updated our policies and procedures to become more agile and proactive in our quest for evolution. In particular, we have revised our mission and vision statements so that they are better linked to our values and vision for the future. The new ComSoc vision and mission statements are as follows:
ComSoc Vision: To bring the world together in harmony through communications and networking technology research, application, education and incubation of new ideas.
ComSoc Mission: The IEEE Communications Society promotes technological innovation and fosters creation and sharing of information among the global technical community. The Society provides services to members for their technical and professional advancement and forums for technical exchanges among professionals in academia, industry, and public institutions.
The above new vision and mission statements describe in a succinct way our lofty goal as the IEEE Communications Society to be the global organization for communications engineers, scientists, and professionals. We have great members who are technology leaders, pioneers, and visionaries that include researchers, educators, engineers, and students, and through them the Society will be recognized as the world’s most trusted technical professional organization dedicated to advancing communications and networking technologies for the benefit of humanity.
Another exciting development in 2018 was the revamp of our new ComSoc web site, which was officially launched on November 26, 2018 thanks to the hard efforts of a newly formed IT team, known as the ComSoc X-team, which is led by our CIO, Zhi Ding. You are encouraged to send us comments so that we can continue to improve our web site and offerings to members and the community.
The above provides a brief report on some of last year’s activities. Many of these activities and others are described in more detail in our 2018 President’s Pages. We are very upbeat about the future of ComSoc. In the year ahead, we will continue to work hard with volunteer leaders and staff to innovate for a better tomorrow and a stronger ComSoc at the forefront of technological development in communications.
Thank you for your support and trust and please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or any member of the ComSoc Board or Standing Committees with your ideas and offers to help.
A very happy, prosperous, and healthy New Year 2019!