Coming of age

As growth in the IT market overall has slowed, we have tended to accept the change under the premise that the market is beginning to matureIndeed, when compared to nascent IT markets elsewhere in the world and also against traditional industries, it is entirely reasonable to argue that the Australian IT market really is maturing.

But the IT market is not a single entity with one set of growth factors. Rather, it is an amalgam of a whole bunch of mainstream and niche market sectors; emerging and declining technologies; and developing and decaying business models. It is these combinations which fuel the overall IT market growth, but it is the individual sectors and segments which enjoy much of the profile, pizzazz and hyperbole.

For all its outward signs of maturity, the IT industry still presents itself to the outside world as an electronic Wild West, where new frontiers are always being explored; where rules are made on the fly; and where product life expectations are short. Is it any wonder that the jingle of spurs can still be heard down the corridors of many an IT company even today?

The presence of cowboys is a fact of life in many industries, and no doubt always will be the case in the IT industry. Indeed, it is the sheer frontierlessness of the IT world which attracts many farsighted and competent individuals to the industry, and it is the challenge of the unknown which keeps them there.

For others, the challenge of the unknown continues to create new opportunities elsewhere. Over the past few years as information technologies have broadened their impact on mainstream, traditional industries such as financial services and business services, many senior IT industry executives have found themselves drawn into this new wave of technology deployment to meet the growing demand for techno-savvy marketeers and managers.

There is also a reverse effect, with many mainstream businesses and executives taking a stake in IT companies -- particularly their outsourcing partners -- creating a convergence of skills and knowledge intended to push both types of organisation forward.

These are not cowboys crossing the line. They are mature, experienced, fast-acting managers who just happened to learn their skills in the Wild West that the IT business has always been. But no doubt some of their newfound, traditionally-trained colleagues will imagine the jingle of spurs as they stalk the corridors of mainstream business.

But in reality, mainstream business' acceptance of these managers is a reflection of the enormous impact that the IT industry now has on the traditional corporate world. There is no suggestion that the complexities of technology will lessen even as the IT market matures, so you can bet your bottom dollar that these executives are just the first wave of outriders to cross over into mainstream business.

As much of the IT world will seek more business expertise as competition intensifies, as long as business relies on technology, then it will also rely on those who once were cowboys.

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