Welcome to tomorrow

If there is one certainty in the mercurial IT world, it is simply this: those who anticipate the changes and who sensibly act upon them will indeed succeed. Those who attempt to ignore the changes - social, political and economic - that are unfolding around us and conduct activities as before will stagnate and whither.

The IT world is destined to change so radically over the next three years that no one can predict with accuracy just what shifts will occur and when.

But if we are to survive - let alone prosper - and serve our organisations and country well, we will have to create two things. We will have to create a mindset to anticipate the likely changes and a mechanism to act upon the changes.

A personal mindset sounds simple, doesn't it? Well, you might be surprised at how many executives both in business and information technology do not have just that.

All of us will have to react faster and recognise the developments all around us so that we may seize upon the opportunities from any and all reasonable and reliable sources.

For Australia to be competitive globally it is absolutely essential that we quickly determine our objectives and our own place in the world. We also need to back the local players and, where necessary, to support them to the hilt.

Aiming high

The responsibility for driving the change lies primarily with business, but business cannot do it alone. It is through people and the effective utilisation of our local resources, that we will be able to achieve world class performance in productivity, quality and service.

If ever I am able to find the time to write the history of the Australian IT industry, I should find it quite simple: in the beginning there were no computers, then there were computers then they all disappeared. We can report the same for Australian software as well as for consulting and services.

These local vendors didn't go away, they just faded into the background, mainly taken over by the multinationals.

In today's phase of computing small things are becoming part of the physical world incorporated into watches, fridges, clothing, walls, desks and so on. Indeed, this is the ubiquitous phase, the tiny phase with examples like digital cameras, pocket organisers, handheld computers, and mobile phones all quickly emerging.

Looking ahead

While it is imperative to have a business strategy directing overall activities, a five-year planning horizon typical of many traditional strategic plans is no longer feasible. Largely because of changes in the business environment brought about by the Internet, the pace of business change has reached the point where no more than 24 months is reasonable for a plan. Also, strategies that require more than 12 months to execute are unlikely to succeed.

The rising status of Australia's chief information officers has been supported mainly by a host of common technologies - the Internet and intranet networks, enterprise resource planning systems, data warehouses and a proliferation of PCs. These have replaced, if not solved, some of the technology decisions that used to bedevil anybody in charge of information strategy in the early 1990s. Standard technologies are now increasingly creating platforms that span an enterprise and leave senior IT executives a lot freer to focus on business directions.

Well at least for some. Others report that they are struggling against significant inherited incompatibilities in their systems. A lack of technology standards and harmonised company processes and applications are still worrying companies from leading banks to the massive telcos. There are still big challenges in the standardisation of applications and the frequent new releases that need to be implemented.

National endeavours

National economic development strategies around the world are increasingly being based on IT: Japan and the Asian Tigers are pursuing their efforts in developing an array of high growth ventures based or related to IT, while the United States and Europe are putting their acts together to face the next challenges from the Japanese.

There is no more time for Australia to passively observe the achievements of others. We must now consider our efforts balanced against those of Japan, Silicon Valley, Ireland, Israel and India, all of which are fostering, exploiting and refining IT associated business opportunities.

Australia has to stop living off our illusionary, short-term prosperity and take action, adjust our mindset and address the issues related to our future economic prosperity.

Australia is amongst the top countries deploying and adopting technology, according to research from Gartner Group, but when it comes to IT development we are running at the back of the pack.

The road to economic prosperity and national well-being is travelling in this new direction. IT and communications are the new worlds' infrastructure. Bridges are being built from innovations mainly unseen today, demands unexplored and brand new untapped markets. The bridge will provide new jobs and new wealth.

The reality of these changing times is that what was an idea yesterday is an emerging technology today, becomes mainstream tomorrow and can be old hat next week.

Welcome to the future!!!

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