Carnival is over but bad dream remains, says Mansfield

The alignment of IT and business is becoming so complex it's turning into a bad dream and those that don't change will be "dead", according to Telstra chairman Bob Mansfield.

Change is a farce because it's happening so quickly, he said at the recent J.D. Edwards users conference in Australia.

Mansfield said the last few years of Australia's corporate history is a mix of a bad dream and an exciting time.

He said business models are the key, because a Web site on its own is pretty useless.

"Now the carnival is over," Mansfield said, adding the only winners during the dotcom boom were merchant banks underwriting the floats and Internet investors who managed to see any returns.

"I've got no doubt that . . . we won't see an experience like this again. The lessons of the past apply to us in the future," he said.

"Right now, everywhere, money is bloody hard and more expensive to get it, and this applies to every industry.

Nonetheless, Mansfield told delegates he was more convinced now than ever that the corporate sector is only at the start of the Internet revolution.

"We haven't even touched the surface and we've got a hell of a lot in front of ourselves -- all of which for the right companies is going to provide fantastic opportunities."

Aseem Prakash, chief executive of Interactive Knowledge Online and moderator of online discussion forum ehubs Asia, claimed managers in Australia had "no idea" how to instil a culture of ongoing change to keep their organisations on the leading edge, saying they were not trained to think strategically about change. Boards were stuck on the misconception that change could be achieved by switching "a process or system".

He said the business models of most bricks-and-mortar companies were passed their use-by date. "Companies talk about the knowledge economy, becoming an e-business and things like integrated solutions, but it's a mistake to assume change is about 'doing' - it's about 'being'," Prakash said.

Mansfield said a souring economic climate puts pressure on IT managers to become more management-savvy in order to win over the keepers of the purse strings. "The IT manager's role in this world is going to become even more imperative. It's absolutely inevitable that arguments for more powerful technologies are going to have to be won at the board, or your business will not survive when times are tough."

"New economy" companies will be organisations that realise business success is not about technology, but managing change. "The way to reinforce this thinking starts in the boardroom," Mansfield said.

Companies that continually evolve will "mirror the Internet themselves", changing through habit, and being "radical and endlessly restless".

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