It's time for gongs, drums, banners and flags

"On the field of battle, the spoken word did not carry far enough, hence the institution of gongs and drums. Nor can ordinary objects be seen clearly enough; hence the institution of banners and flags.

"Gongs and drums, banners and flags are the means whereby the ears and eyes of the host may be focused on one particular point. The host thus forming a single united body".

The Ancient Chinese Book of Army Management.

It's that time of the year when the IT analysts do their thing, beat their drums and wave their respective flags and banners and, yes, maybe even give out a few gongs.

Their presentations will contain knowledge and insights into key practices to help companies gain and maintain competitive advantage. Each one takes years of information-gathering, each one is organised to permit attendees to absorb quickly what they've gathered in 45 minutes. But don't worry if they don't cover what you're looking for, it's all in the notebooks. And if that fails you can call the analyst when the roadshow is over.

The notebook (the Gongs and Drums) allows you to communicate to all the people in your organisation the information each person needs to co-ordinate individual marketing and/or planning requirements. It's also now available on CD and from the analysts' Web sites.

The industry analysts' presentations are mainly concocted from a brew of statistics and trends, and then intoxicated with these statistics and the latest fads (Banners and Flags) they preach that reason, loyalty, government and all the other saving graces of civilisation are dead.

Reason is worthless they preach, because buyers sometimes act irrationally, and to be loyal is foolish because people get divorced and get laid off more often than they did 30 years ago (the old IBM story).

Also, vendors often fail because their fortunes are tied to the individual who controls the company's' most unstable variables: people and money. So what's left?

Why, often chaos of course.

All commercial activity arises from human decision making and behaviour. It turns out that those people most successful at marketing and selling, launching and sustaining successful commercial ventures are those who are best at using propaganda to market, sell and otherwise influence decision makers. It was not until the War that it became evident that immense results could be obtained by the correct application of propaganda.

Propaganda is nothing more than the exploitation of human foibles -- the inherent flaws in the way you and I and other people make decisions.

I just love facts, and I really love to find facts that I'm looking for exactly when I need them (although, like all real guys, while I can find obscure data and sayings online, just ask me to find something in my own house and you'll have me stumped).

Just today I was able to find an obscure press release in a matter of seconds when I needed it while I was talking on the phone. Did I sound good or what? "Oh sure, I have something on that -- ah yes here it is".

So back to the gongs, drums, navel gazing and samba time -- "samba" by the way means to rub navels together!

We will hear that we are now in this "new economy" world of fast this and fast that -- it means many things -- playing the game differently, out thinking or out innovating the competition and in the process coming up with a lot of new answers to old questions.

The future will be full of unsung heroes and rising stars (and, like the Oscars, in most cases we've never heard of them). They are the industry's new millionaires. They are worldwide celebrities. To be fast today is also to recognise the new logic of IT careers, the zigzag course of opportunity, which is not to be confused with the "Ziggy" course of opportunity. In an economy though where change is relentless, swift and unending "fast" also means welcoming change and embracing it by beating the drum and waving the flags of opportunity.

Some companies, though, will need to act quickly and embark on either a trade sale or a floatation to take advantage of the exotic ratings the market is currently enjoying.

While chances are that the year 2000 may be known as the "Year of the takeover" it could also share names and go down in the annals of IT history as the "Year of the IPO".

Soaring salaries, stock options for everyone, and head hunters on every corner of Walker Street mean that this is the year that the "new economy" will create some of the best job opportunities ever in Australia.

The Analyst Briefing Shows will highlight the "success" areas, will tell us who will win - the telcos, the service vendors, the old economy hardware players, the consumer electronics companies or perhaps the media and entertainment industry.

Hopefully they will be provocative enough and with just the right amount of humour and insight to help the audience understand how to turn a rapidly changing business environment into a competitive advantage for their respective organisations.

The information technology industry has evolved in three large humps of 15 years, each one followed by an explosion of new companies after which there comes a period of rapid change and then the gradual emergence of a few dominant vendors that have generally ruled until the next digital disturbance. In the future this time scale could become a lot more compressed.

The future of the IT industry will be shaped by a complex mixture of inexorable trends, random events and the actions of key individuals and vendors. The best method for projecting future trends and events is to gather as much information as possible and, then to depend on subconscious information processing to provide useful insights.

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