The world today is full of cycles. There are stock market highs and lows, periods of good and bad weather even apparent cycles of good luck and bad luck. We hear about certain kinds of cycles every day “The Dow is up”, “We’re having a warming trend”, “The economy is down”. But while we commonly apply this thinking to certain areas of our life, it’s less common to think this way when we consider business processes that have longer cycles and aren’t typically considered repeatable.

Like most industries the Australian technology sector is facing a range of challenging structural shifts, such as climate change and convergence, amplified by the global credit crunch. However, the technology sectors resilience has seen itself weathering the storm, demonstrating the importance of the sector as a critical enabler of almost every other sector of the economy. Furthermore, the forces at work currently within the industry, while impacting existing business, models are creating new opportunities for growth in the sector and reflect the importance of continued support for the sector as a driver of growth in the Australian economy.

IT today finds itself at a crossroads, one that is defined by a plethora of innovative ideas and products. It’s where mobile meets human collaboration and “social networks”. It’s also about the “internet of thing” – armies of sensors and devices. It’s also about new products with funny names like wikis, fermocells, virtualization, big data, clouds, telemetry and so on, in other ways though some are still left in the “Dark Ages”. Many organisations do not have the funding to take advantage of IT enabled business innovations. This is because; anywhere between 60% to 80% of their current IT budgets are consumed by “utility computing” that is “keeping the lights on”, maintaining legacy software, renewing basic hardware and so on.

The past 10 years have been game-changing for technology. Today’s technology connects people to information and to each other in completely new ways. We now take for granted the idea that information – a vast reservoir of connected information is available to us 24 hours a day, every day. Even as we debate the shape and direction of the resulting “information revolution”, we all sense the speed, scope and intensity of the changes it generates that are often transforming our underlying expectations – not only about economic productivity, but also about values of social solidarity, political identity and personal privacy and security.

The challenge for organisations in the future will not be based on the availability of technology, but rather on the management and utilization of the technology to drive business advantage. As the lines between business and technology continue to converge, we have to think about the preparedness of the next generation technology business leaders and whether they are equipped to effectively manage the complexities of business technology. Traditional academic institutions have been slow in moving to fuse curriculums resulting in a short supply of well rounded graduates from computer science programs.

No one would argue that smart, educated people with verbal and logical intelligence are a key factor in creating competitive advantage in organisations. Now is the time to exploit the next frontier of competitive advantage. As the world becomes increasingly wired together, people and relationships they forge will become the new source of competitive advantage.

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Len Rust

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