The NBN arguments in the public domain create a great case study about why technology leaders need to be agile and flexible. And I argue, it is SME suppliers who embody the very essence of dynamic and specialised skills and who offer a way to try new things with low risk.
The arguments for or against Fibre To The Home (FTTH) or Fibre To The Node (FTTN) architecture are based on metrics including cost, benefit and timeliness, together with some more intangible areas such as opportunity equality, enabling communities, and the role of Government.
But the true assessment of success, as in all things in life, can only be done retrospectively. We need to constantly challenge the views we hold about the future directions of IT, and also be more conscious of how our inherently tribal IT culture and heritage can influence how we make choices.
I have worked in or around IT since I was in my teens, that’s about four decades now. If you think people are one-eyed about their footie team or Ford v Holden, you ain’t seen nuthin’. Try IBM v RoW, Sun v Cisco, Windows v Linux, Mac v PC, Blackberry v Nokia, or iOS v Android, and that’s only the beginning.
It seems to me that the argument of FTTH vs FTTN sticks us in the binary A vs B argument, rather than eagerly embracing all the possibilities of our future technology.
The Labor Government made a decision, based on the best IT advice, that rolling out FTTH was going to achieve both its social and budgeted goals. It formed a company, instructed them to get on with that strategic decision, and achieve their NBN goal. Then along comes the Coalition Government, a party that strategically believes in market participation and that the metrics of the NBN can be improved, and the Coalition choose a different solution. These things happen: we’ve all worked in situations where strategic decisions based on funding have impacted our work. We adjust, and we get on with it.
But here’s my real point: this is an opportunity to do things differently.
As the NBN architecture changes, there’s a new opportunity that’s waiting to be seized. Australian IT companies should be out there promoting their solutions, tailoring their services with the new architecture and supply chain.
The ultimate irony in the debate about the NBN architecture is that the Internet was born out of chaos. It is constantly changing. Therefore technology must, and always will, continue to evolve.
All CIOs and technical leaders have to constantly challenge themselves to be much closer to the leading edge of future change. We have to be cognisant and experiment, always choosing the best solution to ensure a fighting chance of outliving the rate of change.
Many Australian companies provide low-cost and low-risk solutions for buyers of IT technology, offering the opportunity to look to the future and remain relevant. Locking into the long-term, with large, complex projects is far riskier.
Given the immense and often exponential speed of evolutionary IT changes, surely the most logical low-risk option is in experimenting with new technologies.
We should be doing what Australians have long done best: Giving it a go.
Australian IT firms have benefited from our excellent education system, our strong economy and our culture of being fast adopters of new technology. This augurs well for Australia, but only if buyers create the opportunity for these companies to provide value for money and specialised capabilities.
The AIIA iAward finalists represent some fantastic examples of Australian companies developing technology in a range of sectors. Take a moment to visit the site and be proud of the creative passion from this truly amazing array of Australian innovation. From improving the delivery of ambulance services, to improving productivity in mining, to helping disabled people into the work place, Australians are using their knowledge and innovative nature to improve our quality of life.
Solutions are to be found wherever an open mind will search for them. Australians are importing technology successfully, bringing positive enhancement to our life quality and business productivity, while we are also innovating locally and creating our own IT solutions, many of these with international export opportunity.
It is incumbent on those of us who understand IT to be aware of what is in the marketplace, and to challenge our traditional ways of thinking.
It is wise to remember that when visionary Henry Ford was asked what people needed for transport, he didn’t reply, “Faster horses.” We can be passionately polarised towards the proven. Turing proved that computers are binary. But the world is not.
Go on, try something new.