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Who broke the tech sector while I was gone?

Ian Apperley, Guest Post. 30 October 2019, 5:00 am
Who broke the tech sector while I was gone?

Occasional guest poster Ian Apperley has been absent from the scene for a while but now he's back with some reckons.

I realised the other day that it has been two and a half years since I last wrote any commentary on the technical state of the nation. Frankly, that's not good enough, and with general elections coming up next year as well as many other exciting things kicking off in the industry, it's time to return to the typewriter and start afresh.

It's been a busy two and a half years with nine different engagements in that time plus the usual speaking circuit where I get to waffle on about things that fascinate me while putting entire audiences to sleep.

There is certainly a trend over that time around technology in New Zealand and where it is going; unfortunately, we still see quite a lot of stasis in the government area, which is holding back our productivity.

Most agencies now have hybrid Cloud in some way, shape, or form. Believe it or not, there are still some holdouts that refuse to move services to Cloud, and it's still that security hangover that traps them. The cost of on-premise equipment is extreme these days not to mention the risk profile, which is very high. However, there are still some die-hard Luddites out there in the wild it seems, living the 00's dream.

Central Government has made a bit of a hash of the whole technology sector. Despite the best efforts of some very dedicated people in the form of the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group, otherwise known as DEDIMAG, progress has been incredibly slow.

No one knows who is taking the lead on the sector from a government perspective, with seemingly more agencies putting their hands up to lead while gaining no traction overall. The same problems around consumption of local technology services coupled with a still onerous procurement process show we haven't moved that far along, and who can forget the debacle around the Government Chief Technology Officer?

The most recent minutes from DEDIMAG show that they are still grappling with the issues that bedevilled them at their creation. It's interesting given that we have some powerhouse industry groups out there in the form of Institute of Technology Professionals, New Zealand Tech, and New Zealand Rise, that surely could solve some of these within a matter of weeks with their combined brainpower.

The sector continues to grow, regardless of the help of the central government, and if reports like Absolute IT's are anything to go by, it's in a very healthy state. Demand for resource continues to be high and "ICT Business Analysts" are in fact on the skills shortage list for the country. Rates for BA's have increased significantly in the past two years (so much for AI, we'll take human analysts instead thanks) and a good BA can earn upwards of $120 per hour, something that was previously reserved for technical architects.

Cloud resource of all kinds is also increasingly in demand as we see hybrid deployments creating new complexities for IT groups as they spread services across global platforms.

We're very confused about Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation, often mixing them up with business intelligence and IT replacement rather than what they are. I spoke about this at ITx Rutherford recently in a presentation called "Deconstructing Wonderland." We still see salespeople in certain technology heavyweights selling off old technology in a whitewashing exercise, and the failure rate of both AI deployments and Digital Transformation projects is high as a result.

The "hack" methodology is spreading and occasionally producing some fascinating results. Unfortunately, not so much in government where we often see innovation murdered just as it's getting started. However, some accelerated development programmes are producing good products, particularly in the fintech area.

Most of my work has continued to be strategic, with solid analysis engagements underpinning large organisations desperate to change to a modern stance, with technology becoming far more adaptable in supporting that change. As disruption continues in almost every industry sector, technology must be super-agile in response.

A favoured, brave, strategy is one of just starting again. I'm seeing organisations move away from continuing to try and upgrade their way out of legacy technology, a massively expensive exercise, and create a new technology stack that is entirely decoupled from the old aside from a data port. By the way, it works, and well.

While diversity across all spectrums is increasing in the sector, I still see some dinosaurs holding back progress. Nowhere is this more prevalent with local government which while they are struggling with transport, housing, and growth in general, seem completely unable to unlock the future utilising technologies that exist in the Smart City area.

Perhaps that is in some part because the large multi-national consulting giants are still dominating those leaders. With a business model that is now near one hundred and fifty years old, they have largely failed to transform their organisations and are now on life support and increasingly desperate to retain control of their dwindling revenue streams.

Globally, it feels a little like we have been in stasis when it comes to new technological breakthroughs. This could be organisations catching up to the last wave, being mostly Cloud, or large players extracting every dollar they can before moving onto the next thing.

Social media is due a major reformation soon with privacy now completely dead, algorithms that are bias, advertising platforms that are not effective, everyone stealing your data all the time, and regulators nipping at their heels.

Social media has become a major contributor, in the negative, to mental health. I spent time in the Philippines at the beginning of the year and was staggered to read statistics that show people spend an average of three and a half hours per day, just on social media platforms.

We're all waiting for the imminent collapse of one or more media services as the global technology giants dominate the media industry. Diversification of services has not resulted in the answer that media companies were looking for, and their value is declining day by day, a dangerous situation because the Fourth Estate is an incredibly important part of democracy.

So, there's plenty to talk about over the next few months, and as always, I value your feedback, contacts, input, examples of excellence, and critique.

Ian Apperley is well known to many in the ICT industry as both participant and commentator and craft beer apologist.

Reposted with kind permission


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