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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 06 March 2020, 1:48 pm

Weekly update from TechBlog Editor Paul Brislen. This week: Sneeze into your elbow, listen to your staff, and big celebrations as Tech overtakes wine in kiwi exports.

Raise a glass

It's finally happened. New Zealand's favourite export earner has fallen by the wayside. The wine industry now officially makes less money than the IT sector.

It's a sad day when software and services tickle the palate more than shiraz or pinot, but here we are. According to Statistics NZ exports of software and services by the tech sector reached $2.1 billion in 2019, up 47% since 2017.

And what's more, domestic sales are even better - $7.8 billion in 2019. The overall value of domestic and export sales was $9.8 billion, an increase of 31% from 2017.

But wait, there's more.

The ICT sector also sells services such as technical support, IT design, and hosting.

"Sales of IT design, consulting, and development services, and of IT technical support, were each valued at $2.5 billion in 2019. Hosting and IT infrastructure services were a growing market with $1.7 billion of sales," which means altogether the tech sector sells almost $22 billion worth of ones and zeros a year.

Now that's something to celebrate. Might I recommend a nice rose - Central Otago, of course.

Reseller News - NZ software and service sector surges, exports overtake wine


Going viral

If like me you've spent the week working on crisis planning around the COVID-19 outbreak you could probably do with a break.

I've seen videos showing us how to wash your hands, videos showing us panic buying of rice crackers and toilet paper, read stories about community spread versus imported, skipped over Facebook posts calling for our borders to be permanently closed because apparently "we're full" and plenty more besides.

I do know for many companies the "please explain" emails from customers and partners are growing like weeds in the sun and mean lots of running around counting laptops and making sure staff can access the right shared drives when logging in remotely.

Of course, we should all be careful about what this all means when we get that panicky email from "the CEO" at 2am asking us to transfer $100,000 to an account you've never seen before, and doubly so if we're using the local café as our free wifi hotspot/caffeine provider.

It's a scary business that ends up being at least unsettling and at most driving the strangest of behaviours as we struggle to cope with the extra anxiety it produces.

But for now it's more bark than bite (subject to rapid change, of course) and it's always good to test those Business Continuity Plans ahead of time.

Of course, for some businesses it's a little more serious. Airlines, forestry, tourism - all are rapidly coming to the end of what is, apparently, a very small window of profitability that can rapidly turn into a huge downward spiral.

If we're giving our support to anyone it should be to them, I believe, not necessarily to IT companies that aren't really in the front line of this battle. Sure, our turn may come but for now, let's do what we can to support those businesses that are looking at laying off staff, reducing hours and potentially even closing their doors for good.

And we should all wash our hands a little more often.

NZ Herald - Coronavirus: Keep it out, stamp it out - What's in NZ's pandemic plan?

NZ Herald - Coronavirus and Air New Zealand - time for cool heads

NZ Ministry of Health -  Coronavirus page 

World Health Organisation - Coronavirus page 

Centre for Disease Control - Covid 19 information for travellers

NZ Herald - Coronavirus: Local tech industry asks govt for three support measures

Reseller News - As coronavirus worsens, companies renew focus on collaboration, remote work


The sound of silence

There was just something odd about the whole Treasury "we've been hacked" debacle.

First off, the way the Opposition was clearly in the know and crowing about a major scalp. The comments made it clear - this wasn't a hacking or "using a computer without authorisation" or whatever phrase you want to deploy, it was an outright cock-up on someone's part.

But then the Treasury Secretary, a very serious man in a very serious role, went on Radio New Zealand and told us all it was like a locked room, and someone had tried all the door handles and windows until they'd found one that was open and that he'd referred the matter to the police and to the National Cyber Security Centre and probably to M and James Bond and at least Moneypenny as well.

Of course, none of these things were true, and even before he went on the radio, the Secretary's IT department was well aware of what had happened and had probably tried to tell him up front.

I've seen how that goes on more than one occasion.

I often joke that my job as a consultant is to listen to the (typically) younger woman at the back of the room who keeps trying to point out something obvious and then repeat it loudly and in an expensive way so that the C-Suite hears her properly.

As an old(er) white male, I tend to get more air time and I try to use it wisely but honestly, you could save yourselves a lot of time and money if you just listened to the people you already employ.

And that's really what this whole Treasury debacle came down to. I am sure someone pointed out the risks of indexing the site, of linking the clone to the not-yet-live content, of allow users to pootle around searching for things and finding those brief snippets of information that don't quite line up with what you want. I am sure if senior management was interested in the how as much as the what of their jobs this wouldn't have happened.

The new Treasury Secretary says they've learned a lot and won't be repeating that mistake again this year. I'm all in favour of making completely new mistakes but I just hope in this case the lessons of listening have been well and truly heard.

Techblog - Budget website: it's a feature not a hack

Techblog - Budget IT inquiry puts spotlight on senior leadership

NBR - Disregarding the CEO can be perilous (PAID)


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