Brett O’Riley, the new CEO of the latest industry group in IT, is keen to differentiate what the NZICT Group does from what has gone before.
O’Riley, who was appointed to lead the ICT vendor group in March, says there is a lot of latent demand for cohesion over major industry issues.
“I took the role on for that reason”, he says. “People are genuinely focused on wanting to get those industry issues sorted out.”
O’Riley says in the current financial crisis there is a real opportunity for technology to step up and be part of the solution.
He says there is a broader recognition of the need for change being driven by the likes of NZX CEO Mark Weldon and economist David Skilling, one that emphasises transformation.
“ICT has a significant role to play in that,” he says.
However, the industry hasn’t done a good job in selling what it can deliver and has to be much more fact-based.
He says one barrier here is that “INCIS is still being talked about”, despite the fact that many projects are very successful.
Government agencies are shy of publicising their successes, he says, partly because they don’t want to be seen to be endorsing a vendor. That perpetuates a situation where people only hear about the bad stuff.
O’Riley says he once asked an industry figure what was New Zealand’s most successful IT project. That person came up with the EFTPOS network — not a bad suggestion. O'Riley countered with Lord of the Rings.
O’Riley says NZICT Group is developing a list of areas where it feels it can contribute and take positive action. These include one that was flagged from the very inception of the organisation, skills, and others such as government procurement, infrastructure education and innovation.
He describes procurement as a “major tactical issue”. He says a report by Azimuth to the Ministry of Economic Development highlights that the current system is not delivering particularly good outcomes for anyone.
“Everyone is carrying costs as a result,” he says. Tenders also frequently do not result in an outcome. He says NZICT Group is happy to get involved to help reduce costs and improve efficiencies in the process.
Another issue, he says, is the price of network capacity out of New Zealand, which is “way too high” for a small market a long way away.
“If we embrace the idea of New Zealand as a creative hub, it’s an issue that’s got to be addressed.”
He says we should be aiming for a situation where it is at least as cost effective to base a company in New Zealand as elsewhere. This needs to be benchmarked, he adds.
O’Riley is on a one year contract. He says for that to be continued, the industry would like to see substantial progress on the main issues, especially skills and education. He says there is a gap between high school and university that has to be bridged. The step from one to the other is too dramatic.
“There’s no use setting students up to fail,” he says.
He says internships and closer collaboration between the industry and education is one possible solution.
Another success measure will be increased membership in the new body.
Also on the agenda is more collaboration with other groups and an innovation framework, to help develop more companies such as Xero and Endace.