It's been a bugger of a year -- or has it?

Has 2002 has been a bugger of a year? Though the wider economy has ticked along nicely and some vendors like HP will claim a good year, others claim 2002 brought the worst IT recession in years.

Has 2002 has been a bugger of a year?

Though the wider economy has ticked along nicely and some vendors like HP will claim a good year, others claim 2002 brought the worst IT recession in years.

One software chief, who declines to be identified, doesn't want to talk gloom for fear or affecting the success of pending deals. Despite some overseas contracts, he says, the continuing dot-com crash coupled with post-September 11 worries means his business remains "in start-up mode".

Even those who have prospered in 2002 also concede the year has been tough.

Phill Dagger, general manager of middleware supplier Infolink, says his business enjoyed "slightly improved" trade in 2002, but many others have gone backwards or folded. Auckland-based Infolink "stuck to it guns" regarding business strategy, says Dagger, gaining what it believes is sufficient critical mass for a successful 2003. Trade is picking up, with the firm set to enjoy a record quarter in early 2002, he claims.

StayInFront managing director Tony Bullen reports a "great year" for his Auckland-based firm, saying the health care sector and Asian markets are all doing well. His firm also benefitted from the demise of rivals. Despite New Zealand having "a better marketplace than most", Bullen says the US economy remains subdued and any war with Iraq could unsettle markets further.

The body that represents IT suppliers, ITANZ, reckons the times are tough. Executive director Jim O'Neill predicts near-zero growth in the IT market for 2002.

Organisations with long-term service contracts will have prospered, he says, while others fighting for new business will have found it difficult, having to cut margins to compete. O'Neill says discretionary spending, on such things as hospitality and membership of his own organisation, has suffered. He anticipates more of the same.

Public sector IT spending has been constrained. Phil Brimacombe, information chief of Counties Manukau and Waitemata district health boards, says boards are working within "very tight funding constraints". Staff recruitement and retention is "always an issue", as their salaries cannot compete with the private sector, though Brimacombe says he successfully recruits people motivated by more than money.

The healthAlliance, set up to provide services to the two boards, is finding savings by creating one contract for software licensing. It is forming "strategic relationships" with certain vendors to gain favourable terms, trading that off against acting as a reference site. To date, three firms have done so: iSoft for the Patient Information Management System, Orion for a clinical system and Delphic for a data repository and results management system.

Bimacombe says this year he has learnt much about change management, the need to get people to "buy in" to a project, and that cultural differences between apparently like organisations shouldn't be underestimated.

Capital and Coast DHB has its own shared services agreement. Andre Sxoxall, its director of information, management and planning, says he has found it "hugely challenging and frustrating" leading his organisation into learning new processes for his alliance. People need to understand the need to take ownership of outcomes, he says, and how to work together.

A mixed summary for 2002, then. Let's hope a year from now we won't be calling 2003 a bugger of a year.

Greenwood is Computerworld's human resources reporter. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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