Friday, June 20, 2008

Lets all sit around and wait – for something

I wonder how many times the reality of South Australia’s prospects need to be raised before Mr Rann and his colleagues start to pay attention, listen, understand and actually do something?

Last night at a conference in Adelaide, Mr Phil Ruthven – the IBISworld executive chairman - said South Australia is in danger of developing a “cargo cult mentality” by waiting on the much hyped mining boom to arrive.

Of course this is the very same mining boom that Mr Rann and his colleagues and the Murdoch press have been talking up for years now and which still seems as far away as ever.

The reality is that mining does not employ many people – the Australian average is around 1% of the workforce – in the South Australian context that is about 5500 people. And the latest Bureau of Statistics data shows that since 2002 the mining workforce has actually been reducing in South Australia! The South Australian Government’s own economic forecasters show that employment will peak in 2011-12 at around 8900 jobs! The truth is that mining alone won’t create the necessary jobs to support the place.

Clearly mining is not something that our state government should be “betting the future of the state on”.

The two questions that spring to mind are – “Why are they?” and “What’s the alternative?”

The answer to “Why are they?” is that unfortunately - in South Australia - we have a history of government and political leadership that is incapable of marshalling the intellectual resources needed to develop a big-picture long-term plan - to sell it to the people and to then execute against it.

There has also been a historical failure of many previous South Australian politicians and their bureaucrats – we all saw the debacle of the Liberal's Brown and Olsen attempt to recreate Silicon Village in Adelaide.

While that’s the subject of another article, it is a good example of leadership failure – and we should try to learn from it. It seems to me that the people who want to become state politicians are not the same people we need to build and develop the place.

Do we need a smarter political selection process? Absolutely.

As to “What’s the alternative?” that’s also not easy – and I don’t have immediate answers – but there is a well understood process that the state should be going through to understand and develop its options.

This is called Strategic Planning – and is a rigorous and robust process that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the place and attempts to find the best mix of opportunities that the state should be investing in and encouraging. This is more of a process than an outcome - because it's the activity of the process that creates the learning and knowledge.

But when I talk to people about Strategic Planning – in most cases their eyes glaze over and they want to move the conversation to football. That’s the real problem.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Green Information Technology Services

I recently asked my network group at LinkedIn to give me some guidance and advice on how to develop a set of “green” information technology based services for clients.

Here are five of the responses that I thought were rather interesting and worth exploring in depth.

1. NeutralTech: Help large corporates develop initiatives that will reduce the carbon emissions of their technology departments. Lots of scope with this: from designing a model to actual implementation of a "turning green" project.

2. GreenSourcer: Set carbon footprint targets for technology suppliers. Design a carbon footprint measurement methodology. Set up an indexing system for preferred "green" suppliers.

3. SustainabilITy: Most large corporates would already have "green-ing" programs. You can position yourself as the "expert" in utilising best of breed technology to drive these programs. So this is not so much providing "green" technology services, but providing technology services that drive the organization wide "greening" process.

4. Recycling: Help create an awareness that can be inculcated throughout industry and user base to “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” thereby hiving off systems that have outlived their particular ‘standard’ can be repurposed, reorganized / reprogrammed to enable usage in various charities, NGO or non critical usages. Recycling computing equipment otherwise can keep harmful materials such as lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium out of landfills and dumping yards where the risk of seepage / leakage to external environment remains high.

5. Working from Home / Telecommuting: Promote the principle and practice of telecommuting Teleconferencing and telepresence technologies that are often implemented in green computing initiatives. With many advantages like increased worker satisfaction, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related to travel, and increased profit margins as a result of lower overhead costs for office space, heat, lighting, etc. savings are significant. I know that the Voice over IP (VoIP) reduces the telephony wiring infrastructure by sharing the existing Ethernet copper (a toxic metal) and is another efficient way to optimize the usage and adds up one more advantage to the ‘green IT’ arena.

Does anyone have any other ideas?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nepotism is alive and well – perhaps even flourishing in the town where I live

I thought that nepotism was something that had died a natural death – with the need for increased corporate governance in the 21st century and the corresponding need for transparency within and between organizations – I didn’t imagine that it could exist in any substantial or obvious way in 2008.

With all the statutory and regulatory and reporting requirements and the fact that boards now have a much more detailed and enhanced responsibility to their shareholders, I thought that patent and obvious nepotism would be shunted out the door with all those other corporate antiquities of the previous century.

Nope - perhaps I was naive enough to think that corporate boards are actually interested in transparency and openness. The ones’ that I am talking about are willfully blind to bad behavior – probably because they have their collective fingers buried deep in the pie.

The way to fix this problem is clearly not with regulation or legislation. The way to fix this problem is by encouraging whistleblowers and protecting them when they do.

But I don’t expect it to happen in my lifetime.