User groups have always held a special and unique place in the IT realm. We're used to software and operating platform users coming together to form interest groups, and more often than not, vendor participation tends to exist. So when a start-up seeks to bring together the largest users of technology in Australia, it is a breath of fresh air.
The local venture, called the CIO Network, is aimed at helping senior IT professionals address everyday challenges such as management and leadership issues. It has the potential to fill a void in the current IT landscape since there's no proper representation for corporate IT users.
The Australian Computer Society (ACS), for instance, is focused on reaching out to non-ICT professionals. As its President Edward Mandla previously said: "We need to broaden the scope of the membership because information technology and communications have become ubiquitous. If I had a teacher as an ACS member, I could easily call upon his or her expertise in tackling the IT literacy problem. We'd even like to open our membership to sales and marketing executives who work in the ICT field."
Essentially this community will represent a combined annual technology budget of millions, even billions in the future.
Then there's the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), which mainly represents ICT vendors. Its board of directors include managing directors and CEOs from NIIT, HP, IBM, Microsoft, and Intel. The AIIA has been instrumental in keeping the government in check for myriad policies. Because small and medium-sized companies make up 70 percent of the AIIA's membership, it has a heavy focus on developing the business climate for local industries. It recently introduced a course -- in conjunction with Macquarie Graduate School of Management -- for business owners and managers of ICT companies (with less than 20 employees) to hone their entrepreneurial skills.
Now there's the CIO Network. It is independent of any vendor -- which can only be a good thing. The plan is to provide an environment in which members can exchange ideas and information, either face-to-face or through gated online forums, in a confidential manner.
Its founder Muneesh Wadhwa has been busy laying the groundwork for the organisation. The network has been guided by an advisory board which ranks the IT bosses of Amcor, Challenger Financial Services Group, Clayton Utz, Unilever Australia, Village Roadshow, and the ABC on its list. These companies have also signed up as members alongside Mission Australia, Tyco Fire and Security, and Allens Arthur Robinson.
Wadhwa has his eye set on turning the CIO Network into the representative body for senior IT executives in Australia. By the end of the year, he hopes to have a base of 40 members. Essentially, this community will represent a combined annual technology budget of millions, even billions in future.
Strength in numbers is the name of the game and if Wadhwa can achieve his target, the organisation will surely be a force to be reckoned with.
The value proposition the CIO Network brings to the table is quite compelling. If executed correctly there's a high possibility it could become a powerful and influential Australian IT lobby group, instead of leaving it to the individual voices to fight for better products and services. While this may sound promising, the quality of CIO Network's discussion groups has to consistently deliver high value and time-poor senior IT executives with a platform that will truly derive gains from their membership. Otherwise, Wadhwa's hard work will go down the drain.
Do you think an organisation like this will flourish in Australia or is it just a wine-and-dine society for high-level executives? Or as a CIO or senior IT executive, does the ACS fulfil your existing needs? Write in to email@example.com with your thoughts.
Fran Foo is ZDNet Australia managing editor and contributing editor of T&B.
This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
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