NZCS debate

Last night, I went to the NZCS debate about IT, with Maurice Williamson from the National Party. David Cunliffe pulled out because of illness,  John Mazenier, Country Manager for Sun Microsystems representing industry, and Prof John Hine, Head of School and Professor of Computer Science at Victoria University of Wellington representing academia.

It was … interesting. Maurice was quite good, and I was quite impressed with his geek creds. He was vague in the details, but he did seem to understand quite well the place of IT in New Zealand society and its future potential.

John Hine was also quite good, but I felt he was overestimating the role of universities in producing useful grads. My experience of university is that 1) first year is a waste of time, 2) 2nd year is interesting, 3) 3rd year is a waste of time, 4) fourth year was interesting. IT is continually out of date at universities in NZ, and I suspect the role they play in developing IT is reasonably minimal. The trick, as pointed out by a member of the audience, is to convince kids to study IT in the first place. Schools are the obvious place to make this happen. How? Well, I have a few ideas about that… but maybe in a later post.

John Maznier was far and away the most disappointing, and I felt a very poor representative for industry. Not that I am surprised, I’ve been pretty down on most services companies for a long time. I hope he is not truely representative, otherwise the industry is about saying, “We need to talk about it more”, “Government handouts would be good so we can provide internships for grads”.

My message for John M is simple. If you are finding margins too tight, its because you are not doing a good job. Sounds simplistic right? Greg has no idea what hes on about, the margins in the industry have been shrinking for ages, and its not like the good ol’ days. My take is, the good ol’ days were the anomaly, not the reality. Services companies have long had a reputation for underdelivering and overcharging. Their cost structures are enormous, meaning they cannot seek alternate sources of revenue, and their mindsets are generally so fixed they cannot see their way to productising anything they create (Intergen with ActionThis are a notable exception).

But there are companies doing extremely well out of IT, but you need to understand the services model, ie, an hour for $ does not scale. It never has. It never will. Deal with it by creating scalable product. Stop whining.

I would have much rather listened to John Clegg of ProjectX who was sitting next to me, a guy who has gone out and done something, with SummerOfCode.

So, in summary, Maurice came out with some pretty good street cred, but very vague. John the academic came out with some good thoughts, but I felt didn’t address the problem of getting people into university to study IT, and overestimated the role of university in producing tech-savvy people. And John from Industry was frankly disappointing. We need more from industry, a lot more. And…. Services companies are not, should not and must not be seen to be representative of the industry.

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NZCS debate

2 thoughts on “NZCS debate

  1. More action? Less talking? Thats fine for you John, as a person who actually achieves something. But imagine how hard that would be for your average politician!

    I hope the next one will be more constructive. Sometimes I feel I should be telling ICT grads that its the best career ever, while simultaneously warning them away from the perils of services companies and government departments.

    I’d like to see the big services companies particularly, serve as incubators so grads spent a few years in each before going off and doing their own thing in a startup. Not sure of the incentives here, but there must be a way to make that attractive to all parties…

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