A technology association report card

If misery loves company, the technology industry must be one miserable bunch.

It’s easy to take our IT organizations for granted when the market is booming and entrepreneurs can create an empire with little more than a Web site and a business plan. During a downturn, when profits plunge and the pink slips start flying, we rely on industry groups to offer the resources that help workers learn and move on. This year, the decline in IT purchases has been directly proportional with the rise of several high-tech associations. There is always room for improvement (which I’ve noted) but four of them deserve special mention for their efforts in 2001.

Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC): The best of its kind. President Gaylen Duncan and his team were everywhere in 2001. A well thought-out white paper lobbied the federal government to put more money towards innovation. The launch of IT Week offered dozens of events celebrating key achievements in the industry. An online art gallery exhibited the talents of those in the new media industry. Some projects could have used a little more refinement, like an online director of incubators that was set up just as most incubators went out of business. Some joint seminars with IDC that tried to put a happy face on all the financial doom and gloom (and which were given strange titles like “Shadows and Light”) didn’t ring true. Overall, however, ITAC is continually helping to gather and inform its membership in unique ways.

Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS): At critical moments when major news breaks, CIPS was good at putting out a statement on behalf of its members. It was the one of the major voices of dissent, for example, when Corel announced it was selling off its Linux technology. It also spent time this year trying to drum up support for its industry designation, Information Systems Professional (ISP). When we published a story about ISP Week, a one reader e-mailed me to say: “No wonder CIPS pushes ISP Week. Think of the money they get from the certification.” There is some merit to that, and CIPS will have to work harder in 2002 to articulate the value of this designation, particularly at the employer end so that it becomes a selling point in a job interview.

Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance): CATA decided to expand its advocacy program this year, and the results have been hard to miss, particularly in the last six months. It made a lot of noise in the weeks leading up to the recent federal budget, arguing for more tax cuts, restructured R&D spending programs and more money for post-secondary education. The organization goes beyond talking, however, by giving out scholarship awards to those whose work could lead to major contributions in this field. In some respects, the group needs to set realistic goals. It has proposed, for example, that the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&D) tax credits, Industry Canada’s Technology Partnerships Canada and the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) should be amalgamated into one program. This is a great idea, but it’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

NETPros By LANDA: The former Local Area Network Dealers Association (LANDA) took a major change in direction this year when it rebranded itself and opened up its membership to those outside the channel. This reflected a shift in the overall market, but NETPros has to make sure it shows continued loyalty to the resellers who have supported it for so long. It has always done a good job of hosting informative monthly seminars with key vendors, but it needs to market itself more aggressively by partnering with other groups and events. There was a good NETPro presence at Comdex Canada 2001, for example, and but it would be good to see more visibility of NETPro spokespeople in the new year.

sschick@plesman.com

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