SAGE-AU, an independent industry association for IT systems administrators in Australia, has transformed itself and its members have emerged with a new broader-based interest group to be known as the IT Professionals Association (ITPA).

ITPA will now aggressively expand its reach with a view to building a vibrant community of people who work in technology with an amplified voice that warrants increased involvement in industry direction and government policy decision making.

It is also committed to creating professional development pathways for IT professionals including offering certified practitioner status via sanctioned tertiary courses similar to the accountancy profession.

According to Robert Hudson, the founding president for ITPA and the last SAGE-AU president, the industry has evolved to the point where demarcation lines between previous sysadmin roles and other IT roles have blurred.

He said SAGE-AU as a brand had become dated and the organisation needed to transition to an association that is more representative of the diverse and dynamic environment where IT and IT professionals reside.

“We really needed a wider coverage to gain more attention from the industry, the government and media,” Hudson said. “As a small SysAdmin focused organisation, our ability to be heard and to have influence on IT policy and governance was limited.

“By shedding the old name and opening up the organisation, we will be able to champion a broader scope of IT professionals and then be better able to present our expertise to industry, government, the media and society in general.”

ITPA aims to be a vibrant and innovative organisation of and for all professionals across a broad range of roles at the cutting edge of IT including business analysts, managers, developers and support staff, as well as SAGE-AU’s traditional market of systems administrators.

Hudson said that all the people on the founding executive committee are volunteers with extensive industry experience who are keen to share knowledge and give something back to the industry.
“We are focused on growing the clear opportunities there are for IT professionals to develop skills that are relevant to the current and future demands of industry,” he said. “We are all about advancing the careers of members and advancing the practice of IT in this country so that society is receiving the best possible benefits from a better educated, better organised, better represented IT industry.

“Wherever we feel it is necessary, we will be absolutely willing to challenge government policy that inhibits the growth of the industry and the careers of IT professionals within Australia.”
Hudson pointed to the accountancy profession and the influence its industry associations have over skills development and government policy as a great example of where IT professionals should be.

“According to the Deloitte Access Economics Digital Pulse report from 2015, there are over 628,000 IT professionals in Australia but less than 30,000 – or fewer than five per cent – are members of industry associations,” he said. “In contrast, ABS stats show there are 193,000 accountants in the country and we know from membership numbers that just about all of them are affiliated to either the CPA or Chartered Accountants organisations - sometimes both.

“We are three times the size of the accountancy profession but with a fraction of the political clout or recognition from government, industry and society.

“Accountant professional associations have significant regulatory input because their near 200,000 strong memberships represent a significant bloc of voters that politicians are keen to keep on-side. The IT profession needs similar influence.

“You have to ask yourself, would the NBN be such a fiasco if the government had consulted with and listened to IT professionals during the formulation (and reformulation) of policy? Similarly, what about metadata retention? There was inadequate consultation with appropriate IT Professionals during the formulation phase of policy there either, and the outcomes could have been so much better if they engaged with IT professionals sooner.

“The sub-standard broadband network we are getting is a direct outcome of bad decisions that have been made for political reasons and without adequate levels of technical oversight.

“Arguably the most important national infrastructure project of our generation has been very successfully used as a political football with the overall outcome for the Australian community treated as a by-product, rather than the main goal and focus.

“This is going to limit the potential of the local IT industry to compete on a global scale for decades. As a consequence, the career opportunities for Australian IT professionals going forward are also severely hampered and, that is not to mention the impact on business, health and education etc. Society as a whole is being held back by this missed opportunity.

“With less than five per cent of people who work in IT being members of associations, the Government had no compelling reason to consult the industry for input on how the NBN should be designed and rolled out.

“This lack of collaboration with people who have the greatest insight has to change and we are confident that ITPA offers value to members and with sufficient numbers we can have more say on future issues.”

ITPA is offering four levels of membership upon launch. Associate membership is free and will be quickly populated through registering people undertaking free introductory courses it will be offering through tertiary institutions such as Charles Sturt University from later this month.

There will also be two levels of paid membership at just $165 per annum with additional member services offered. Professional members will have voting rights and access to knowledge sharing events and online forums while Certified Practicing Members will have to successfully complete a minimum of professional development units each year to maintain their status.

The fourth level is Honorary Life Membership, which can be awarded to members who have shown consistent and significant contribution to ITPA and the IT Industry.