Industry body leans into the channel amid new focus

Industry body leans into the channel amid new focus

SAGE-AU revamps as IT Professionals Assocation in push for broader market reach

Australia’s peak body for IT systems administration professionals, SAGE-AU, has ditched its long-time brand, embracing a new name and strategy in a bid to regain relevance – and member numbers – in the local IT market.

The organisation, traditionally known as the Systems Administrators’ Guild of Australia, has set out on an ambitious plan to boost its membership numbers, from less than 1,000 where it currently hovers, to more than 10,000 individuals within the next 12 months.

“It’s a stretch target, but it’s one we think we can actually get to," former SAGE-AU president, Robert Hudson, told ARN. “Yes, it’s a big jump, but we think, with the new offering, and a need that is big and compelling enough, we can achieve it.”

ITPA founding president, Robert Hudson
ITPA founding president, Robert Hudson

The strategy involves a name change to IT Professionals Association, or the ITPA – with Hudson as the new entity’s founding president – and a fresh focus on the broader IT community in Australia, a move that will see it touch upon the local IT channel.

“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.

According to Hudson, the number of the organisation’s members had been dropping as the IT industry landscape evolved, with traditional sysadmins playing a diminishing role as devops began to take hold.

“SAGE-AU probably peaked at about 1,200 members. It had been around for about 23 years. But the market changed, and we didn’t necessarily evolve with it as quickly as we could have. And we recognised that,” Hudson said.

To adapt, the organisation finally decided to refresh its offering and review the market it was aiming at, with its new focus set to include some channel contingent.

“Certainly, we’re also hoping to bring on people who work in the channel and feel that we can add value to them, in their careers,” Hudson said. “We’d be more than interested in seeing them as members.”

As well as hoping to bring new people from various disciplines within the local IT industry into the fold, the freshly-branded ITPA hopes to secure more variation on its board, inviting more people in, and plans to expand the range of courses it runs to include a range of non-sysadmin topics.

“One of the areas we’re looking at is devops, that merging of sysadmin and development,” Hudson said. “There are people in the organisation already who have that focus, and we’re already starting to see some people come in from the development side of things.”

The organisation’s new play will see it expand its focus to include some channel players, which will likely put it into parts of the market covered by other industry bodies such as CompTIA, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), and the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

Hudson, however, views any potential competition arising from this new positioning as a positive thing for the industry.

“Competition can be good,” he said. “If the competition improves the standard at which services are offered in the professional associations market, and we end up as IT professionals with a better market to choose from and operate in, then that’s a benefit on its own.”

According to Moheb Moses, director of Channel Dynamics – one of the local companies appointed to help CompTIA establish its A/NZ Channel Community – it is unlikely the two organisations will step on each other’s toes.

“It appears that the ITPA is focused on all IT professional, whereas CompTIA is focused on the channel,” said Moses, who also acts as the director of CompTIA’s A/NZ Channel Community. “I can imagine someone being a member of both.

“We’re very happy for people to be members of CompTIA and members of other organisations as well,” he said.

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