EDITORIAL: Chaos theory

EDITORIAL: Chaos theory

Balancing unpredictability with astute forward planning is part and parcel of being successful in business. If you are good at it, the chances are you'll earn a decent crust. If you're not, eventually you'll find yourself barking up the wrong tree and compromised as a viable business.

Unfortunately, a small change in global serenity brought about by a single event has thrown a new degree of incalculability into everything and anything.

Murphy's Law states that "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong". Murphy was an optimist. This is chaos.

In the last two weeks, we have seen unprecedented criminal terror in a far-off land, collapsing local airlines, a plunging Aussie dollar, massive retrenchments and a severe virus outbreak. They are all connected to one another.

"Chaos theory" is more to do with dynamic systems such as weather and air turbulence than it is with the outcome generated by terrorist activities, but the underlying principles are the same.

Large effects and unpredictable behaviour result from small changes in the equilibrium.

The layoffs last week across the globe in most industries are directly attributable to the new global instability unleashed on all and sundry by terrorists attacks on the US.

The decision by a pillar of the Australian channel such as Dimension Data to bury 12 per cent of its workforce soon after interring its Com Tech brand was probably a long time in the pipeline. However, if there was any hope of hanging in there without having to take such a difficult step, it was snuffed out by the tragic events of September 11.

Other than cutting half of its online team in the dotcom crash of 2000, this is the first time ever that Dimension Data (or Com Tech) has had to retrench people. It would have been a very hard call to make at what has always been a people company. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be the last of the lay offs we see in the industry.

But, as the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would advise, "DON'T PANIC", so let's try and find some hope amidst all this gloom.

The World Trade Centre disaster illustrated the benefit of e-mail and mobile communications in general. People were able to keep in touch with their families, while the coordination of rescue operations, the registering of missing people and the investigation to find the perpetrators all benefited from high-tech communications.

The new world order, with its increased security and vulnerability, will see even closer links to technology-based solutions, all of which need hardware, software and services as well as someone to bring it all together.

Add the next generation of virus attacks introduced by last week's far-reaching "Nimda" assault and it all adds up to an increased profile for solutions providers and technology retailers. In Australia, there is no indication the channel is going to take any less a part in technology implementations.

In most cases, the sheer regional and industrial diversity of Australia's economy means that channel partners still own the customers, the solutions and the market touch points.

So, despite all the chaos in the world today and the sheer indeterminacy of what is going to happen next, there is at least one thing that never changes. You should be getting closer to your customers and understanding their business or consumer needs so as to service them better.

Perhaps that applies even more today than on September 10, and will be even more important in the future.

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