It was enlightening to lend an ear to prominent members of the local software industry recently on the state of play in this vibrant and important channel community.
The general opinion was that Australia is an above-average source of code-cutting innovation. There was abundant praise for the quality of staff available and a firm belief that Australia's isolation from global markets is no barrier to the concept of developing locally and selling globally.
Mincom's Alan McElrea said that "software is a very complex task", which requires "a whole process of analysis, synthesis, design and creativity, well before even the first line of code is cut".
It is a "scientific and architectural process", he said, before inferring that these are inherent strengths in the Australian character. Through generations of isolation from the rest of the world, Australians are natural innovators.
This applies as much today in information technology as it does in the mining, farming and livestock industries. The can-do spirit is innate to the Australian psyche and makes us better than most at innovation - which of course is what software development is all about.
Australia is large enough to sustain a small-to-medium software house but is a relatively small market on the global scale. Local developers therefore have to decide whether to be happy with conquering the local market or to make a play at the global pie.
That's not to underestimate the difficulty involved in selling into foreign markets. It is the same as any other industry with export potential. There are often cultural, language and legislative problems that need to be recognised, understood and addressed.
However, as companies such as Trellian, Mincom and Technology One have proven, such problems are not insurmountable.
Governments may not be doing all they can (see page 33 this issue) but there are other factors assisting the local industry at the moment. One of those is the general IT slowdown. As a result, large organisations such as IBM, Sun, HP - and even software companies such as Microsoft and Computer Associates - are looking to niche and regional partners to come up with high levels of innovation.
Where perhaps in the past they might have allocated resources in-house, they are now looking to alliances for the vertical expertise required for customised solutions.
Another driver for the software industry at the moment is the increasing shift by business, government and education toward e-solutions.
The dotcom phenomenon was an artificial boom and a spectacular bust. Nevertheless, the fundamental fact remains that the Internet is going to change the way every private or public organisation interacts with people.
Those changes to systems and methodologies require new software and there is no reason why a good locally developed e-business, e-government or e-learning solution cannot be successfully applied globally.
For these and other reasons, the software community is an exciting sector of the channel at the moment and one that many vendors are closely monitoring for acquisition and partnering opportunities.
Gerard Norsa can be contacted at 03 9690 2933 or firstname.lastname@example.org.