Birks steps down as AIIA chief

Updated: To remain on-board as search for replacement begins

Updated: Ian Birks will step down as chief executive of peak industry body the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) after three years in the role, citing a desire to further other career options.

Birks is set to step down later this year but is yet to set a date and will likely remain on board until his replacement is found. A spokesperson for the association told Computerworld Australia the board would meet shortly to begin the selection process but had not approached headhunters or yet set specifications on who might be chosen for the role.

The industry group represents some 500 members including Intel and IBM, with collective revenues of more than $100 billion and staffing upwards of 100,000 employees

"Ian Birks has provided very strong leadership through a particularly important period for both the Association and the industry,” AIIA chairperson, Philip Cronin, said in a statement. "The enthusiasm, knowledge and passion that he has injected into AIIA as CEO is greatly appreciated by the board.”

Cronin, who is also Intel Australia’s general manager, succeeded Data#3 chief executive, John Grant, as association chairperson at the group’s annual general meeting in October last year.

In an interview following the announcement, Birks said he plans to continue his directorship at Ideas International and would likely seek further directorships in industry. He also intends to build his own consulting company, Skrib, which would look to provide IT advice to not-for-profit organisations.

"Over the last three years I have very much enjoyed working for AIIA and have had the opportunity to engage closely with some highly impressive local ICT industry business leaders,” Birks said.

Birks also pointed to the role of debate over the National Broadband Network last year’s federal election and the emergence of the NSW Government’s reformed Procure IT contract framework as key highlights of his directorship.

He said the AIIA's three-year strategic plan decided by the board last year, in which it planned to become the authoritative voice on the digital economy, provided the opportunity for his departure.

"With the NBN, the digital economy, the shift to Cloud computing, all of these facets make it a really important time for the industry to be unified and effective in its message so I think the role of industry bodies at a time like this is all the more important," he said. If we’re going to take full advantage of the digital economy, we need to be able to identify all the barriers and principles. The role of the industry association is really important to make sure it’s done in a bipartisan way."

He said his replacement would be required to manage the association as a small business and provide the right "cultural fit" for the company, though he has not nominated any specific preferences to the board.

"You have to be able to, at one level, talk with the [communications] minister, and at the other, empty the bins if you need to," he said.

In an interview with Computerworld Australia at the beginning of 2010, Birks said the association would have to reflect on its role in the industry over the next decade with social media and Government 2.0 likely providing challenges to AIIA’s relevance.

“Mostly our members say it’s around networking to be frank, bringing people together and giving them business opportunities to link together and so on,” he said. “That’s been a really powerful force, but what we see is obviously with technology enabling work groups, communication groups and networking opportunities in itself, that’s kind of an interesting thing to reflect back on, what a traditional industry association does, and then how do you then position your industry association against those kind of dynamics.

“I think you’ve got to be part if that, you’ve got to be part of facilitating a modern exchange between your members to drive the outcomes they’re looking for... It’s pretty important that we get with the digital changes and work with that.”

Birks’ amicable resignation comes as both the Australian Computer Society and Internet Industry Association seek replacements for their respective chiefs.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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