Notes for Remarks by Gaylen Duncan
President and CEO, Information Technology Association of Canada
On the occasion of IBM Canada's 85th Anniversary
November 29, 2002

There are currently about half a million Canadians who work in the information technology industry. One of the common beliefs that unites them all is that their work - from the lab bench to the shop floor to the customer installation - solves problems. Little problems - like how to expand the profit margin of promising small business. And big problems - like how to get a man on the moon.

One of the fringe benefits of being in the solutions line of work is that you frequently get to astonish people. Besides professional magicians - who are celebrated for their traffic in vapour-ware - we probably get to hear the word "wow" more than any other occupational group. Recently, I've discovered that one of the more astonishing things about our industry is how well we hide our age. Last year, ITAC celebrated its 50th anniversary as a community of IT companies. That took a lot of people by surprise. The industry is constantly reinventing itself and spends so much time talking about the future that it's difficult to remember that we have a past.

I'm proud to say that for the full duration of ITAC's history, IBM Canada has been with us, providing support, guidance and leadership every step of the way, as the sector grew from fledgling industry to world-class powerhouse. In fact, your roots in Canada and your roots in IT are even deeper than ours. Back in the days when a customer's computing requirement might have been as simple as giving honest weight for a pound of cheese or toting up the cost of a buggy whip, a collar stud and a hat pin, IBM was solving these problems. IBM has been a leader in the IT industry as long as there has been an IT industry. While others have been wiped-out by the waves of technology that have shaped the industry, IBM has spotted and ridden each wave to a safe and successful landfall.

You were leaders in mainframe computing. But your leadership was never a license for complacency. Even though you pioneered punch card technology, that didn't stop you from adapting or inventing new technologies like mag tapes, hard disks and integrated circuits.

When the PC wave overtook the mainframe, IBM was still on top. In fact, your brand helped to make personal computing a credible option for a generation of skeptical business people. The IBM PC turbo-charged the PC revolution. And when the Internet wave swept the computing landscape, IBM was well poised to once again assert leadership. You pioneered networked computing and could foresee net-centric IT strategies while the net was still a place primarily for defence researchers and academics.

IBM "gets" network-based computing and understands that the next wave in our evolution will be driven by content, service and applications. The greatest manifestation of this is your commitment to e-business. While others searched high and low for the killer app, you declared it to be e-business and worked diligently to create that future. There is a strong and growing movement throughout Canada toward the adoption of e-business. This is due in large part to the generous and tireless evangelism of IBM Canada.

The world of information technology is highly competitive, bewilderingly dynamic and laden with risk. Some companies would count simply being able to endure for 85 years as an accomplishment. But IBM Canada is not content to endure. It chooses to lead. It has done so throughout its history.

How was this achieved? Many factors - vision, smart stewardship and excellent technology - contributed. But what sustains a company's leadership for the long run is people. Lou Gerstner put it simply and elegantly, "Outstanding, dedicated people make it all happen, particularly when they work together as a team."

ITAC and the Canadian information technology industry have been proud beneficiaries of IBM Canada's leadership and success. I am delighted to have this opportunity to salute you all at this important milestone. I believe IBM has discovered the secret of perennial youth - honour and respect your past but retain a vigilant fascination with the future and its enormous possibilities. For the best always lies ahead. Congratulations to you all!