CIOs Want Vendors to Stand Behind Their Software

Enterprise CIOs say commercial software vendors have to be willing to work closely with potential customers earlier in the product development cycle and take greater responsibility for the quality of the finished product.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Commercial software developers need to focus more than ever on quality and get their potential corporate customers involved earlier in the application design process.

This was some of the advice offered by four CIO-level executives speaking at the Sand Hill Groups Software 2005 conference here Thursday.

Corporate IT departments discretionary budgets for new software acquisitions remain tight, the CIOs agreed. Thus they are being very selective, targeting new software acquisitions toward their most significant problems.

For British Petroleum PLC, that means acquiring software that "adds unique and specific value" to the companys computing assets, said John Leggate, BPs group vice president for digital business. This includes advanced data analysis software, trading and customer-facing applications, and software that helps "80,000 people collaborate around the world," he said.

BP has carried out eight major acquisitions since 1998, which has more than doubled the size of the company, Leggate noted. Along the way the company has accumulated more than 10,000 software applications of "every type and flavor you might want to know about," he said.

BP spends about $120 million a year on software, about $90 million of that total supporting existing applications, Leggate said. That leaves about $30 million for new acquisitions. "We care deeply about innovation, and we are always scanning for the next things," he said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read why some customers debated whether to renew their Microsoft software quality assurance plans.

But that also means looking for new applications that wont cause integration and support problems, he said.

However, for software developers that might be interested in doing business with BP, Leggates advice is: "Come and talk to us first before you start inventing good stuff. Building a dialogue is a good way to start."

For Kaiser Permanente, the West Coast HMO, a key issue is software quality and the need for vendors to take full responsibility for application safety and performance, said David Watson, chief technology officer with the HMO, based in Oakland.

"The quality of the software I receive is abysmal," Watson said. Thats a serious problem because "Im in a business where if I put in a bad piece of software I can kill people," he said.

Next Page: Putting skin in the game.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...