For those who don’t remember, 1997 was quite a strange year. Microsoft was about to launch Internet Explorer 4 and there were concerns about its ability to play nicely with Java. The US Department of Justice was demanding things be unbundled from Windows. Early users of a beta for something called NT 5.0 were reporting big problems and Lotus was promising that the new version of Notes would fix all the bugs and “features”. As one wag pointed out, it may well have done so but the new crop were twice as unpleasant.
It was also the year I joined Computerworld and we launched the Computerworld Excellence Awards, holding the first one the following year.
This year we’re calling for nominations for our tenth Awards and I have to say they’ve gone from strength to strength down through the years.
The first awards ceremony was somewhat enlivened by having the Great Auckland Power Failure of ‘98 interrupt proceedings. Fortunately, the Carlton Hotel provided back-up power generators so the show went on. I was particularly chuffed because the week before, some wacky sub-editor slapped “Central Auckland power crisis resolved, says Mercury” on the top of my story saying Mercury hoped the crisis was averted, which isn’t the same thing. Fortunately it was too dark for any of the Awards attendees to read their complementary copies. Not that I’m bitter, you understand.
It’s interesting to look back at the winners from the first year. Axon Computertime, as it was known then, won the Internet Commerce category for its innovative e-commerce system, designed to give its customers better access to data and applications. Last year, Axon made some significant wins in the system integrator market in part because of its approach to its customers. I’d hope the Excellence Award played a part in the decision to go further down that route.
Quaint terminology aside, the IT manager of the year went to Colin Thorpe of the New Zealand Employment Service for his work overseeing the department’s overhaul of its back end systems. That category has evolved somewhat since then, but I’m happy to say sponsor Kimbal Riley (then with Digital, which was bought by Compaq and then became part of Hewlett-Packard), remains on the scene, now with last year’s health category sponsor, Orion Health.
Another government agency, in this case Auckland City Council, won the Most Successful Implementation of IT category for its “automated mapping, facilities management and geographic information system”. While today it seems obvious that local councils should provide such information electronically, in 1997 it was more of a struggle getting “stakeholder buy-in” for such things. ACC beat out ASB Bank’s Fastnet project, which became the core of its online banking platform, something IDC predicted at the time would never take off, given the limited demand of “only a few thousand” customers who would ever want to bank online.
Still, predictions are always a tricky business, particularly those forward-looking ones. Who would have thought we’d still be arguing about number portability, bandwidth pricing and regulatory intervention in the telco market a decade or more after we first raised the issue.
The call for entries for this year’s Awards is launched today and I heartily encourage everyone who’s reading this to have a look at the people and projects they’ve worked with this year. We’ve seen some excellent work over the past decade, and I look forward to catching up with past winners to find out what the next decade will bring. Hope to see you all there.