IT people certainly scrub up well. Four hundred of the country’s best and brightest crammed into Auckland’s Hyatt Regency for this year’s Computerworld Excellence Awards, suitably kitted-out for the occasion in tuxedos and pearls (although generally not both together). The awards are always a timely reminder of just how broad the IT community is. Alongside entries from large corporates and agencies, such as Carter Holt Harvey Forests, Transit NZ and the Ministry of Education, sat entries from smaller organisations such as Fairhaven Primary School, Ambient Design and Breath4CF. The smaller outfits aren’t limited to their own niches, either: the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, for example, picked up the award for customer service in the face of tough competition. One thing all IT projects here face is a limited budget. Almost everyone in New Zealand works for an SME — an organisation with less than 500 staff — and yet New Zealanders expect IT systems to work as well as they do anywhere else. Several entrants I spoke to at the event had only embarked on their projects after — to their surprise — not being able to find off-the-shelf software to do the job. They’d identified a need or an opportunity and developed a solution without breaking the bank. Bravo. Everyone would like a bigger budget but the smaller size of our organisations can be a competitive advantage. It’s often easier in New Zealand to talk to users because IT staff here are more likely to know their users personally. Admittedly, projects submitted for Computerworld Excellence Awards tend to be outstanding, but I can’t help but compare them with Chad Dickerson’s tale on page 18 of this week's issue on the difficulties encountered using hotel booking systems in the US. I’d like to think that in New Zealand the problems with those systems would have been pointed out long before they were ever unleashed on the public. We’re grateful to the many people and organisations who support Computerworld by entering the awards, and to the generous vendors who make the awards possible. We’d like to extend our congratulations to all the finalists and especially to the 14 winners. The awards represent a microcosm of the IT community in New Zealand — and it’s great to see it is in such good heart. Cooney is Editor of Computerworld
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