Well done the winners

Excellent work all round. The cream of the country's IT professionals and the fruits of their labours have once again had their moment in the sun. The Computerworld Excellence Awards, which we are proud to bestow, were handed out in Auckland on Friday night.

Excellent work all round. The cream of the country’s IT professionals and the fruits of their labours have once again had their moment in the sun. The Computerworld Excellence Awards, which we are proud to bestow, were handed out in Auckland on Friday night. (There’s a slight element of risk in what I say here, since I’m writing this before the event. Barring calamity on the scale of the Auckland power crisis, which almost put paid to the 1998 awards night, I think it’s safe to assume the night went without a hitch.)

I can say that with some confidence since organisation of the awards is in the steady – some All Blacks could learn a thing or two from her – hands of Anne Simpson. Anne, along with the award winners, deserves abundant congratulations.

So who were the winners, and what did they achieve?

For a start, there were fewer of them than last year. There was no chief executive prize, for example. That’s a shame since the whole of IT benefits, I believe, when the part it plays in helping organisations run is recognised at the highest level. A living exemplar of this is Ralph Norris, once IT manager at the ASB Bank, then managing director, and now boss of the country’s airline (and undoubtedly taking a keen interest in what’s going on in the IT cockpit.) Proof of how much Norris’s elevation (I promise there’ll be no more aviation allusions) to chief executive status matters to the larger IT community can be seen in the number of references in this and other publications to his background in MIS. (Or maybe that’s just us trying to establish an IT celebrity culture. And why not?)

This year’s awards, however, honour no chief executive’s IT vision. Does that mean none in the country has any? No, I’m certain that’s not the case. It means that numerous nominations in this category translated into just one entry, so there was no contest. There’s a hint here of what could become a winning software project for an MIS team intent on honouring its visionary boss: create a program that automatically generates Excellence Awards submissions so he or she gets the recognition they deserve. (And maybe win a gong for best IT project, to boot. Just kidding, of course.) Kidding, but also urging any organisation whose chief has a sound strategic grasp of IT to put them forward next time. This is a powerful award which has gone begging this year. (Don’t let the fact that last year’s winner, Jack Matthews of TelstraSaturn, was restructured out of his job within six months of receiving it, put you off entering.)

The top individual award, CIO of the year, comes for the second year in a row from local government. Ian Rae of Auckland City Council joins last year’s winner, Auckland Regional Council’s Tony Darby, in the ranks of the country’s top information chiefs. This should be heartening for ratepayers – if they ever get to hear of it – since it surely shows their property taxes are being well managed. Let's hope the city sees fit to celebrate its IT hero.

Public and private working together were recognised for making the greatest contribution to IT in 2001. This was through the splendid Digital Opportunities initiative, which is providing access to hardware, the internet and IT training to schools and communities up and down the country. This is a particularly satisfying award, since it indirectly recognises the work of Carol Moffatt, the Ministry of Education’s director of ICT in schools, who lost out in the same category last year to IT Minister Paul Swain.

There were other winners this time around who went away disappointed last year. In the tertiary, community and commercial education category, Bubbledome this year convinced the judges it was a worthy winner, a great result. There’s hope in that for this year’s finalists who got so near, but in the end missed out: come back next year.

Often, the only thing separating the winner from the rest of the field is that they have stood the test of time.

Doesburg is Computerworld’s editor. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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