United we stand for user needs

Suppliers often talk about partnerships with their customers, but these have too often turned out to be one-sided, with little...

Suppliers often talk about partnerships with their customers, but these have too often turned out to be one-sided, with little shared risk. In too many cases suppliers do not understand the context in which their products will be used and, more worryingly they think they understand corporate users better than they really do.

The formation of a new user group alliance, the Strategic Supplier Relationship Group, is therefore a welcome development. Ten independent user groups have combined to seek policy and product direction from major suppliers on issues such as licensing, product quality and interoperability.

Getting any group of independent bodies together is like herding cats, so the creation of the SSRG is a measure of how the Microsoft licensing change debacle of 2001 shook the user community to the core.

Of course, all these user groups individually have strong relationships with the suppliers in their orbit. But in today's multi-supplier environments that is not enough.

Computer Weekly offers full support to the SSRG, and will work to encourage its expansion and influence. We are proud of our role as an initial catalyst for such user group confederation, and our close involvement behind the scenes with the formation of the SSRG over the past four years.

A lesson in agile IT

We become so accustomed to asking how IT can help to achieve business goals and boost the bottom line that it is easy to forget that in some circumstances IT can actually make the difference between life and death.

On page 34 Julia Vowler reports on how Oxfam's IT operation pulled out all the stops when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck. This was truly agile computing, and it offers a number of lessons in responsiveness for mainstream business IT.

TV news images such as lorries full of blankets do not adequately reflect the enormous efforts of charities' IT departments in meeting the essential communications and accounting functions which underpin the complex logistics of aid operations.

And with online donations from the public now playing such a crucial part in disaster relief, charities are often ahead of the game in website design and management.

This is most definitely IT at the sharp edge in terms of both technology and human skills and resourcefulness.

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