But in the Present, Top Execs Will Be Watching

FRAMINGHAM (02/14/2000) - With Y2K mostly behind us, e-commerce work before us and postponed IT projects pressing to the fore, this week's arrival of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 hardly looks like a barn-burner issue - especially outside the halls of IT. To a CEO, a chief operating officer, or a marketing vice president, upgrading from Windows NT 4.0 or switching from Unix doesn't look terribly strategic: It won't help build a brand, boost market share or grow your e-business. The alleged advantages of Windows 2000 - fewer crashes, greater scalability, better security - aren't the stuff of annual reports and Wall Street briefings.

But I suspect that top management will be paying attention to what you do about Windows 2000 - not to the software itself, but to how IT handles the upgrade.

I'll bet that executives will wonder if IT has learned anything from the Y2K experience. Will the organization put to use any of the new project-management techniques it has honed? Maybe it's a good idea to create a Windows 2000 project office similar to your Y2K project office, maybe not. The point is, it will seemodd if nothing from the Y2K experience carries over to your Windows 2000 work.

Your chief financial officer will want to see if IT management grasps the full fiscal consequences of moving to Windows 2000. Will IT once again cost the company big bucks because of some overlooked detail? Don't expect your CFO to smile if you can't speak intelligently about the upgrade's impact on the balance sheet in light of SOP 98-1, the change in accounting principles regarding computer software. And if you can't address the total cost of ownership issues, you can expect to be heaved out a window.

Can your IT leadership place a move to Windows 2000 in a broader business context? Executives will ask you what this means for e-commerce and your company's most important applications, and how this will affect business goals.

Chatting up speeds and feeds won't win you any brownie points.

Has your group considered the alternatives to Win 2K? Even the most benighted of managers have heard of Unix and Linux, and they'll wonder if either of these would provide a better platform for the company. They may also want to know if moving to Windows 2000 would create or remove any outsourcing opportunities, or opportunities to use application service providers.

They won't just want intelligent answers; they'll want answers that respect their intelligence. Most real-life bosses aren't as dense as Dilbert's - we just like to pretend they are.

Remember this: The business world isn't what it was before Y2K and the arrival of e-commerce. Business executives are more curious, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about technology, and also more wary of technology's hidden costs and jack-in-the-box surprises. The glass house has never been more transparent than it is now; keep that in mind when you consider moving to Windows 2000.

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