CIOs Of Midsize Companies In No Hurry For Windows 7

That was the consensus according to a panel of CIOs that kicked off the Midsize Enterprise Summit West at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. The summit is sponsored by Everything Channel, which also is the parent company of

"[Windows 7] is not for me, not until you put a shotgun at my head. We don't have the resources or the time to combat the cultural pushback that will absolutely be enormous," said Ed Eskew, CIO of Bernard Chaus, a New York-based fashion design company.

William McLemore, senior vice president and global CIO for Penson Worldwide, a Dallas-based financial services company, noted that his organization skipped Vista and he's now perplexed over a migration path to Windows 7.

"Ideally if we go further down the road with [desktop] virtualization, maybe that will change," he said. "It's just unclear right now. It's going to be a while for us."

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Dave Hermann, vice president of information technology at Grande Cheese Company, Brownsville, Wis., agreed that Windows 7 becomes a safer proposition with desktop virtualization.

"If someone has trouble [with Windows 7 on their PC], you can blow it up and restore it in 20 minutes. It gives you some flexibility and some options," Hermann said.

Robert DeMarzo, senior vice president and editorial director of Everything Channel and moderator of the panel, asked the crowd how many plan to deploy Windows 7 by the end of 2010, and about a third raised their hands.

Meanwhile, the panelists also talked about having to do more with less. As the economy has deteriorated, IT budgets have shrunk. And even as the economy begins to rebound, the CIOs said the scrutiny of IT purchases is likely to continue.

"We've coined the phrase 'smart money.' We have to be sure our investments throughout the entire organization, not just IT, are well spent," Eskew said. "That's what changed in this economy. Today, I am forced to stand before the people writing checks to show them the return on investment, the return on innovation."

Eskew said his IT budget has dropped 30 percent this year and it's expected to be flat for the next 12 months.

Members of the audience asked the panelists about moving toward Software-as-a-Service and cloud-based storage solutions, subjects that were met with mixed opinions.

Bernard Chaus was pushed in that direction after a fire in a communications room allowed Eskew to justify moving data off-site.

"I want to get away from what I deem as plumbing, internal infrastructure. It's not where I want to spend my time or have my IT staff spend time," Eskew said. "We've been on a mission, how much responsibility we can hand over. Backup, restoring, replication -- there are organizations that do this all the time and do it very well."

On the other hand, Hermann said his company isn't willing to put its data in the cloud just yet.

"We took certain applications out there, but there's a lot of information that we collect and consider proprietary," he said.

Some CIOs said they have started relying on partners, both vendors and integrators, to offload some IT functions in order to cut costs and streamline operations.

"The fortunate thing that's come out of this economy is consulting prices have dropped dramatically. You get more bang for your buck," Hermann said.

However, sometimes partnerships can be tougher to maintain in this economy too. Once the meltdown started, McLemore said some of his partners wanted to start charging for things they hadn't been charging for before.

"It's all about how you manage the relationship. If it's a vendor and [the sale] is all that matters to them, it's not a long-term relationship anyway," he said. "If you really do see this as a true partnership, that's where it will get tested. How many companies are willing to open it up and renegotiate more favorable rates?"