Mercury Interactive exec on customer needs

Von Thomas Hoffman

Regulatory compliance, outsourcing and business technology optimization are all top-of-mind issues for IT managers these days. So it"s hardly surprising that Mercury Interactive Corp., a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of business technology optimization software focused on all three segments, is expecting nearly a 50 percent increase in attendees at its Mercury World 2004 user conference next week in Orlando.

Computerworld"s Thomas Hoffman this week caught up with David Murphy, Mercury Interactive"s vice president of corporate development, to discuss the key issues its customers are facing.

What are the top issues your customers are wrestling with these days? There are three things happening that are driving the agendas. One is complexity, meaning the complexity of running IT operationally and the complexity of all of the technology and applications and changes happening in an IT environment. One of the things we hear a lot of is this notion of complexity.

The second one is outsourcing. We"re really seeing a lot of companies move to the model of having a whole chain of different third parties helping to manage their operations.

The third one is this whole area of compliance, from a vertical-industry level. Industries such as health care are being driven by changes in business compliance that"s required.

How do Mercury Interactive"s tools and services help customers address these issues? We had The Economist"s information unit do a very broad survey of 750 IT execs in 14 countries, a very non-U.S. survey. We also had permission to work with IDC on a survey regarding the business value of IT. (The results of both studies will be released at Mercury World.)

The IDC report focuses on three things. In the complexity arena, there are a set of issues that need to be addressed in IT shops to manage the complexity of those applications better. Many applications have poor performance. In many instances, the applications may have been deployed, but as the business evolves, the complexity of upgrading and advancing those applications falls behind.

The second area IDC focused on was that you often don"t find very clear performance measurement of the outsourced services being provided. How you make decisions about how things need to change from a change management standpoint tends to be problematic.

In our core product set, we have customers who have outsourced their application development or production environments, and they might be using our Quality Center or Performance Center (products) to help manage these things.

In IT governance, managing change processes from a workflow and procedural standpoint is addressed by our IT Governance Center solution. We announced with Wipro a capability around application testing that leverages the IT Governance workflow dashboard.

What else did these studies reveal? The IDC survey pointed out that over 44 percent of larger companies in North America are having to develop business processes and applications to address compliance requirements. While it"s North American data, there"s a trend in a lot of geographies now where the role of IT compliance is taking on a very significant part of those responsibilities.

Four out of five respondents in The Economist survey said the importance of process improvements and managing from an IT perspective is all tied to the compliance obligations they"re having to meet.