An Interview with UARCO

Windows NT Magazine recently asked two of the leading figures in migrating UARCO's sales and order fulfillment centers to Windows NT about implementing the project. Karl Gouverneur is UARCO's director of technology architecture, and Scott Sysol is UARCO's engineer--network and system services. Here's what they had to say.

What did you like about the project's implementation?

Gouverneur: I continue to enjoy working with leading edge technologies. At UARCO, we constantly try new products to provide productivity improvements for all users and our technical team. I also enjoyed recruiting the talented people I have on my team. They are focused, hard workers, highly skilled, and will do whatever it takes to keep the business running. Walking around one of the facilities where we deployed WinFrame, Baan, Lotus Notes, and NT and watching the users at work is a pleasure.

Sysol: Working with new technologies is why I'm in this field. Nothing is more rewarding than spending hours and hours trying to integrate two technologies and finally making a breakthrough.

What didn't you like about the project's implementation?

Gouverneur: Dealing with new technologies can take its toll on you. Some vendors just ignore you when you work for a mid-sized company such as UARCO. We don't have the leverage of the blue-chip companies. At times, we asked ourselves, "Will this ever work?" It works well now, but we did not achieve our goal without several, but now less frequent, sleepless nights.

Sysol: Going to vendors with an issue and having them say, "Sorry, that's the way it is," is very frustrating. At times, we'd find and identify a problem, and the vendor wouldn't act on it or would claim that the fix was in the next release.

What would you have done differently on the project?

Gouverneur: I would have personally visited participating vendors and discussed our project goals, timelines, and team. I think looking the vendors in the eye before starting and ensuring they understood our issues would have made a big, positive difference. Strike deals that ensure problems hurt the vendor when they hurt you. This is the true sign of partnership. Also, I would stress test for a longer time and use integration test scripts.

Sysol: Understanding the depth of a vendor's technology and commitment to that technology is very important. When we had a compatibility issue with the HP NetServer and WinFrame, we discovered that HP had little commitment to the WinFrame technology, and that lack of commitment hurt us.

What advice can you give your peers?

Gouverneur: Be skeptical of marketing spec sheets and talk to the vendor's staff in areas such as development, support, sales, and management. Compare the vendor's customer experiences with your experience. Prepare to invent many of your solutions if the vendor does not have tangible examples of what you plan to do.

Sysol: Have a solid plan before you buy anything, but be prepared to change it in a heartbeat. We had a solid design and found ourselves changing it many times to accommodate changes in technology, user needs, and integration issues.

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