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Testing Tools Step Up To Manage Operations

Mercury's software lets businesses refine processes for best-case results

Martin Garvey

September 19, 2003

3 Min Read

Mike Carlson speaks for many business-technology executives when he talks about the challenges facing Xcel Energy Inc.'s IT team these days. Drive the cost out of the computing infrastructure, ensure more efficient use of software, make a strong business case for all projects. Sound familiar?

"We want to demonstrate value and resolve problems," says Carlson, IT director of business transformation for the utility company. "We're trying to eliminate the black hole between users and IT."

Xcel is using some of the latest tools from Mercury Interactive Corp., including software for IT governance and portfolio alignment, to accomplish its goals. Mercury, with roots in application testing and management, has set its sights on the tougher issue of optimizing an entire business-technology operation. This week, the company will announce new products, including four optimization centers, designed to help companies like Xcel do it.

"What's driving it is simple economics," says Christopher Lochhead, Mercury's chief marketing officer. "People are shifting their shrinking budgets to things that are going to optimize the business."

Xcel's Carlson looks forward to informational dashboards that are part of Mercury's optimization centers to help squeeze $4 million, or 5% of the annual budget, from operating costs. The plan is to get the company's business managers more involved in IT decision making. "They can help us make sure the IT spend is aligned with business objectives," Carlson says.

Mercury will introduce optimization centers for IT governance, quality control, performance, and business availability. Each one is a mix of a dashboard interface, existing Mercury tools, acquired products, and new or updated modules. As part of the push, approximately 23 products will be rolled out by year's end. Pricing will depend on customer configuration.

Yankee Group analyst Dana Gardner says the governance products, helped by Mercury's recent acquisition of Kintana Inc., are evidence Mercury has moved "into the strategic space" of IT operations management.

Just what are optimization centers? The Governance Center comprises eight management apps, including a Financial Manager, Resource Manager, and enhanced Portfolio Manager. The latter lets users create what-if scenarios and do comparisons using metrics and ratings.

Tops In TestingThe Quality Center builds on the company's expertise in software testing and has a business-process tool to help business analysts test a process's quality after an injection of IT services. The Performance Center lets people do capacity planning or dive into Java 2 Enterprise Edition code or commercial apps for evidence of yet-to-occur problems. The Business Availability Center lets a CIO view potential scenarios caused by a technology change.

MasterCard International, which uses Mercury's software-testing and monitoring tools, wants to optimize the IT services it provides members and internal users, says Jerry McElhatton, the company's president of global technology and operations. Mercury's optimization centers "should allow us to deliver higher quality products to our members," he says.

One Mercury customer likes the strategy, but worries about the cost. Bruce Woods, IT manager of software quality and training at Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., says the performance tools are "pricey." If Mercury's Performance Center is priced right, he says, "we could identify the root of application-performance problems and workers would get more done in a day."

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