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Getting executive backing for IT is no easy sell at Scottish Water

IT managers from Scottish Water explain how they go about ensuring approval for major software initiatives.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The IT managers at Scottish Water know how to plan ahead.

They have to, according to Malcom Hunter, IT business demand manager for the Edinburgh-based public utility, because it's the "only way" to get funding for key software projects, such as the upcoming migration from a legacy human resources system to Oracle-PeopleSoft Human Capital Management.

Scottish Water is on a rigid, four-year IT investment cycle that needs to be planned and approved well in advance, Hunter said during an interview at the

But suiting the needs of the business is getting harder all the time, Hunter added.

"The challenge that we have is looking at the level of investment that's required and the impact on [

Cost is a major factor in getting approval for many projects, Smith said, but it's definitely not the only consideration.

"Rationalizing, consolidation and reduction of maintenance costs are the No. 1 [considerations] for software systems," he said. "However, a lot of our application development is based on business requirements from our customers within the company -- our operations guys, our asset management people or Human Resources people."

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When it came time to get approval for the firm's investment in PeopleSoft Human Resources, Smith said, the "reduced-cost-on-IT-maintenance" card went only so far. They also had to prove that it would give Human Resources users a better understanding of their skill base and the means to fine-tune their training requirements.

Health and safety is another major consideration during all aspects of the process, he said.

"Being a water and wastewater treatment firm, there are some huge potential environmental impacts we can have on the community," Smith said. "That is a very, very big driver as well."

Both managers said they'll be getting back to some serious planning once they return to Scotland.

"I'm planning for the 2010 to 2014 cycle for the moment," Hunter said. "If we get there too late, then other parts of the business have already prioritized where the funding is going to happen."

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