Voice of Experience: Brian Whitehead, S&P

By Mel Duvall  |  Posted 2002-11-01 Print this article Print

Whitehead started at S&P in 1995 as vice president and became the company's chief technology architect in 1999.

Brian Whitehead
Standard & Poor's
VP, Chief Technology Architect
New York, N.Y.

Manager's Profile: Whitehead started at S&P in 1995 as vice president and became the company's chief technology architect in 1999. He's responsible for making sure financial information, including credit-rating reports, are delivered quickly and accurately to customers around the globe.

What He Does: Oversees development and support of more than 20 Web sites, accounting for more than 2 million visits a month. S&P, a division of McGraw-Hill Companies, was an early adopter of Web technology and now receives the majority of its revenues from its Web applications, including real-time access to credit ratings, fundamental company and market data, and research.

His Challenge: The S&P network includes close to 150 enterprise servers, as well as multiple content, database, application, and Web servers. There is a lot at stake if something goes wrong with the network, content does not get updated properly or a customer's Web transaction goes awry.

His Tool: Mercury Interactive products to test and monitor the end-user experience on an around-the-clock basis over the past six years.

Greatest Benefit: By far, the software's ability to catch problems before customers even notice there are any. "Prior to having this technology, we would have to wait for customers to call us and tell us something was wrong," he says. "Now, the tool pings the sites every 10 minutes looking for faults. It has come close to eliminating customer calls (for Web-site related issues)."

What About Savings? He could not put a dollar figure on the product's return on investment, but believes it is significant, in terms of both preventing downtime and streamlining the process of finding and preventing problems. "The retention of business more than paid for the product in the first three months of implementation," he says.

Lesson Learned: "As technologists, we're used to responding to problems as they come up. A problem occurs, and we try to fix it as quickly as possible," he says. "But that's the wrong approach. The right angle is to discover an emerging problem and fix it before it materializes."

What He'd Like To See: While Whitehead rates his satisfaction with the Mercury Interactive products as high, he says the product could be easier to install. "It would be nice if you could point the tool at a Web site and have it monitor without any kind of scripting," he says. "As it is, it's quite a laborious process. We have a lot of sites, so it's a massive amount of development work."

Contributing Editor
Mel Duvall is a veteran business and technology journalist, having written for a variety of daily newspapers and magazines for 17 years. Most recently he was the Business Commerce Editor for Interactive Week, and previously served as a senior business writer for The Financial Post.


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