Microsoft launched the latest version of its flagship desktop Office software at the end of last month to much fanfare, emphasising new features that will aid collaboration and the management of emails – including a ‘self-destructing’ facility to allow users to restrict how long emails they send can be viewed, downloaded or printed for.

But users have historically griped about the fast pace and cost of these desktop upgrades compared to the actual business benefits, so we asked our CIO Jury whether the new features in Office System 2003 would be enough to convince them to upgrade in the next 12 months.

The result was a resounding ‘no’ vote, with the 11 CIOs saying the new features in Office would not be compelling enough reason to upgrade in the next year.

Some qualified that vote by saying that they are planning to upgrade but only because it coincides with their upgrade and replacement cycle.

Graham Yellowley, director of technology at Tokyo-Mitsubishi bank in London said his company’s Office System 2003 deployment is directly related to a Windows NT replacement strategy, although he admitted to being worried about the regulatory issues with ‘self-destructing’ emails.

“We, like many organisations, have been waiting for Office System 2003 rather than Office XP purely because of the fact that it is the current version and because of Microsoft’s horrendous licensing policy that would force increased costs to migrate from Office XP to Office System 2003,” he said.

Dr Stuart Brough, director of IT services at the University of Strathclyde, said the new features would not be reason enough to upgrade, but added that the university will be upgrading next summer, subject to successful testing, as part of its Campus Site licence agreement with Microsoft.

Nick Clark, director of IT at Tower Hamlets College, is planning on moving from Office 2000 to the latest version and although he is not impressed with the new email features he said the back-end server and web integration are more interesting.

Others areless enthused by Office System 2003. Carl Dawson, IT director at Thomas Cook, said: “Whilst there are many welcome improvements – XML, web services, etc – these do not provide the ‘step change’ required for the significant investment required to upgrade our enterprise environment.”

Martin Armitage, head of global information organisation at Unilever and Frank Coyle, IT director at John Menzies Distribution both said there are much wider issues and that any refresh has to be in line with business needs.

Coyle said: “Items such as emails which disappear after a set period are little extras, rather than issues on which I would decide to purchase a software package. This will, therefore, make no difference to my upgrade or replacement decisions over the next 12 months.”

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Martin Armitage, Head of Global Information Organisation, Unilever
Graham Benson, Information Services Director and CIO, Screwfix Direct
Dr Stuart Brough, Director of IT Services, University of Strathclyde
Nick Clark, Director of IT Services, Tower Hamlets College
Frank Coyle, IT Director, John Menzies Distribution
Carl Dawson, IT Director, Thomas Cook
Derek Gannon, IT Director, The Guardian
David Jemitus, Head of IT, Government Planning Portal
John Keeling, Director of Computer Services, John Lewis Partnership
Nick Masterson-Jones, IT Programmes Director, BACS
Gavin Whatrup, IT Director, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners
Graham Yellowley, Director of Technology, Tokyo-Mitsubishi

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and want to be part of’s exclusive CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop as a line at