InformationWeek 500: 20 Great Ideas

>> WEB 2.0



Social Revolution

The 2007 InformationWeek 500

Motorola revved internal communication and collaboration by providing its 69,000 employees in 70 countries as well as 9,200 external partners with Web 2.0 tools to publish, maintain, and share content. Intranet 2.0, as Motorola calls the effort, includes bookmarking and tagging that lets users share knowledge company-wide. It provides social search technology that improves the quality of searches by injecting results that other users found most valuable. The company has RSS-enabled its entire knowledge repository, letting employees subscribe to content related to their work. A whopping 92% of employees are using the tools. The company has 38 Tbytes of data in the system, including 5,400 blogs, 4,500 wikis, 65,000 social bookmarks, and 30 million shared documents. Its people add 90,000 documents a day.



Nuts About Blogging

Who wouldn’t want on-call focus groups? That’s what Southwest Airlines got when it took off into the blogosphere last year with its Nuts About Southwest blog as a place to develop a rapport with customers. Employees use the blog to talk about what’s going on at Southwest, giving customers an inside look at the airline. Customers respond, ask questions, and describe their experiences with the airline

and elsewhere. USS Blog Boy, for example, is on the sixth installment of his Deployment Diary, describing life on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

Discussions can morph into virtual focus groups, providing on-the-spot feedback. Case in point: When CEO Gary Kelly wrote a blog about the possibility of Southwest providing seat assignments on its planes as an alternative to its open seating approach, customers had a lot to say, and blog comments surged to their highest level ever.



Microsites Customize The Message

At Accenture, customized microsites are improving communication with customers and driving sales. Working with the Internet marketing group, Accenture’s IT group developed an infrastructure that lets teams of employees who work with customers launch microsites that serve as virtual platforms for sharing information with customers. Using customizable templates, these teams generate content-rich, updatable microsites where information is shared in forums, discussion boards, downloadable content, podcasts, video streams, Flash animation, surveys, and collaborative work environments. The microsites have deepened existing client relationships by improving collaboration and efficiency, and they’ve also proved to be a good way to engage prospective clients by delivering highly tailored messages, while demonstrating a team-oriented approach with clients. Accenture expects to launch about 80 microsites this year and several hundred more over the next three years.



One Step Forward For E-Health Care

Until recently, Baylor Health Care System’s Physician Portal could only be used by Baylor doctors to retrieve information. If they wanted to order procedures for patients, they had to pick up the phone. That changed with a recent electronic workflow project that lets non-Baylor physicians refer patients to Baylor’s facilities and give them access to their patients’ electronic medical records. This is important to physicians who don’t have admitting privileges but want to remain informed about the course of treatment for their patients. The portal also was changed into a two-way communication tool–so physicians can order procedures for patients from various units in Baylor’s hospitals and other facilities. The project improved the quality of care by helping patients get procedures scheduled faster and letting physicians access critical information for more informed and timely decisions.




Against The Outsourcing Grain

While the rest of the world was outsourcing, Heartland Payment Systems insourced its accounting and billing system. Over a three-year period, the payroll and credit and debit card transaction processor built the Passport application using Microsoft .Net, C#, and SQL Server. The result was $3 million in annual savings. Heartland had been outsourcing the data delivery and processing cycles of its accounting and billing system but found that working with a service provider slowed responses to customers, held up information distribution, and prevented it from offering services like next-day funding. Outsourcing also limited the type of statement it could provide customers to whatever its outsourcer’s standard option was. Heartland had to build systems to import and export data from its outsourcers’ systems to make it available to customers.

With Passport, Heartland gets processing results sooner and answers questions and solves problems faster. It can activate new customers faster and provide personalized statement options and self-service tools. It’s been able to lower customers’ processing costs and offer next-day funding. In the program’s first months, Heartland saw a 25% growth in customers.




Lookers To Bookers

Marriott’s goal when it launched OnePath search on its Web site was clear: Get more site visitors to book rooms. More than 6 million customers a month spend about 1.5 million hours on Seventy percent of them use the search function, yet before OnePath, half never booked a room. OnePath increased the conversion rate by 15%. The search tool provides keyword search and guided navigation that uses clickable filters to narrow results and compare up to four hotels. It lets Marriott offer site visitors products and content relevant to what they’re searching for.



Automated Matchmaking

Law firm Foley & Lardner developed Web-based software to match up two groups it often works with: startups in need of funding and venture capitalists looking for investment opportunities. The Private Equity Matchmaker tool pairs funding seekers and sources based on data Foley & Lardner attorneys enter into the system. It offers matches based on attributes such as transaction size, development stage, geographic region, and industry. When a match is identified, it shoots an e-mail to the attorneys who work with the potentially compatible clients. They then have an opportunity to make an introduction. The system also ranks each startup and investor based on the amount of match activity they generate.




Cell Phones Fuel Supply Chain

Not all IT efforts require a huge investment in fancy equipment. Graybar, a provider of electrical and telecommunications products and services, made cell phones and delivery tracking technology pay off. Its drivers start and end deliveries by entering the time into their cell phones, capturing their location, too. They also use the phones to enter the last name of the person who signs for the delivery and to take pictures of the delivered items and the recipient’s signature on the delivery form. Data is transmitted to a hosted Web site where it’s downloaded into Graybar’s SAP system. Employ- ees access the data integrated with SAP transactions and view delivery documents and packages on the Web. This approach has let Graybar improve collections and reduce customer claims of damaged merchandise.

The technology also lets Graybar more efficiently manage truck routes, resulting in more deliveries per route and a 15% decrease in overtime in the first four months of the year compared with a year ago.



Always On-Call

Intermountain Healthcare was reluctant to go with VoIP or a wireless LAN in its hospitals because downtime comes at a high cost in health care. That changed with the opening this fall of its Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City. The 100-acre facility was built with the goal of providing at least one functioning communication system on every floor of its five specialty hospitals during a power outage or other problem. Intermountain went with GE Healthcare’s GE Enterprise Access universal wireless platform, which supports multiple wireless services over a common infrastructure. It has helped caregivers become more mobile and provides patients with wireless access.



Tablet Timesaver

Homebuilder Pulte Homes last year handed out more than 600 tablet PCs to its customer relations managers and saw immediate payoff. Each employee saved about two hours a day–300,000 hours annually–in time spent traveling and entering redundant data. Before getting the tablets, employees traveled to customers’ homes and took handwritten notes. They then returned to their offices, entered data into Pulte’s eService system, printed the paperwork, and returned it to customers for signatures.

Now, the tablets, equipped with mobile eService apps, let them use touch screens to enter, access, and edit information; research customer concerns; and schedule follow-up appointments. The system also records electronic signatures when customers sign off on checklists and completed work.




150,000 Experiments And Counting

Eli Lilly has created a system of electronic lab notebooks that lets researchers at the pharmaceutical company document the design, execution, and conclusions of their experiments. With more than 800 scientists using the system, it has improved productivity by giving them a knowledge base of more than 150,000 experiments through which they can search. By accessing a central repository, scientists across multiple R&D sites can see the same experiment information and collaborate in real time or offline. The next steps: integrate it with other key software initiatives, deploy it more broadly, and extend it to partners.



High Performance Recycled

Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems group designs aircraft and spacecraft equipment that requires extensive testing that involves analysis of simulation data. These tests were becoming a major time suck on engineers’ desktop computers. IT’s solution: a compute cluster–a supersized calculator and file server–that lets engineers off-load analysis jobs, freeing their desktops and completing jobs faster. The system centralizes data, analysis code, and data analysis efforts, fostering collaboration. And with a Web interface, engineers can initiate sessions from any browser-based platform. The company estimates it’s saving $185,000 over three years in engineers’ time.



A Cooler Data Center

Database management vendor Sybase faced the possibility of having to increase the power and cooling capacity of its data center at a minimum cost of $8 million. Instead, it launched a virtualization and rationalization project that will reduce the number of servers it’s using by about 45%, thus letting it remain within the current power and cooling capacity of its data center for another 10 years. Sybase used VMware Virtual Infrastructure for its Intel servers and IBM Logical Partitioning for its RISC-based Unix applications. It went with Sun virtualization for some Solaris apps, and others were converted to run on Linux in a virtualized environment. It also consolidated the systems it uses for software development to cut down on power use. The company expects to garner at least $1 million to $2 million per year in operational savings, as well as not having to undertake a costly data center upgrade.




Get Your Tickets … And More

Food services provider Aramark is giving sports fans a new way to pay for food, drinks, and souvenirs at sports events. Customers who buy its Loaded Ticket can add dollars beyond the cost of admission and then use the card and the additional dollars to pay for these extras. It’s convenient for customers, and as a result, and fans are spending more inside the arenas. Aramark also uses the tickets to forecast sales and anticipate staff and product needs.



Total Alignment

IBM has a new Web prospecting tool that gives its sales force access to data on 2 million companies. OnTarget integrates third-party data, as well as data from IBM’s marketing intelligence and CRM systems, to create these profiles. It identifies companies that are potential customers and assesses what existing customers are likely to buy next. Another new tool–the Market Alignment Program–coordinates sales resources with market opportunities. MAP displays historical revenue, revenue goals, and sales resource allocation data. Data can be filtered by geography, industry, customer accounts, and sales teams. MAP helps IBM focus resources and set sales objectives.




Grass-Roots Security

Truck and truck parts manufacturer Paccar found that conventional approaches to security were keeping it from providing customers with more information about its supply chain. The company decided to focus on securing its systems at the data level. It outsourced basic perimeter security, including spam control, antivirus, and intrusion detection, freeing its IT unit to put its efforts into innovation in other areas, such as telematics, supply chain integration, and mobile retail sales. Paccar secures data at a granular level, classifying it consistently across the company and encrypting it based on sensitivity. It previously encrypted data on laptops, desktops, and documents; now it also encrypts e-mail and data on backup tapes, handheld devices, and print, scan, and copy equipment.

By structuring the security infrastructure in this way, IT can respond quicker and handle a higher volume of business unit needs, thus lowering costs and increasing the pace of innovation.



Data At Rest–Secured

JPMorgan Chase’s data protection, while adequate, didn’t provide the extreme resiliency and adaptability to emerging technology that the financial services provider needed. Its Data Protection Initiative changed that, centralizing data management for more than 400 sites worldwide. Data is compressed and sent to core sites, where it’s replicated to a centralized bunker using a virtualization strategy that eliminates the need for local tapes. This approach cut the tape backup infrastructure by 40%, improved floor space use by 50%, and made it easier to restore data.

The system, which went live with multiple petabytes of backup data, had an added benefit: Much less sensitive personal data leaves JPMorgan Chase locations in an exposed format such as on tapes. More than 300 employees and nearly 200 vendor personnel participated in this effort.



Bottom-To-Top Lockdown

Security was a high priority when online investment firm Scottrade built a new data center last year. But it didn’t want to compromise speed, performance, or availability of trading capabilities on its Web sites either. Scottrade took a layered approach to security, implementing network and database firewalls, a network intrusion prevention system and anomaly detection, host-based intrusion protection, and strong security policies. But it went one step further than many companies, adding secure operating system configurations. It also used a segmented pod architecture, so it can shut down portions of the network without disrupting other parts.




Glad To Have SOA

When severe rain and hail knocked out power to 52,000 customers on May 3, 2006, Austin Energy was glad it had just installed its first SOA application–AECall–which links the utility’s outage management, billing, and call center systems. It processed more than 20,000 calls per day for three days during and after the storm; the system it replaced hit capacity at 4,000 calls a day. AECall uses five Web services to query multiple databases that contain information on customers and incorporates that information into the outage restoration application. Austin Energy’s SOA will integrate apps across the company and eliminate redundant legacy systems. Next up are Web services to link digital maps to the application that its 600 mobile crews use to respond to customer calls. Austin Energy used IBM’s Rational development tools to reengineer its 72 major business processes.



Knowledge Aggregator

Applied Industrial Technologies’ transactional data was scattered across several applications and platforms. The industrial parts distributor didn’t use an ERP application, instead relying on whatever product was most cost-effective for each business process. That meant Applied had a mix of commercial and custom applications that didn’t talk to each other, making combining information across apps difficult. All applications fed information into Applied’s data warehouse, but the company used a proprietary client that was difficult for remote users–90% of Applied’s staff–to access. It also required customization for specific views of data. The company changed all this with its InfoPort business intelligence portal, a J2EE application deployed on an IBM WebSphere cluster, running Red Hat Linux. The Web app is accessible from any network connection and lets users develop views of information without IT involvement.

Source: Information Week Online


4 Responses to InformationWeek 500: 20 Great Ideas

  1. […] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerpt using Microsoft .Net, C#, and SQL Server. The result was $3 million in annual savings. Heartland had […]

  2. […] longscorner wrote an interesting post today on InformationWeek 500: 20 Great IdeasHere’s a quick excerptWorking with the Internet marketing group, Accenture’s IT group developed an infrastructure that lets teams of employees who work with customers launch microsites that serve as virtual platforms for sharing information with customers. … […]

  3. […] TechBizWatch wrote an interesting post today on InformationWeek 500: 20 Great IdeasHere’s a quick excerptInformationWeek 500: 20 Great Ideas October 19th, 2007 >> WEB 2 … with customers and driving sales. Working with the Internet marketing group, Accenture’s IT group […]

  4. […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

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