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Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
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Editor's Note: Strike The Right Business Balance

It was clear by the writing and design that some effort had been put into making the sign. It wasn't just hastily attached to the back of the truck that morning. It was a bit faded from sitting in the window for some time. I saw it as I approached a red light in Washington the other day. It said, "Keep back. Clutch sometimes slips on hills."

What struck me as odd was that the sign was attached to a truck that also advertised a certain company as being "the world's best" in what it offers. So why can't the world's best put a truck on the road with a clutch that doesn't slip? It just seemed incongruous. It's like being a company with great products but lousy customer service. Or a company with friendly customer service but lousy products. "Hey, pal, we've got a great product to offer, but we might not get it there in one piece because of the darn clutch on the truck that's supposed to bring it to you."

Perhaps you're thinking I have too much time on my hands if I can sit in traffic and think about these things. But the irony was magnified moments later as I spoke on my cell phone with the business-technology management team at HIP Health Plan of New York, the No. 1 company in our InformationWeek 500. It's their attention to all parts of the business--the products, customers, employees, business partners, and technology systems that power the company's innovation--that creates just the right balance.

Sure, "HMO" and "top innovator" may also sound incongruous. But HIP is no ordinary HMO. With nearly $69 million spent on new IT during the past five years and another $16 million invested this year, the company has had an amazing turnaround. You can read more about our top-ranked IT innovator and how it regards technology, customers, and culture on page 41. The wake-up call that convinced HIP to turn from complacence to innovation is a lesson for people hoping to ride out the sour economy with their heads in the sand.

Stephanie Stahl,
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