I can't capture all that energy and insight here, but allow me to offer eight takeaways from those essays, as well as the IW 500 profiles written by my colleagues.
1. Consumerization of IT?
Not quite. It's less "kiss off IT ... I can go buy a tablet and look at me go!" and more "hey, IT buddy, I actually need some apps on this tablet that apply to what we do at this company, so could you help me?" Dish Network Service, the satellite TV company, provides a typical example of the tablet and smartphone innovation we saw this year. Dish gave 15,000 field technicians Samsung Galaxy Note "phablets" on which they do all their work. Each device replaces three: a tablet PC, push-to-talk phone and in-vehicle GPS. The consumerization payoff comes from having a dramatically cheaper tech platform (several million dollars in savings the past year, the company says) and doing less training because the interface is familiar and easy to use.
2. E-commerce projects never end.
Penske Truck Leasing was leaving money on the table by not going directly to consumers to sell its trucks coming off lease and instead relying entirely on wholesalers. But going straight to buyers meant it needed a site as slick as any consumer e-commerce site, more Carmax.com than B-to-B catalog.
The result is penskeusedtrucks.com. Our article tells how Penske got there, but it also hints at all the things the company's still honing, from improving social media promotion to adding a mobile version. E-commerce projects drive revenue and directly touch customers, so they rightly get constant attention. Advises CIO Bill Stobbart: "Whatever you do, don't approach it as something that you'll get done quickly and go on to your next project."
3. You might not be up to cashing in on your tech ideas.
Healthcare provider UPMC is the No. 1 company in the IW 500 ranking, and one thing that stands out is its commitment to taking its tech innovations and turning them into revenue-generating products. For example, UPMC is developing a better way to do telemedicine and online clinical collaboration, a system it would use and possibly sell to other providers.
But such development takes a lot of resources. UPMC has a 120-person lab developing these new ideas. Beyond development, it means legal teams ready to negotiate revenue -- and equity-sharing deals with tech vendor partners. It takes expert staff -- doctors and nurses -- to spend time refining new products. Unless a company commits to driving a steady flow of such deals, it probably should stick to its "core competency." (Though here's a model for outsourcing that kind of development overhead while sharing in the benefit.)
4. Don't rest on emerging-technology success.
A sevenfold improvement in anything is pretty good, right? That's what Royal Caribbean is delivering to its cruise ship guests -- a sevenfold increase in Internet access speeds -- through a new satellite strategy. Its onboard Internet had been slow and expensive; making it so much better should open up a new revenue source and meet the expectations of must-always-be-connected passengers.
But even as CIO Bill Martin launched the new satellite-based Internet service this year, he was working with a startup vendor, O3b Networks, to go even further. O3b is launching satellites (there's been a delay to its latest planned launch) with the promise of "reach of satellite and speed of fiber."