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IW 500 Lessons: Endless Projects To Consumerization Myths

Lessons on analytics, e-commerce, clouds, mobile and more from the InformationWeek 500 companies.

20 Great Ideas To Steal In 2013
20 Great Ideas To Steal In 2013
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Confession of a tech junkie: Some of the most fun I have each year is reading the essays companies submit for the InformationWeek 500. (OK, make that the most fun at work.) These essays let me peek inside the heads of hundreds of IT leaders and see how they think they're changing the world.

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 than B-to-B catalog.

The result is 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.

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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."

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User Rank: Author
9/19/2013 | 5:57:33 PM
re: IW 500 Lessons: Endless Projects To Consumerization Myths
One other areas that's starting to generate interest is the wave of enterprises capitalizing on freely available government data. Most folks know that all those weather apps, and weather services are built on tax-payer funded data courtesy of the National Weather Service. And of course, we have Uncle Sam to thank for all those GPS-related apps we take for granted. But there are many other services emerging, like i-Triage which cleverly pulls in a publishes vasts amount of government-originated data. A new effort is afoot to catalog those in what's being dubbed the Open Data 500. More at...
User Rank: Strategist
9/17/2013 | 1:03:50 AM
re: IW 500 Lessons: Endless Projects To Consumerization Myths
Penske Truck Leasing's Bill Stobbart is right when he says, don't do it as a quick hit project. If Penske pays attention to the results it's getting off the sale of trucks coming off lease, it will be able to constantly improve how it initiates and manages that interaction. The Web cuts out the middleman, gives Penske the chance to address consumers directly when it went through wholesalers before. But that direct exchange takes time, attention and constant improvement.
Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
9/16/2013 | 10:20:32 PM
re: IW 500 Lessons: Endless Projects To Consumerization Myths
The Dish story is a win for the consumerization of IT. The company knew it could save money by consolidating three devices into one. That's a no-brainer. But the popularity of Android and Samsung gave the company confidence the learning curve for technicians would be zero. Who wouldn't be excited to use a fun and familiar mobile device at work?
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/16/2013 | 8:39:03 PM
re: IW 500 Lessons: Endless Projects To Consumerization Myths
We need broader terminology that the present consumer-enterprise opposition. One of the aspect of consumer technology is that it's designed to be easy to use. That's a worthwhile goal in enterprise software too. Sophistication and ease-of-use should not be mutually exclusive.
User Rank: Apprentice
9/16/2013 | 6:14:26 PM
re: IW 500 Lessons: Endless Projects To Consumerization Myths
I think I'm most impressed by UPMC's innovation lab. That shows just how seriously it takes the topic. (But good point -- certainly not every organization could handle that!)
User Rank: Author
9/16/2013 | 5:35:03 PM
re: IW 500 Lessons: Endless Projects To Consumerization Myths
That "jump" from private cloud to public cloud service on demand, when you need more capacity, has long been the holy grail for the cloud community -- but the complexity around it remains high for many enterprises . That 12% of iw500 companies say they are doing it now surprises me. I actually would have guessed less than 10%.
User Rank: Author
9/16/2013 | 3:29:14 PM
re: IW 500 Lessons: Endless Projects To Consumerization Myths
Great point -- we tend to wrongly assume connectivity. When IW wrote about Union Pacific's efforts to use data to run the U.S.'s largest railroad, one of the barriers is lack of wireless coverage over much of its tracks.

Here's that Union Pacific article:

Union Pacific Delivers Internet Of Things Reality Check
D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/16/2013 | 3:02:14 PM
re: IW 500 Lessons: Endless Projects To Consumerization Myths
ConocoPhillips not only added more sensors and increased sampling rates -- getting a movie-like view rather than once-a-day snapshots of performance -- it actually built its own mobile networks in remote areas where commercial providers don't offer cell coverage. That keeps company wells and oil fields in West Texas and elsewhere on the company's "Internet of energy production." Very cool.
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