They're an innovative bunch. There's probably a notion or two worth borrowing for your business.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

September 8, 2006

7 Min Read

Overall Innovation

Data Centers: Less Is More
Hewlett-Packard is consolidating more than 85 global data centers into six in less than three years, providing a number of operational benefits as well as significantly reducing IT spending. It's focused on optimizing every aspect of the data centers, including technology automation, process simplification, power, cooling, location, and business continuity.

The new data center design results in a 24-by-365 "lights out"-enabled environment, capable of being managed remotely. Technology and processes are automated and standardized to minimize build, deployment, and maintenance cycle times and costs.

Global Growth
Dow Chemical thinks it has a pretty good record for using IT well, with a global model, standardized processes, value-based project development methodology, and low-cost implementation approach. All of that was put to the test last year, when Dow formed an IT center in Shanghai as the first part of its strategy to significantly grow in the emerging Chinese market. In less than nine months, the company went from one IT person in Shanghai to an operational center of more than 140 employees.

Implementing this IT center in such a short period required innovation from many angles. Dow has a 10-year history of outsourcing both application development and support. But for this project, Dow insourced a much higher percentage of roles, enabling IT and the rest of Dow to work more efficiently.

From a personnel perspective, Dow attracted more women than other companies generally do when hiring IT talent in China because it recruited from a variety of disciplines, including business, engineering, and science. Dow also hired with the expectation that employees will advance and change functions as Dow operations in China grow.

20-Minute servers
Dell has spent the past year investing heavily in the deployment of server virtualization technology. The company now requires significantly fewer resources to support the server infrastructure, while needing 16 times less rack space in data center labs. This translates into a cost savings from markedly reduced power and cooling requirements and using less network equipment.

And Dell has measurably increased developer productivity and throughput by providing improved service levels from operations--including the ability to cre- ate and provision a virtual server in less than 20 minutes.

Wring Profits Out Of IT
JM Family Enterprises' IT organization has evolved from being a transactional service provider to a business partner. The' proof in the last year comes from expansion of the services it sells to dealers, and a new tech-driven division, JMsolutions.

The Dealer Services initiative centers on adapting and marketing internal IT products and services to other companies. Profits generated are reinvested into the IT organization to lower customers' charges and fund internal IT projects. Building this self-funding model lets the IT organization invest in areas traditionally difficult to get funded, such as R&D and infrastructure refreshes. The company offers 27 IT products and services, including a suite of wireless products, retail kiosks, eBay auction sites, network services, vi-rus protection, and Web filtering.

Riding on this success, the diversified auto company formed a new division, JMsolutions. It has introduced the JMsolutions RetailSuite and a wireless appraisal solution, Mobile Auto Xchange. Both are industry firsts, and they have more than 1,000 customers.

Every Minute Counts As a transportation services company, APL can't afford to waste time. Optical character-recognition technology on truck gates in Los Angeles and Seattle has reduced the waiting time for trucks by 40%. As trucks arrive, video cameras relay container and chassis numbers to OCR software. Before, clerks manually entered the data; now, they just check the numbers on the computer screen against the video camera feed. More than 90% of entry-gate transactions are automated, as are 79% of Seattle's exit-gate transactions. Seattle's exit lines have disappeared, and exit times average 20 seconds, versus up to 10 minutes previously.

Big On Service
Washington Mutual's cross-selling effort is highly interactive, flashing a "Customer Offer" button on a teller's screen at the moments that he or she starts helping a customer. Offers are customized to the customer's actual account or type of transaction, such as a small-business owner checking account deposit, and they include scripted language to walk the service rep through the offer and answer questions.

But what's perhaps most innovative is the system's ability to be selective. Washington Mutual's IT group, working with business partners, built the tool so it generates thousands of potential offers daily across the company. These offers are then filtered down, using data and analytics, to a manageable number that might be appropriate for a particular customer. After each transaction, the service representative records the customer's reaction (accept, reject, or considering). The system continuously learns from this feedback, honing future offers to increase customer acceptance.

Cell Phone Tricks
Penske Truck Leasing is making smart cell phones do new tricks by incorporating GPS. The company is expanding what its CellComm wireless software can do to track driver progress and validate that the correct freight is going where it needs to be.

Penske uses about 1,700 CellComm-driven phones, and it's developing five enhancements this year: a dynamic trip plan that lets a dispatcher reroute drivers while en route, based on their actual locations; a bar-code scanner integrated into the phone; electronic signature capture on a Treo PDA/cell phone; a safety measure that uses GPS coordinates to estimate speed so that Penske can limit key entry and phone use if a vehicle's moving 5 mph or more; and maps with time stamps to audit drivers' routes, along with a "ping" system to periodically check driver locations against maps for audit and safety.

On The Grid
At Exelon, IT is at the heart of power marketing. The electric and gas utility has implemented grid comput- ing using virtualization software and blade servers to increase the computational and reporting capability of a decision-support system used by Exelon's wholesale power marketing division. The project has significantly improved the division's ability to manage Exelon's 33,500-megawatt electric energy portfolio, including being able to optimally price and hedge the portfolio.

Surge In Demand
Motorola achieved a 40% increase in phone sales in 2005, and the MotoRazr mobile handset became the U.S. market leader. For IT, this has meant integrating systems to design, build, and distribute products to meet growing demand. Motorola's most innovative business technology initiative enabled the company to meet a surge in demand of $5.5 billion, or 40 million additional handsets, without an increase in IT spending (year over year from 2004 to 2005).

Motorola did this by slashing the time it takes to integrate suppliers into its supply chain by 80% and improving global IT portfolio management. It cut the time it takes to qualify a supplier's part by 85% and used Digital Six Sigma in conjunction with business process management software to design and automate solutions in tandem. With operations in 73 countries, Motorola implemented an IT portfolio management system to manage the complexity of synchronizing IT demand from discovery to retirement. Benefits include cost savings in the eight figures, reduced redundancy, leveraged results, and increased speed to market.

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