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InformationWeek 500: 20 Great Ideas To Steal

InformationWeek 500 innovators reveal some of their top projects. Could something similar work at your company? Let the brainstorming begin.

Lilly Pulls New Meds Out Of The Cloud

Eli Lilly is using cloud computing and collaboration to speed up the time it takes to develop new medicines. Using's EC2 offering, Lilly is able to take advantage of dynamic provisioning to scale computing environments up and down to meet the changing needs of its researchers' workloads.

Before exploring cloud computing, protein research was fully utilizing a 1,024-CPU Linux cluster. By shifting this research to the cloud, Lilly's scientists are now able to work at a higher level of experimental throughput, and they undertake analytics that weren't possible previously.

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Cloud computing also has allowed Lilly to establish external collaboration environments in minutes. What used to take teams weeks and significant capital investment can now be done with a couple of clicks on a Web page at a fraction of the cost. This significant reduction in cost and research cycle time is critical in drug hunting because every day of delay means a delay in delivering therapeutics to patients in need.

JCPenney JCPenney Now Knows What's On The Truck

JCPenney's Door to Floor pilot program provides stores with information on in-bound merchandise 48 hours and 24 hours before delivery. At the 24-hour mark, stores can see what's coming on the next truck down to the lot level, allowing managers to plan to have staff and equipment available to unload trucks and to prep store floors for new merchandise.

To support this initiative, the retailer created process improvement technology that would help store teams plan for and receive millions of pieces of in-bound merchandise while improving productivity. It also created Web-based visibility reports. It deployed an internally developed forecasting engine that extracts shipment data from the warehouse management system and processes it through a set of business rules to predict which merchandise is one or two days from arriving.

The end result is greater efficiency in getting merchandise to store floors and more time for customer-facing tasks. Pilot stores saw a 16% productivity improvement per store and increased customer service scores. The system has since gone chain-wide.

Parsons Streams Desktops On Demand

Engineering and construction company Parsons has automated the complex and time-consuming process of providing project-specific applications to its workforce. By deploying application-streaming technology, dubbed ParStream, it provides apps on-demand along with configurations tailored to a worker's needs.

Initially, workers get baseline components, letting them get up and running immediately. Remaining components are sent on-the-fly as functions are requested. Parsons' ultimate goal is to automate desktop image management from deployment through retirement. In essence, the company will be its own software-as-a-service provider, providing app delivery to its global workforce.

AG Interactive's Full Day To Innovate

AG Interactive's IT group holds an annual "Hack Day," during which normal operations at the e-card company are suspended for 24 hours and the staff works on off-the-grid ideas.

Cross-functional teams generate prototypes of their ideas and present them for judging by peers and senior executives. Each year, several ideas are selected to become IT initiatives.

Recent initiatives include an app that makes a sampling of AG's e-card products available to Yahoo e-mail's more than 60 million subscribers, a version of the company's Web site optimized for mobile users, and an innovative approach to ad sales whereby all the space on AG's Web site is allocated to one advertiser for a limited time.

Go to the 2009 InformationWeek 500 homepage

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