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Premier 100 IT Leaders 2008

They're simplifying IT and showing the business how to innovate.

December 10, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Our annual awards program honors men and women driving strategy and innovation in top-tier IT departments. Some of their stories are below. Don't miss the complete list of this year's winners.

Toshiba, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Compaq. Name any vendor, and five years ago, Constellation Energy had its computing hardware. The same was true for software and business processes. At one point, the Baltimore-based company had at least 19 different IT purchasing processes. Today, says CTO Wynne Hayes, it has just one.

At DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., creative artists used to be confined to working only on projects under way at their own sites. But the big IT initiative this year has been consolidating what was a sprawling infrastructure into a single, virtual computing cluster. Now, digital artists can work on multiple creative projects regardless of their geographic location.

And at Verizon Wireless, running more than a dozen billing systems had made it impossible to offer all customers the same products and services and a consistent level of support. But this year, the company winnowed its 13 billing systems to a single one that supports 62 million customers and 30,000 call center agents across the country.

The project is in line with CIO Ajay Waghray's "less is more" philosophy and the latest in his long-term drive to streamline all IT at the $38 billion company. One major benefit: Having a single billing system reduces operating costs by 15% to 20%, saving Verizon a whopping $20 million a year.

Without a doubt, streamlining IT saves companies big bucks. Yet cost savings aren't the primary force driving the IT simplification boom. What these and many other Premier 100 IT Leaders say they are striving for is nothing short of overall business transformation. Simplifying vendor relations, consolidating systems and streamlining IT infrastructure clears a direct path to business process innovations, consistent operational excellence and overall market agility.

"The idea is to take the repetitive things and make them standard so that we can add value," says Constellation Energy Group Inc.'s Hayes, 45. For example, by standardizing purchasing processes, "we can move buyers around, and they can learn about buying different commodities. We can also move business people around, and they don't have to learn a whole new set of rules each time they move," she says. "We definitely have become much more productive and much more agile from a business perspective."

Hayes herself is an example. Prior to moving into her current post as chief technology officer of corporate applications, she served as CIO at Constellation Generation Group LLC.

Removing the Red Tape

At Corporate Express US Inc., a $5 billion supplier of computer and office supplies in Broomfield, Colo., the mandate to streamline came straight from the top.

"Our CEO came out with a tag line to 'simplify and sell' as a way to motivate the whole organization to eliminate overhead and tasks that don't really contribute to our customers' experience and are really just more red tape," explains Doug LaVelle, 42, director of business relationship management. LaVelle's group of business relationship managers was established as the sole point of contact between IT and the company's business functions.

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