IT's top tier: Strong and steady leadership

These 100 IT visionaries are seizing this rare moment to produce measured growth, embark on innovative pilots and build loyalty in their most valued workers

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In a mere 17 weeks, Chan's team brought online, a self-service Internet portal that allows clients to determine their eligibility and apply for multiple social service programs online.

"It was a phenomenal accomplishment, especially in state government," Chan says. "The innovation is the speed to market or speed to value. If you looked at the economic indicators, you could see that people would be losing their jobs and they would be coming to us asking for nutrition programs, feeding programs and job training programs. We saw that coming, and we made a conscious decision to leverage the Internet channel to manage the demand for services."

In a way, Chan reflects, the economic downturn has actually helped the agency to better align IT with the organization's strategic objectives. "We had already started an enterprise architecture program, and we had been doing a lot of work around business strategy and IT alignment. This was an almost-perfect opportunity to focus on getting value from our investment at a very fast pace."

Optimize What You Have

Brian Hedberg, CIO at Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC), believes that a down economy is precisely the time to bring in new technologies that can not only help deliver business value, but also cut costs. One example is the deployment of virtual call center technology that enables more customer service employees to work from home. "We get a productivity benefit, plus it reduces fixed costs" such as spending on office space leases, he says.

Hedberg says HCSC was forced to "reduce the IT budget by substantial millions without sacrificing any quality of service delivery." His solution was to create teams within IT and set them loose to find ways to optimize costs and services.

As part of an operational excellence project dubbed Complete-to-Turnaround, the IT employees identified 30 to 40 projects. Those initiatives included an effort to streamline the tools and processes used for system and network monitoring.

"We had found we had two and three of the same tools," Hedberg says. "One of the things we did is create a single command center where we monitor the entire environment and fix things proactively before they affect the customer.

"What we've seen is that there are a lot of optimization opportunities out there that can lead to innovation," he adds. "Part of optimizing what you have in place is removing complexity. It creates opportunities to make things easier for customers and staff."

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