The Best of IT's Best

All of us at Computerworld hold a special fondness for the Premier 100 IT Leaders awards program. The special issue of the magazine and the annual awards ceremony and conference help define the essence of Computerworld.

But what really makes us tingle is knowing that we play a role in organizing an awards program for the 100 best and brightest in IT. It's impossible to attend the Premier 100 IT Leaders Conference, now in its 11th year, without being awed by not only the current year's award winners, but also the many Premier 100 alumni who return year after year. For anyone attending this event, the pride, warmth, shared purpose and sheer excellence are palpable.

The 2010 Premier 100 honorees pushed ahead with vital projects at a time when it was especially difficult to excel. They are innovators in the face of economic adversity. As Julia King notes in our cover story, the motto of many of the winners seems to be "Why waste a perfectly good economic crisis?" That's the attitude it takes to succeed in times like these.

The trick is finding that opportunity, making a case for it and then executing on it. Computerworld has been writing about IT-business alignment for many years. In a year like 2009, the organizations that have it figured out have had a much better chance to take advantage of tough times.

With budgets tight, this year's Premier 100 honorees were forced to be creative to fund important projects. They developed systems that not only offered returns on investment, but also added business value, increased revenue or even provided new revenue streams.

At CBS, for example, CIO Amy Berkowitz faced the challenge of building technology to support a new content digitization and distribution facility that allows the company to sell its content to new-media outlets through a pay-as-you-go model. If the Premier 100 winners can pull off such feats in 2009, imagine what they'll do when the economy is much stronger.

This year was also characterized by small, smart projects that open doors to new ways of doing things. At Brigham & Women's Hospital, CIO Sue Schade funded 10 new IT innovation projects in the $50,000-to-$100,000 range. At Johnson & Johnson, CIO LaVerne Council developed and distributed a free iPhone application for family caregivers to track data about physicians, prescriptions and medical records.

A theme that recurs almost every year when Computerworld interviews Premier 100 honorees about what helped them achieve success is the importance of people. People, communication and leadership are all key pillars of IT success. Our honorees aren't interested in surrounding themselves with people who are unwilling to challenge them. They want smart leaders on their teams. As Stephen Bozzo, CIO at 1800Flowers.com, told Computerworld's Robert Mitchell, "It starts with people and ends with people. Job 1 is to have a cadre of leaders working for you and, in turn, to have a cadre of leaders working for them."

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A project like the Premier 100 starts with people too. It's a major undertaking that involves the entire staff. But there are some Computerworld editors who are especially deserving of notice for their key contributions. That list starts with talented special reports editor Ellen Fanning, who manages all of our signature content, including the Premier 100. Executive editor Julia King is the author of our Premier 100 cover story and also the architect and hostess of the Premier 100 event. Editorial project manager Mari Keefe works tirelessly and smartly behind the project, pulling together submissions and data, and ensuring that the awards process is fair and accurate. Finally, executive editor Mitch Betts is an editorial mastermind at Computerworld who often goes unheralded, but whose contributions to the Premier 100 program have helped make it what it is today.

Scot Finnie is Computerworld's editor in chief. You can catch him at Twitter.com/sfinnie, or contact him at sfinnie@computerworld.com.

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