Hot Projects

These IT leaders broke down communication and departmental barriers to get cutting-edge projects off the ground.

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Sacchi played a critical role in keeping staffers on task by keeping other projects off their plates and making sure their time wasn't overallocated. "Guido provided the air cover we needed to make the project successful," says Blake Sanders, executive director of enterprise development and data services.

The project sped up queries, gave workers access to more timely data, automated reporting tasks and empowered more staffers to perform their own queries, freeing up IT resources for other tasks. Creating a single, streamlined ETL process enabled more timely integration of data on daily transactions for CompuCredit's 5 million credit card customers, shrinking the load time from 36 hours to less than three.

Early on, it became clear that performance improvements would be dramatic. One user reported thatprocessing time for a complex query had dropped from 43 hours to 12 minutes. As the capabilities became more evident, Sacchi needed to keep expectations in check and the project on track. "The danger in a project of this magnitude is controlling the scope," he says.

Once the system went online, it improved collections and lowered the cost of acquiring customers, saving the company $5 million — a 12-month payback.

"Innovation for business value is one of the most important things we do as CIOs. This project was the best in my career," Sacchi says. "It's a good example of how an innovative solution can be architected and delivered in a cooperative fashion."

Bradley D. Furukawa
Vice president, sector CIO, Northrop Grumman Corp., Redondo Beach, Calif.

  • Project at a glance: The company created an 1,800-processor supercomputer cluster using Linux server blades and adapted some 400 applications for parallel processing. The project resulted in processing times for complex calculations that were up to 20 times fasterand provided a common, cost-effective alternative to using individual workstations and smaller clusters associated with individual programs within the company's space technology unit.

  • Signature leadership move: Took an enterprise view of the project to maximize benefits across departments.

In a large-scale, multiyear project such as Northrop Grumman's effort to develop a supercomputing cluster, a successful outcome depends not just on getting the initial funding, but also on keeping the money flowing from year to year, says Furukawa, 50. While a team of IT professionals and scientists built out the cluster, he says, "it was my job to make sure the funds were there, make sure [the project] stayed visible in front of the vice president and president, remove any administrative barriers ... and let the engineers and scientists do their thing."

Before the supercomputing cluster went online, "things" moved more slowly. Each program within the space technology business had its own workstations or small clusters. Furukawa had to sell the business on the idea of going from a culture where every project had dedicated resources to one where resources would be shared.

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