Hot Projects

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

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Having a common resource not only allowed work to be completed faster, but also helped programs with limited funding as well as new program proposals that required some upfront analysis to close new contracts. Furukawa was also careful not to tie the project to any specific program. "By keeping this sector-focused, all programs would benefit," Furukawa says.

"He did a good job in getting people to work together with an enterprise perspective rather than taking the narrower, project view," says Clayton Kau, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman's space and defense products division.

That paid off. Users building new program proposals, who previously lacked computing resources, used the shared cluster to add more simulations and analysis to proposals. That enabled the space technology unit to gain more business, meeting the CIO's challenge to "raise the bar on performance."

The shared cluster "increased our probability of a win in all of our program pursuits," and it provides analysis that keeps existing contracts funded when they come up for review, Furukawa says. "Continuing to show over many years what the programs will do keeps the programs sold," he says.

In launching the project, Furukawa also helped to set up a governance board to determine which people and programs would get to use the resources and how those resources would be allocated. "No matter how much computing power you have, you can always max it out. They set the priorities," he says. Based on those decisions, the team can set controls to allocate the resources and monitor their use.

Visibility was critical to the project's success. As the cluster grew to 979 processors last year, the governance team got scientists up and running on it as quickly as possible. "The positive feedback made it all the way up to the sector president's level," Furukawa says.

In fact, the program was so well received that Furukawa not only kept his funding for the following year, but was also given some of the funding earlier so that the project could expand faster.

"Keeping the project on schedule and within budget really added to the success and credibility," says Kau.

Furukawa says he's trying to keep interest high as the project moves from 1,800 processors to its ultimate goal of 3,000 CPUs, and he has opened up access to the rest of the company over Northrop's internal network. "I don't want to see the utilization dropping off at 2,000 CPUs," he says. "That would stall further investment."

David G. Zanca
Senior vice president of e-commerce technology, FedEx Corporate Services, Collierville, Tenn.

  • Project at a glance: Zanca manages several hundred software developers in an ongoing effort to embed FedEx services into mobile devices and the applications its customers use every day. The project's goal is also to make those services available globally and across all FedEx Corp. business units, from FedEx Ground to Kinko's. Under Zanca's direction, the group has launched the MyFedEx Web site, enhanced mobile services, developed plug-ins for applications and offered a suite of Web services that business customers can use.

  • Signature leadership move: Built strong lines of communication among project stakeholders at every level.

On a warm October day, Zanca, CIO Robert Carter and the rest of the IT team are flipping burgers at an IT-sponsored cookout for 2,500 employees at FedEx Corporate Services' Memphis facility. "It gives me an opportunity to create a connection with these folks," Zanca says, and that's part of his strategy for success.

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