Hot Projects

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

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There are three keys to a successful project, he says. In FedEx's distributed, 7,000-employee IT operation, perseverance pays off. "If you really believe in a game-changing shift, you're going to have to persevere and convince various folks that a new technology, a new approach, will work," he says. For Zanca, 49, that vision — and the strategy for execution — is the culmination of many years of work.

Three years ago, FedEx Corporate Services was tasked with breaking down FedEx's monolithic capabilities into Web services, building on the company's core and Ship Manager applications, and advancing the technology toward next-generation services that would give customers instant access to FedEx services and tracking data.

To that end, Zanca's group last summer introduced the Developer Resource Center. The Web-based offering makes key services, such as tracking and dispatch, available through standards such as WSDL and provides code snippets that help businesses take advantage of those services.

Zanca's group also recently developed and launched, which lets users track both outbound and inbound shipments. And it enhanced its mobile device support, enabling customers to use smart phones to generate shipping labels, for example.

In addition, it introduced a series of plug-ins, including ones for Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Outlook, that let users upload, prepare, price and submit print jobs to Kinko's shops.

The plug-ins "changed our strategy from being a destination to FedEx being an embedded part of [a customer's] environment," Zanca says.

To get these projects completed, Zanca built consensus through what he calls the "Max Plan," which involves regular meetings with top executives.

His second key to success lies in keeping close to his own staff as well as internal constituents. "The people who are down in the trenches are the folks you have to stay close to. You have to listen to them," Zanca says, to set realistic goals for success — and to move those goals if need be.

"David is into the details," says Bob Thomas, managing director of technology services. His group helps customers use FedEx's Web services offerings.

Zanca helped launch early Web services efforts at FedEx Corporate Services before moving to the FedEx Freight division for a couple of years. He returned to FedEx Corporate Services last January.

Shortly after Zanca came back, Thomas had a meeting with the staff. "I told them, 'Don't be surprised if you get a call from David with a specific question about one of our products, because he is into the details and he will go straight to the source.' And that's a good thing," he says.

The third leg of Zanca's strategy is to maintain transparency with internal business partners so that there are no surprises. "There are going to be bumps in the road," he says. "You have to keep executives informed and manage expectations."

Zanca's team also built tools that measure the success of each initiative. The company can see how much business is coming through new channels, such as mobile, Web services or plug-ins. "We have metrics as one of our design criteria so we can see where the business is coming from," as well as whether the business is "channel shift" or truly new business, Zanca says. "It's definitely [bringing in] new business."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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