Stop & Think

In a society of instant messaging, channel surfing and fervent multitasking, it's clear that we want to ponder less and skim more. That's why this year's Best in Class honorees are such a refreshing change of pace.

It's true that IT executives are charged with making fast decisions and delivering immediate results. And these Best in Class honorees have the required agility. Yet they won't rush essential thinking.

Take, for example, Paul Mueller at Schneider National. For almost 10 years, he held on to the idea for a tracking system that would pinpoint the whereabouts of the truckload carrier's trailer fleet. It wasn't until 2003 that Mueller felt the technology was ready and the time was right. His research and patience paid off -- Schneider is now saving millions of dollars with its multimode cellular technology.

At Southwest Airlines, Tom Nealon's IT department spent much of the first year of its GateReader project developing the application. The team created a prototype of the bar code scanning devices and met with the gate agents who would use them. The result was a tool that was worth the wait -- easy for agents to use and a boon to travelers.

Or consider Kay Palmer at J.B. Hunt, who put the brakes on a project to consolidate more than 150 customized PC-based applications after the company had invested more than $2 million. With mounting technical and project management challenges, Palmer decided it was time to pause and re-evaluate. The cautious approach proved wise: With a fresh start and business needs better defined, the project was put back on track. The company says it expects a seven-year return of $87 million.

Now in its fifth year, Computerworld's Best in Class awards honor leaders like these. They are a subset of the 2006 Premier 100 honorees who are being recognized for creating business value through innovative technology projects.

To choose this year's 12 winners, a panel of judges and Computerworld editors evaluated many worthy candidates. We focused on projects that had measurable payback, strategic importance to business, substantive customer impact, and new revenue or costs savings.

It's not your average IT executive who can pause amid the chaos to reflect on the merits -- and defects -- of a project. These 12 award winners were able to do that, and we hope their stories inspire you to do the same.

See the full Best in Class special report.

Ellen Fanning is special projects editor at Computerworld. You can contact her at


Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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