We like the annual InformationWeek 500, for its sheer breadth and depth of coverage and because it rarely fails to offer interesting ideas from leading-edge tech adopters that can work for many companies.
This year's version is no exception. As always, there is a little something for everyone. InformationWeek has organized the package of articles so it's easy to zero in on the topics most relevant to you. One of the overarching themes this year seems to be putting the customer first, an idea we have long espoused in this blog.
We especially like stories about tech-driven customer service improvements from Washington Mutual, which is enjoying great success with an online system that allows folks to open a checking account without first visiting a branch, and Lowe's, where customers can now return items without a receipt thanks to a new system that allows Lowe's associates to validate all of the original invoice information simply by scanning bar codes.
Several nice articles detail how companies are employing emerging technologies to drive customer-oriented business improvements.
Wondering whether service-oriented architecture is going to be the game-changer that so many folks say it is? Wachovia's Corporate Investment Bank unit is in the midst of a move to a service-oriented utility computing infrastructure and has enjoyed early success with three applications based on services.
While there are plenty of details for the hard-core techies -- Wachovia created a hardware appliance in lieu of a traditional software-based enterprise service bus, for instance -- the move to SOA is ultimately about Wachovia providing better service to its commercial clients, one of whom says his company can create services on top of Wachovia's new services in four to 12 weeks, rather than the six to nine months it took to build apps before.
Think smartphones are cool but not practical? A case study from auto parts retailer CSK Auto may change your mind. Its 300 sales professionals can now access critical real-time data about customers and inventory via a custom mobile application. One regional manager says he can even intervene when a big sale is on hold due to accounts receivable, credit or pricing issues.
Like the idea of Web 2.0 but aren't really sure how it can help you attain business goals? Vanguard employees can create and customize their own Web sites with Lotus Notes, e-mail, news feeds and a calendar on the company intranet. Not only are these features boosting worker collaboration and productivity, but Vanguard expects to implement ideas gleaned from the intranet on its customer-facing Web site.
Which of the InformationWeek 500 articles were of special interest to you?