In a league of their own

The 50 Enterprise All-Stars have network projects so stellar they are examples for all.

In 1933, Chicago's Comiskey Park hosted the first major league All-Star game, showcasing the talents of such baseball greats as Charlie Gehringer and Babe Ruth. That legendary game launched an American tradition, as all-star matchups became an annual highlight of the pro basketball and football seasons, too. In the spirit of this tradition, Network World has created the Enterprise All-Star Award, which honors companies with technology projects so stellar they belong in a league of their own.

The 50 companies presented here are Enterprise All-Star Award winners for two basic reasons. First, they have demonstrated exceptional use of technology within an industry segment - education, financial services, government, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, transportation and others. Second, their IT projects demonstrate how smart use of technology is smart business. For instance, the All-Star winners that reported savings expect to bank $161.5 million collectively from their projects one year after implementation - and $469.4 million by the third year.

As impressive as these figures are, only about half the winners named cost-cutting as a primary objective. Others were more concerned with increasing competitive advantage or bringing on next-generation applications. For instance, Parkview Health System, a healthcare network serving northeast Indiana, earned its place on the list for building a SONET network that gave it "Niagara Falls-size" bandwidth. The SONET net will carry new lifesaving applications such as a virtual monitoring service for intensive care patients.

A project didn't have to be high budget to earn a place on the list. Budgets ranged from $30,000 to $32 million; $640,000 was the median. Of the winners that reported savings, about 60% said ROI would hit 100% within the first year, with half saying ROI would be more than 200% in that time. Only two winners said they did not expect their investment to be fully paid for in hard-dollar savings by the three-year mark (but did expect impressive productivity gains). The message is clear: Even when projects cost millions of dollars, smart ones quickly pay for themselves.

5Number of projects with budgets less than $100,000.
14Number of projects with budgets over $1 million.
12Number of vendors used in more than one project.
15Number of projects reporting more than 100% ROI in the first year.
1Shortest project duration, in weeks (Fortis Prime Fund: enterprise iSCSI backup).
74Total number of vendors used among 50 winning projects.

For a case in point, look no further than the project implemented by the Defense Information Systems Agency's Center for Computing Services, at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. The agency reported savings of $140 million in the first year of a three-year, $3 million revamp of its network management systems. Others reported first-year savings of $36,000 to $3 million, with a median of $686,000. First-year ROI ranged from about 6% to more than 1,000%, with a mean of 265%.

The roster shows off projects that are beacons of excellence within vertical industries, too. In Las Vegas, for example, Clark County School District undertook a massive VoIP installation that will become the benchmark for others in education. Fortis Prime Fund Solutions, in Boston, implemented corporate iSCSI and demonstrated to the financial services industry that a low-cost alternative can greatly boost storage back-up performance. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, also in Boston, showed the healthcare industry how wireless location tracking can benefit everything from workflow to asset utilization.

The projects also demonstrate technological innovation across nine broad segments: applications, convergence, e-commerce, management, security, servers, storage, WANs and wireless. On one side, Reliant Energy, in Houston, pushed application boundaries by showing that even unstructured data created by word-processing applications can comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. On another side, Lockheed Martin managed the impossible with an outstanding wireless project. In an organization of 30,000 users, most of whom have Wi-Fi-equipped notebooks, this Bethesda, Md., defense contractor locked out unwanted wireless networks and other rogue wireless uses.

And on it goes. Network executives throughout the business world continually undertake daring and innovative projects that pay off. Inside, we herald 50 such projects, inaugural winners of the Enterprise All-Star Award.

>Choosing the Enterprise All-Stars

The process of selecting Network World’s Enterprise All-Star Award winners involved the work of 13 editorial judges over the course of two months. We solicited nominations via e-mail invitations, Web site announcements, online forms and other methods. Judges rated each of the 200 nominated projects on a five-level scale, looking at scope and how well the nominated company applied technology to solve a business problem, among other criteria. High-scoring projects advanced to a final round in which judges rated them on technology innovation and the project’s value as an industry example.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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