• United States

Best of the rest: Honorable mentions

Dec 22, 20038 mins

These seven companies earned honorable mentions in our 2003 User Excellence Award competition.

Detroit Medical Center Department of Emergency Medicine

Project lead: Bharat Sutariya, physician leader, DMC informationChallenge: Like any healthcare institution, this Midwestern medical center needs to provide physicians quick access to reference materials, patient records and lab results while they’re at bedside. This is especially the case in an emergency room, where doctors are expected to quickly make informed, expert decisions on any illness and procedure. DMC wanted to give its ER personnel a single tool for accessing those varied types of information, while taking advantage of an existing wireless LAN.


Solution: When Palm in the spring introduced its Tungsten C handheld, complete with 802.11b WLAN connectivity, DMC found its answer. With the handheld, physicians could access online reference applications they were already taking advantage of on a limited basis from stationary PCs, as well as get and update patient records and send and receive e-mail. The medical center distributed 150 handhelds to physicians and residents. As a result, another area hospital followed with a 150-device deployment.

Approximate cost/return on investment: $75,000, based on $499 per unit list price; no ROI information available.

What’s cool about this project: Demonstrates how far PDAs have come as business-class clients and PC replacements.

Krispy Kreme Doughnut

Project lead: Frank Hood, CIOChallenge: This doughnut maker, in Winston-Salem, N.C., has grown rapidly in the past three years – amassing more than 300 stores. It needed to make sure local store operators could access critical information such as inventory updates, store directories and equipment maintenance data in an increasingly distributed environment. As the company grew, it had to devote ever more of its enterprise server resources to Windows file serving. Krispy Kreme needed a far more efficient way of handling its data storage and retrieval needs.

Solution: Krispy Kreme’s IT team decided centralized storage was in order. The company now consolidates data from Windows file servers and desktops into a 2T-byte Network Appliance enterprise storage system, which includes virtualization. The storage network uses 1G and 10/100M-bit/sec connections. Store operators can now share real-time information on inventory and other business data across the storage network, while the company’s IT staff sees improved resource utilization, simpler management, and increased performance and productivity.

Approximate cost/return on investment: Cost undisclosed; Krispy Kreme places a conservative estimate of $31,000, in hard drive and server-related savings, on first-year ROI and $93,000 over three years.

What’ cool about this project: The project uses a good mix of storage network, virtualization and 1G interconnect technologies to provide demonstrable business improvements.

Lancaster General

Project lead: Terry Grogan, director of operations and technical services

Challenge: This Lancaster, Pa., 25-facility healthcare system needed to provide secure remote access to medical data while complying with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations. The user base includes Lancaster physicians, independent physicians treating patients at Lancaster hospitals, employees, vendors and nursing students. Some users work on Windows machines, and others, including the emergency room staff, use Macintoshes.

Solution: The project team deployed a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) VPN that allows Windows and Macintosh users to access a host of applications securely via their Web browsers. Logs from the SSL VPN appliance – Instant Virtual Extranet from Neoteris Networks – enable Lancaster General to meet HIPAA compliance.

Approximate cost/return on investment: $40,000; $55,000 ROI in year one, $150,000 over three years.

What’s cool about this project: SSL VPNs are gaining in popularity but have a lingering reputation of not being up to enterprise-grade. This project proves that an SSL VPN can handle a large, tough environment while producing considerable savings.

S&H Greenpoints

Project Lead: Frank Lundy, director, database architectureChallenge: Data storage requirements at S&H Greenpoints, a loyalty marketing company in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., were rapidly outgrowing the company’s existing single-host, SCSI-attached storage setup. Capacity was limited, and slow performance made loading and retrieving data inefficient. S&H Greenpoints needed fast and cost-effective storage that would scale quickly as new customers – retailers – came online.

Solution: The company built a Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN), and implemented a multihost, shared-disk, clustered database architecture using Sun servers and a 2G-bit Fibre Channel disk system from StorageTek. A load balancer distributes processing requests among servers, S&H Greenpoints can load data on one server while customers run reports on others, for example. Retail reports now run 20% faster than they did in the old environment. What’s more, capacity is no longer an issue, with the database scalable to 11T bytes.

Approximate cost/return on investment: $140,000; $75,000 ROI in first year, $250,000 over three years.

What’s cool about this project: This project acts as an example on how to implement clustering at high speeds.

School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at University of California-Berkeley

Project lead: Fred Archibald, network manager, Infrastructure Development and Support GroupChallenge: Berkeley’s EECS needed to provide 1,400 highly demanding and technically sophisticated users, many of whom had disconnected from the wired network, converged voice and data services across a secure wireless LAN without required additional IT staff. Students wanted to access engineering applications at high speeds and to interact with faculty in real time during lectures, for example. But these users have a tradition of thwarting WLAN security standards, such as the IEEE’s Wired Equivalent Privacy protocol. IT needed to be certain the new WLAN would be ultra-secure. And it needed to ensure persistence of the wireless connections – many of the walls were made of dense concrete, causing signal interference.

Solution: The school introduced high-bandwidth wireless services by overlaying a hierarchical 802.11a-based (operating at speeds up to 54M bit/sec) WLAN architecture over its existing Ethernet network. It chose WLAN technology from start-up Airespace – WLAN switches, access points, and policy and device management software that, among other functions, provides signal control. The WLAN platform also includes intrusion detection, encryption and rogue containment, features that addressed EECS’s security concerns. No additional staffing has been required for the rollout or ongoing control.

Approximate cost/return on investment: $50,000; $200,000 ROI first year, $600,000 over three years, compared with traditional WLAN technology approaches.

What’s cool about this project: Not only is this an early large 11a project, but one that addresses the traditional weak spot of WLANs – security.

Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas

Project lead: Bruce Elgort, IS manager, Strategic Business OperationsChallenge: Sharp Microelectronics, a division of Sharp in Camas, Wash., needed a way to enable easy information sharing among different types of employees. The company’s traditional silo-based operating environment, which made it difficult for engineers to talk to salespeople, for example, resulted in inefficiencies such as lost productivity and/or less-than-ideal customer service.

Solution: Sharp Microelectronics chose a combination of collaborative software and an enterprise portal, through IBM’s On Demand Workplace, to build a new way of doing business. Employees now have one virtual window into the company through which they can access relevant data, communications and collaboration tools. Engineers, for example, can conduct secure, private Web meetings in real time with partners around the world. The result has been increased productivity as users spend more time acting on information rather than searching for it.

Approximate cost/return on investment: $65,000 for hardware and software; ROI not available.

What’s cool about this project: This project illustrates how collaboration – mostly untapped technology -can be used for traditional (product design collaboration) and innovative (customer service) uses.


Project lead: Darcy Daugela, program managerChallenge: At this Alberta, Canada-based company, employees faced an application nightmare – typically having to log on to more than 10 back-end systems, one at a time. The company had hundreds of independent information systems, and more than 20 intranet sites across the corporation. Syncrude needed to streamline access to these myriad back-end systems, as well as create a framework for integrating and building Web-based applications.

Solution: Syncrude found the answer in an enterprise portal, now available to more than 5,000 employees, partners and contractors. The company implemented Plumtree’s Enterprise Web tools last year, and has since provided portal access to 150 applications for streamlining processes, enhancing employee self-service and giving managers an immediate view into production performance and cost statistics. Syncrude’s portal gets approximately 3 million hits a day, with more than 90% of employees accessing the portal in any seven-day time period.

Approximate cost/return on investment: $1.4 million, for initial software, hardware, project management, development and training; expects return of several thousands of dollars from reduced communication and administrative costs, as well as increased employee productivity.

What’s cool about this project: This project demonstrates that portals needn’t be glorified intranets, but can be critical business tools and identity-management devices.