If you're looking for reassurance regarding your latest projects or inspiration to get new projects off the ground, see what network executives at these organizations have to say. And feel free to drop me a line about what you have on tap.Finding leading-edge network shops isn't as easy as it used to be - and it's not because they don't exist. Partly to blame is the demise of national user organizations that gave network executives a high-profile way to showcase their efforts. Increasingly paranoid corporate policies about discussing IT projects in public or with the press also are a factor.But perhaps the biggest issue is that so many companies don't want to be seen as being risk takers in a time of extreme fiscal conservativeness. After all, survey after survey shows that IT budgets continue to be tight. And we all learned a few lessons about going overboard during the Internet boom.Still, the fact remains that new network technologies, from IP telephony to high-speed wireless LANs, continue to roll out and advance at a rapid rate. Industry leaders such as Cisco still are pumping billions of dollars into research and development ($3.3 billion, or 17% of revenue, in its most recent fiscal year) and though venture funding of network start-ups is way down, the companies still got $2.3 billion in the last quarter.Some corporate IT shops are hunkering down, playing it safe and making the most of what they have.Others are playing it safe, but also playing it smart by putting select new technologies to work for the purpose of saving money, making operations more efficient or gaining a competitive edge. These companies figure this is the perfect time to gain an IT-enabled edge over competitors that are waiting for a full economic recovery. Forrester Research calls such companies "stealth aggressors."It's these forward-looking companies that we've chosen to highlight in our special\u00a0Early Adopters package of stories.Gene Zimon, CIO and a senior vice president at Nstar, says that the Massachusetts utility is moving ahead with key technology projects despite a constrained budget. The company is heading down the Web services path in an effort to tap more applications than it ever could if it tried to build them all itself.Universities such as DePaul and Miami (of Florida) are putting\u00a0Session Initiation Protocol-based IP telephony and coarse wavelength division multiplexing, respectively, to work. Tenet Health Systems is out in front in securing its\u00a0802.11b\u00a0wireless LANs.If you're looking for reassurance regarding your latest projects or inspiration to get new projects off the ground, see what network executives at these organizations have to say. And feel free to\u00a0drop me a line\u00a0about what you have on tap.