17 Oct Wisconsin’s Business IT Innovators
IT organizations rank high in national survey by InformationWeek
Without a doubt, the driver pushing United States businesses to ever-higher efficiency is better use of their information technology.
No matter if it is enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, customized intranets, or streamlined manufacturing software, IT is the vice that squeezes productivity from bottom lines. Perhaps that makes inclusion on the most recent InformationWeek 500 list of the nation’s largest and most innovating IT organizations all the more satisfying—those on the list are making the most of what they have when it really counts.
Numerous Wisconsin-based companies made the cut, including Snap-on Inc., Kenosha (No. 11); Harley-Davidson, Milwaukee (No. 32); and Alliant Energy, Madison (No. 150).
Snap-on was the highest-ranked manufacturing company on the list and marked its fifth straight year in the IW 500 top 25.
“As we progress further in the implementation of our Driven to Deliver™ strategy, Snap-on is committed to providing additional innovative technology solutions to our business partners and customers that help them improve productivity and achieve greater success,” the company said in a release.
On the surveys sent to companies on behalf of IW from research company RoperNOP, Alliant Energy highlighted its use of companywide technology, particularly its use of electronic maps and mobile data terminals for its crews. The more information crews in the field have, the faster they can restore power to customers.
“That’s key,” said Gregg Lawry, managing director of information technology for Alliant. “One of the things that they look for is companies that use innovative technology to enable business.”
Alliant also stressed its use of employee portals for employee self-service and its efforts to standardize its entire IT infrastructure, including its help desk.
“Technology can be very expensive,” Lawry said. “The more standardization and more consistency you have, the less costly it is to support going forward.
“If you have a consistent system, you have consistent business processes,” he added. “That has been a key part of our focus, consolidation and consistency, since we merged in 1998. The more variable you are, the more errors you can have.”
Harley-Davidson, that scion of Wisconsin-based business, has made two things imperative in its IT strategy: align with the overall business strategy while taking a standard, repeatable approach to everything.
The result is a strong use of data warehousing and Web-based services, both of which help the company and its dealers share information and push out the kind of redundant measures that waste time and money.
“I think we’re being validated on the use of data warehousing … and Web services,” said Harley’s Director of Information Services, Reid Engstrom. “[We have] a focus just on a strong asset management base, where we’re trying to be pretty close to the state of the market. And that’s what’s being reflected.”
Harley has been using data warehousing for a couple of years and even employs its own data warehouse group, Engstrom said. The real value in compiling all those internal stats and spreadsheets are the visible business improvements enabled by Harley’s ability to measure quality and analyze it. It also helps Harley bore down into dealership data.
“So it really helps dealers understand how they’re doing compared to other dealerships and opportunities that they have there,” Engstrom said. “That’s really helping us in streamlining our business. We’re taking a lot of electronic transactions from dealers.”
Other Wisconsin companies that made the list include Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee (No. 161); SC Johnson & Son, Racine (No. 164); and Lands’ End, Dodgeville (No. 198). Calls to those companies were not returned.