Lean projects

Designed to shave expenses, these projects turned into big ROI wins under these assertive IT leaders.

Often, a standout IT leader is one who champions a project and guides a team to do remarkable things with scant resources. These Computerworld Premier 100 honorees had the courage to ask tough questions and used their consensus-building skills, flexibility and detailed analysis to reap huge gains internally.

Kevin N. Bott

Senior vice president, CIO, Ryder System, Miami

  • Project at a glance: When this major trucking company decided to deploy wireless devices to improve fleet operations and reduce costs, internal interest in the project mushroomed. One IT executive vowed to keep the project team on task. Now, the new devices are hitched to more than 4,000 Ryder vehicles, yielding substantial savings.
  • Signature leadership move: Steered a project back on track after its scope began to bloat as it gained greater visibility within the company.

Envisioned as a classic lean IT project, RydeSmart started off in June 2006 as a relatively modest endeavor. Bott, 52, was at the wheel of a tightknit project team made up of handpicked individuals who represented the interests of the company's many business units. Bott held mandatory weekly review meetings and drove his team to hold down costs and target specific fleet efficiencies.

But things began to change as RydeSmart's visibility grew. The team swelled, and the project's scope began to bloat. "We all realized how much of what the company does would be impacted by this product," recalls Bott. RydeSmart devices are wireless hardware/software units that make use of GPS and other technologies to help track the location of Ryder vehicles. The goal was to improve areas such as fuel efficiency.

As interest in RydeSmart grew, so did the project's technical snafus. For instance, the growing RydeSmart team wanted a say in how the units would be deployed, even after the units had been shipped out for installation.

Other problems emerged, including the fact that Ryder's diverse fleet comprised various vehicle makes, models and years that didn't fit conveniently into guidelines devised for electronic communications module transactions.

Bott realized he would have to move swiftly and decisively to keep RydeSmart on track. "I worked with the core team to establish processes for inventory control. I followed up with the team on weekly resolution calls with our primary vendor partners to resolve installation issues," he says.

In the end, Bott steered RydeSmart back in the right direction and has the return on investment to prove it. Upfront hardware investments were offset immediately by efficiencies. Plus, Ryder's market share increased; customers liked the idea that RydeSmart makes it unnecessary for drivers to deal with bothersome tasks such as odometer reading and fuel usage reporting.

"RydeSmart improved our business operations and helped differentiate us in the marketplace," notes Robert Sanchez, executive vice president of operations at Ryder Fleet Management Solutions. "Kevin was very involved in terms of corporate strategy and IT integration. He helped internal stakeholders and Ryder customers understand the value of the solution."

In the end, the hard work paid off. "We have achieved savings in trip records processing, breakdown repair costs, idle-time fuel reductions, out-of-route mileage reductions, improved asset utilization and more-efficient driver hours," says Bott.

Indeed, Sanchez and others credit Bott and his team for the turnaround -- mostly because Bott refused to let the effort become too corporate-focused and instead chose to concentrate on tangible areas of savings.

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