Stories by Drew Robb

Revitalizing staff skills

As the role IT plays in producing business value changes, so too does the notion of traditional IT skills or a typical IT career ladder.

A mind for money

When it comes to finance, IT executives often find themselves feeling like Star Trek's Dr. McCoy when they protest, "I'm an IT director, not an accountant!" But as companies work to integrate their information services and business processes, they have a greater need to count both beans and bytes.

Better grade for smart switches

For many years, vendors have been promoting intelligent storage switches, particularly for virtualization projects. Initial implementations, however, relied mainly on appliances that created performance bottlenecks and were application-specific and difficult to scale. As a result, end users have been slow to adopt those so-called smarter solutions.

In Google's shadow

Google's recent foray into the enterprise search market may have raised the profile of the technology, but the tools are nothing new to Jeff Watts and National Instruments's 3,500 employees and 25,000 customers.

Desktop defenses

Patching is supposed to secure your organization from the latest batch of malicious code. But try telling that to the state of Alaska 's IT department. Staffers were working diligently to stay up-to-date on patching, despite the sheer size of the territory they serve and the limited bandwidth available in remote areas. But what if no patches existed?

Pinpointing ways to save

In November 2005, PHH Arval released its PHH InterActive Dashboard, giving customers three years of key performance indicators and expenses, including billing, inventory, fuel purchases, vehicle orders and used-vehicle sales.

Staying stocked during disaster

Many U.S. companies still haven't recovered from last year's hurricanes. United Pipe & Supply, however, managed to keep growing despite supply shortages.

Tracking finances on the rails

Getting trains to run on time is simple enough; Mussolini accomplished that back in the 1930s. Getting financial data on time is much harder, but US-based BNSF Railway is managing to do that, too. BNSF is the result of the merger or acquisition of 390 railway companies dating back 150 years. It has 40,000 employees running 6,300 locomotives pulling 220,000 freight cars over 32,000 miles of track.

Getting smarter with each sale

Eastern Mountain Sports, an outdoor specialty retailer in the U.S., turned to business intelligence software to gain insight into the actions of individual shoppers and boost sales of high-profit items.

ERP implementations reveal a lot of pain before the gain

Certain IT initiatives fall into the "bet the company" category. Setting up an ERP system from SAP AG is one such choice. These complex undertakings carry both greater opportunities and greater risks than other enterprise software projects. Done right, an SAP deployment can transform an organization by streamlining operations, cutting costs and opening up new business opportunities. Done wrong, it can become a multiyear nightmare.

Splunk Inc.'s Splunk Data Center Search Party

Many data center problems are easy to solve once you know what's going on. The hard part is finding them in the gigabytes of data dutifully logged on a millisecond basis by all the hardware, databases and applications. Manually combing through all the tiers of log data to track down a transaction or problem is slow and expensive. This is where Splunk comes in, a tool that uses search technology to speed problem resolution.

SAP's and Microsoft's Duet glue

Companies spend billions of dollars creating enterprise portals and integrating applications. With Duet for Microsoft Office and SAP software, some of that customization is no longer needed. Duet lets users access SAP applications from within an Office environment.

New recruits still scarce

Back in the days when mainframes ruled, there was a close ratio between IT workers and computers. Now, PCs worldwide number close to 1 billion, but the number of IT workers joining the field is dwindling fast.

Real-time monitoring tools capture the user view

As companies have become increasingly dependent upon electronic transactions as a primary means of customer interaction, many have found that it's no longer adequate to simply monitor overall performance. For businesses such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, monitoring each user's experience has become critical.