Stories by Mary Pratt

A ticket to ride

Back in 2000, the Zipcar crew set out to establish a new class of transportation: cars that drivers could sign up to share for a fee. It was an ambitious goal, and one it seems to have accomplished.

Work/life balance: What is it worth?

A young programmer approached Mary Finlay with a request: After just a year on the job, he wanted to work four 10-hour days so he could have every Friday off, a schedule that would allow him to play Thursday night gigs with his rock band without worrying about the next day's work.

Global legal gotchas

Here's the strategy for expansion: Buy a competitor, and use its equipment and your own people to grow the business.

Getting security into employees heads

It's the kind of breach that companies fear: workers giving out network log-in names or changing passwords when asked to by someone posing as an IT staffer.

Office space reconsidered: IT's role evolves

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced 800 workers at Dow Jones & Co. out of their offices adjacent to the World Trade Center. But the company needed those employees to continue working. "We still had a job to do, and we had to find space," says Jennifer W. Keller, manager of facility planning at the company's South Brunswick office.

Taking work on vacation

Bernie Schumacher remembers the days before cell phones, laptops and handhelds enabled regular contact with the office even while vacationing. In fact, he was on a cruise during the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant meltdown in 1979, completely unaware of the crisis until his ship docked.

CIOs on the move

When Joe Eckroth moved from the top tech spot at toy maker Mattel to the CIO post at New Century Financial a year ago, he wanted to play fair with his new employees from the start. He was open about his game plan with staffers, some of whom were unsettled by the change in leadership. But Eckroth didn't let his concern for them stop him from pushing his agenda forward. He honestly stated his belief in outsourcing, for example, even though he knew it might further disturb some employees.

Testing a campaign's success

Dreyfus last year ran a marketing campaign to sell a new mutual fund to existing customers. But the sales push wasn't overly successful, says John Dryzga, associate director of database marketing.

Knowing which products are in demand

Managers of Keystone Automotive Industries's 35 manufacturing facilities arrive at work on Monday mornings to find a three-page multicolor report on their printers, thanks to the company's business intelligence application. The report provides details on which car bumpers are in demand so managers know which ones to manufacture.

Viewing fine details in financial data

When Alliant Energy executives decided to prepare the company's earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) reports using business intelligence tools from Cognos, they knew they'd drastically cut the number of man-hours it took to prepare them.

Keeping a watchful eye on patients

Humana's business intelligence application recently sorted through claims to flag one particular member: a 44-year-old man hospitalized for a ruptured appendix. He had shown up as a "high utilizer" of health care services, prompting a call from one of Humana's personal nurses.

Office space reconsidered: new style, new digs

Chris Kniola wants to radically redesign his company's call centers. Instead of eight-pack cubicles -- the sterile setup of four desks in two rows, separated by low walls and equipped with standard desktop computers and phones -- Kniola envisions a free-flowing space that offers customer service reps everything from comfortable chairs to garden-side work spots. "You walk into the office, the security desk gives you your computer, and you go sit wherever you want," he says.

Line between business and IT blurs

As more CIOs move toward business and IT alignment over the next several years, the makeup and structure of IT will change. IT and business unit employees will work more closely together -- and in some cases, interchangeably.

What do users want?

Want to complete a project successfully?

Then you'd better have success at the start. That means getting requirements right, and there are as many ways to do that as there are business analysts charged with getting it done.

Earned value management

If your IT shop isn't using earned value management, you may want to start thinking about it. EVM, which has its roots in the U.S. Department of Defense, is moving into private industry. More important, it's coming to IT.