Jun 04 2009

Look Before You Leap

Photo: Matthew Gilson

It’s safe to say that your company has had to make some tough decisions over the past few months. At many companies, projects, budgets and possibly even people have come under intense scrutiny. In this economic climate, such actions are unavoidable. But the true test of whether your company can weather the storm and be stronger tomorrow depends on how you go about making those choices today.


No matter the decision being made or the size or scope of the project, it’s important that you do your homework and use the information to make the most educated decision possible. If a budget needs to be cut, know what’s at stake before making your decision. If you don’t think you can afford that new server, ask your team if it’s possible to live without it. Are there more affordable options, such as virtualization, that you can turn to instead?

But before making any decision, talk to all stakeholders and understand the various repercussions. What might help the bottom line today could turn out to be a logistical nightmare down the road.

Use metrics to show the value of your projects. Your CEO or CFO might not understand the benefits of implementing data deduplication, but showing them how much you can save on storage costs and then providing an actual cost-savings analysis after the technology is in place will go a long way toward proving the value of that technology purchase. (For an example of how a data deduplication storage system helped McHenry Savings Bank save time and money, click here.)

The bright side of having to justify all your projects and the costs associated with them is that you will become more knowledgeable about what your company is doing and how it’s allocating its resources. With this knowledge comes the ability to make better decisions to help grow your business tomorrow.

Star Power

Not every IT project will get your juices flowing. Sometimes it’s like eating your vegetables. You know that it’s good for you, but you’d rather have dessert. For the Dallas Cowboys’ technology team, every day has been a heavy helping of dessert as they work diligently to complete the IT infrastructure for the team’s new stadium.

The team has been working to install a data center, blade servers, a storage area network and a communications network — along with several other technologies — since February. But all the work will certainly pay off once the $1 billion technological marvel is complete.

Fans will be treated to the world’s largest high-definition video board hanging from the 50-yard line, concession stands will be automated to list specials and food and drink availability, ticket takers will use handheld devices to scan tickets, and wait staff will be able to take orders using wireless handheld devices. In addition, 2,900 flat-screen TVs will line concourses and private suites to keep viewers up-to-date with the latest game action and stadium news.

For example, at the end of the third quarter when beer sales are cut off, employees can pre-program the system to upload a new menu on the concession stands’ screens without beer as an option. The marketing department can also sell targeted advertising aimed at different locations in the stadium.

“One of our sponsors could do advertising and show fantasy football stats that scroll across the bottom of the TV,” says Cowboys’ CIO Pete Walsh. If an emergency occurs, the team’s video staff can immediately post directions that show fans the nearest exits. (For more about the state-of-the-art stadium, click here.)

Few IT projects compare with the scope or budget of the Cowboys’ project, but the stadium is a great example of how companies can push the limits of innovation and how they can maximize the customer experience through technology.

Ryan Petersen
Managing Editor