Tech done right: The 2014 InfoWorld Technology Leadership Awards

Vision and execution are hallmarks of great leadership, as these eight technologists proved in pushing their organizations in bold new directions

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2014 InfoWorld Technology Leadership Awards:

IT management

Prasad Mandava, director of enterprise applications engineering, Akamai Technologies

Prasad Mandava, Akamai

It's a problem many organizations face: Different groups use different customer management systems, creating roadblocks to working together effectively and, worse, to servicing customers optimally.

At Internet/cloud networking optimization provider Akamai, the Customer Care team and Professional Services were on different CRM systems than the sales organization. This made the synchronization of customer information onerous and opened the door for incomplete records and information disconnects among the various customer-facing organizations. In addition, the potential for cooperation and collaboration was missed.

So Akamai decided to move everyone to the Salesforce.com Service Cloud and FinancialForce tools used by the sales team, both for a unified view of the customer and for the concomitant benefits of improved insights into customer behaviors and information sharing among departments.

Where necessary to support unique workflow processes, the IT team integrated cloud services with both legacy and new custom applications. That wasn't easy. "There was so much tight coupling of business functions and systems that initially it was hard to know where to start," says Prasad Mandava, director of enterprise applications engineering. "Whenever something was changed, some other thing would break -- it was surprising how many previously undocumented systems and/or interfaces came into the scope of this project than were originally anticipated."

The highly planned and tested year-long effort "really stretched best practices in project management, with a highly distributed project team," notes Mandava. IT team members were in Massachusetts, California, North Carolina, and India, and business project leads were in London, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The new CRM system went live over a 24-hour period in December 2013 in more than 20 sites across the globe, following an intense four-week in-house training program involving webinars, classroom training, and online training for 1,000 employees around the world. When the systems went live, starting in Australia, there were no problems or disruptions.

Even better, Akamai now has a platform on which new features can be deployed, such as an online customer community for customers to exchange information, discuss business issues, solve problems, and generate ideas.

Of course, despite the fact that the existing systems were not perfect, people were used to those existing systems that had served them well, and they were apprehensive about the change. But the planning, testing, and training paid off: Notes Akamai CIO Kumud Kalia, "I'm used to hearing things from users like 'we love it' when a new system is implemented, but this was the first time I heard 'we love you' -- yes, we received proclamations of love from our business users! As someone who has implemented many new systems over the years, it doesn't get better than that."

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