In-Depth

2004 Innovators create applications that make a difference locally and globally

While the dot-com boom and bust is now relegated to the dustbin of technological history, Web applications are increasingly allowing business and government to improve service and significantly boost ROI.

Practical uses of XML, Web services, Java and other technologies in the service of practical applications that help businesses, government agencies and the people they serve are key trends emerging from ADT's 2004 Innovator Awards.

Keeping real business goals at the top of the requirements list for applications is one of the clear trends emerging from this year's innovators. As Ethan McMahon, environmental information architect at the EPA's Office of Technology, Operations and Policy, said of his organization's winning entry in Processes & Practices [see "EPA developing ART of business modeling"], "business modeling technology is more about business than technology." That could be said of all the technologies -- both leading-edge and old-fashioned -- that innovators employed in their projects.

While innovative use of technology is important, several winning entries focused on helping people who were largely ignored by the original dot-com goal of separating trendy yuppies from their discretionary income.

This year's E-business Application Development Innovator award went to an application developed by The Directorate of Medical Materiel for the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP) [see "Medic app moved fast in rollup to Iraq war"] to speed the delivery of medical supplies to armed services units.

The Montgomery County Children Services agency won in the Application Management and Deployment category [see "WebFACTS lets Ohio county focus on the kids"] for creating a system that helps child welfare case workers to spend more time with people and less time doing old-fashioned paperwork.

Fairfax County Public Schools won by creating a Web services application [see "School's integration team finds innovation without alienation"] that ingeniously incorporates pre-XML systems in ways that benefit parents, students and teachers.

This is not to say that practical business goals are not part of innovation in application development trends.

XO Communications won in the Data Warehousing/Business Intelligence category with a clear-eyed focus on ROI. Among the success stories for the call-detail data warehouse built by XO Communications [see "XO Communications warehouse streamlines billing, more"] was an immediate cost savings when information provided by the new application led to reducing a $6 million invoice to $295,000. That is the kind of achievement that will make CEOs and CFOs believe in meta data.

XML proves to be the hero for agri-products trading partners in the U.K. who benefit from the integration of applications from multiple companies at ABNA Ltd., the winner in the Middleware and Application Integration category. [see "XML message router improves logistics for an agri-business"]

In evaluating the ABNA Innovator entry, Innovator Award judges at Keane Inc. cited the firm for "realizing quantitative benefits by sharing logistics information (using XML-based middleware) both internally and externally. ABNA is using middleware to save between 5% and 10% of its costs for a $100 million operation."

While XML was part of its story, innovative use of Java technology, including the J2EE platform, proved to be key to a global application for LexisNexis online legal customers globally. The research services company - the winner in the Tools & Technologies category - [see "LexisNexis finds one world, one platform"] created a single platform that helps business units avoid duplicating development work, and makes it easier for users to access data consistently.

Keane praised LexisNexis for "the overall scope of its J2EE enterprise implementation representing a practical implementation of cutting-edge technology."

With economic and other geopolitical struggles making 2003 a difficult environment, ADT's Innovator Awards show that developers continue to make today's practical applications out of yesterday's theoretical concepts.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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