By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 08-03-2005 Print


EUC with HCI: Why It Matters

-hour weeks get the job done"> How did they do it? "We are working our asses off, to be blunt," he said.

Schwegman's 95-person IT group represents about one out of our every four people at the corporate headquarters building and has almost tripled in size since October.

To make the Teradata deployment happen that quickly, Schwegman's group worked an average of 65 hours/week. "One guy put in 102 hours last week," he said.

Beyond salaried IT staff, Schwegman also "beefed up consulting" and brought in a lot of extra temporary help, he said.

But there is a question whether the Teradata deployment speed is as impressive as it sounds.

Teradata VP David Scott said that Teradata did, indeed tell Schwegman that the project he was undertaking would probably take nine to 12 months to complete. But he also said it was a rough estimate for a set of services and capabilities much more extensive than the set Overstock initially deployed.

After the project scope was redefined, Teradata's estimate of the time needed for rollout was 70 days, Scott says.

Schwegman, asked about the apparent contradiction between his remarkable time-and-scope description and Teradata's more mundane estimate, said the truth was "a margin between the two stories."

"It would have been a six-month project. If [Teradata] went anywhere else and did it, it would have taken six months," he said. The vendor helped accelerate the project because it "poured in a ton of Teradata resources."

Scott said Teradata's estimate of 70 days was based on the same high volume of resources that impressed Schwegman; Teradata didn't add resources to accelerate the process. But the estimate included equally long hours from Overstock's team. "It was assumed that their people were going to work 16 hours a day," Scott said.

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Why assume a client's employees would put in those kinds of hours?

"It's very clear when you meet Shawn," Scott said. "He has a cot in his office and a strong pot of coffee. Once we all agreed to the statement of work, their focus was incredible. I'd give them a 9.9—if not a 10—on a scale of being focused."

The 31-year-old Schwegman freely admits to being a workaholic who puts in 70 hours in an average week and is proud of the futon in his office.

Workaholics or not, Overstock's people were focused, and they went out of their way to understand and internalize what the business, marketing and operations people needed, according to Bill Gassman, a research analyst at Gartner, who spent a half-day with Overstock's marketing department and was surprised at how well it used technology.

"If we were to draw a bell curve of maturity in IT processes, they're definitely on the high end of the curve," Gassman said. "That takes an IT department that understands that business people are their customer."

"I still use [Overstock] as a benchmark. The types of best practices the company had are really rare," Gassman said. "They ask to look at reports of what people are doing on the site all day. Then, based on that, they may change the site several times a day and keep an eye on the effects of changing that home page. There's a lot of cooperation between the developers and the marketing people. At other companies, making a change like that would take weeks or months. These guys do it multiple times a day."

Teradata's Scott agreed. Overstock relies heavily on e-mail marketing campaigns to bring customers in for special offers, new merchandise and sales. But the company's previous mail system allowed only a fraction of the messages to go through.

"Their e-mail marketing went from really bad to world class. They had been able to get just a fraction of e-mails out to customers," Scott said. "When you look at the level of confidence they had in even getting a small number of messages to customers, it went from very painful, very problematic" to something effective.

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