Predominantly an HP/UNIX shop, Armstrong has more than 100 of these systems, and 350 Compaq application servers. A mainframe still hosts legacy applications. Development is primarily in Visual Basic, ABAP and Java. Says Richards, "Our new thrust is in Enterprise Java. We are moving into applications based on Java Beans and introducing e-commerce tools." The company's SAP project engaged between 60 and 95 technical professionals, at various stages of the project, a relatively large effort, compared to the more common projects with budgets ranging from $250K to $10M.

The company uses TCP/IP and hundreds of Cisco routers for its communications network. They are aggressively moving into e-commerce, both business-to-business (B2B), and business-to-consumer (B2C).

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Deer wander within sight of Armstrong's campus-like headquarters, where windows overlook rolling pastures and a geese-filled pond. Commuting for most is 15 to 20 minutes, from anywhere in town. Richards says, "It is a great area for families and only an hour-and-a-half from Philadelphia or Baltimore."

Armstrong observes 11 holidays, including one personal day. Employees earn two weeks of vacation to start (pro-rated the first year), three weeks after five years, four weeks after fifteen years, five weeks after 21 years, and six weeks after 28 years of service. Benefits include a range of medical, dental, and prescription drug programs. The company pays for long-term disability, accidental death, travel accident, and life insurance. There is a company-paid pension plan, as well as a company-matching 401(k) retirement savings program. Armstrong is one of the few companies that pre-pays tuition expenses. The company has arrangements with a number of local businesses for discounts for its employees and employees are eligible for discounts on company products. The cafeteria and coffee are subsidized. A reorganization of the business in 1998 led to layoffs on the manufacturing side. Affected employees were given a generous severance package and outplacement assistance.

Dress is business casual. Official hours are from 8 AM to 4:30 PM. Flexible hours are available. Says Richards, "In IT, overtime is part of the lifestyle depending on the stage of a project." The SAP implementation, was, of course, more intense than most projects. Travel is dependent on various positions and responsibilities, but no more than 25 percent for any staff member.

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Armstrong Worldwide Industries' roots as the largest cork company in the world in the mid-1890s is reflected in its ticker symbol: ACK. Although the company found new, creative uses for cork in insulation and brick, its next venture became the business that forms the heart of the company today - linoleum. They were the first company to offer it. Solarian, now one of the best-respected brand names in the industry, is just one of a long line of products that includes fiber board, acoustical ceilings and wall panels, ceramic tile, hardwood floors, and kitchen and bathroom cabinets. The company's three business groups are Ceilings, Vinyl Flooring, and Wood Flooring. Company founder, Thomas Armstrong, was committed to quality, and he backed this belief with a written guarantee. Winning the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality award for plant operations in 1995, the company continues this tradition of quality.

Armstrong also believed in balancing the interests of all the company's stakeholders - employees, investors, suppliers, and corporate neighbors. The range of awards the company has earned in recent years suggest this balanced view still prevails. The company was named among Fortune's Most Admired Companies (#2 in its industry), given the EVE Award for extraordinary efforts to achieve a diverse workplace, named for its work with Habitat for Humanity (1999) with the Angel Network Award, awarded the Golden Hammer for New Product Innovation by the Building Materials Group (1999), and given the Award for Excellence for Best Resilient Floor from The Floor Covering News & World Floor Covering Association (1998). The company demonstrates its investment in the community. It was a charter member of the U.S. Green Building Council, for environmentally responsible buildings and materials, and earned the Environmental Protection Agency's Excellence Award three years in a row for its waste reduction efforts.

Armstrong is larger than its competitors in any of its markets and believes its quality and investment in technology to continue improving its products sets it apart. Competitors include Mannington Mills (vinyl floors) and U.S. Gypsum (ceiling coverings).

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Armstrong's 195 headquarters-based technical professionals are supplemented with 75 contractors who provide PC support and contract programming. There are three job classifications: Information Systems, responsible for application development; Technical or Network, responsible for network support, systems architecture and design; and Management. Levels include Information Systems Analyst 1-5, Network Systems Analyst or Technical Analyst 1-5, and Manager/Director/Vice President.

Turnover is a strikingly low three percent. As Hill explains, "We get to pick the cream of the crop. Armstrong is one of the strongest employers in this area and it has the best reputation." At the end of the SAP project, for instance, a time one would expect mass defections by employees with a hot new skill, only two people left the company. The company's rich applications environment ensures there are always new, different projects to work on. In addition to internal transfers (40 percent), the company finds candidates through temporary-to-hire arrangements (30 percent), and a combination of employee referrals, advertisements, unsolicited resumes, and the Internet (30 percent). Armstrong hired 30 technical professionals in the last year and expects to hire 15 in the next year.

Describing the qualities that are most important in technical candidates, Richards explains "Good work experience and disciplined work habits are more important than an exact technical fit." Richards continues, "We look for highly motivated people with a proven track record." The average level of experience is 10 to 15 years in IT and a Bachelor’s degree is required. More important are commitment and strong relationship skills, since client interaction is a large component of the work. The company rarely hires entry-level candidates.

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Job Title



Accounting Systems Mgr.  BA Accounting, CPA Hyperion, SAP
Network Sys. Analyst/UNIX Administrator BA/BS CS, Info. Mgt. HP-UX, RISC
Network Systems Analyst BS EE, CS, IS, CCIE/CCNP, MSCE, CNS, Certified Net Analyst TCP/IP, DNS, DHCP, NT, Perl, C, C++, Tcl/Tk, Java, LDAP, PKI
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