IOD '09

Day Three: Andy Warzecha on making IT and business play well together


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Warzecha: For most organizations, when you talk to them about "What are you doing? What is your strategy?", there is a disconnect between the business — and I'm talking line of business, I talking senior executives, the board, the CEO — in what the business strategy is and what IT is executing on.

So we do have a bit of a challenge going on right now in terms of the rift, the rift between business and IT.

And I think we're at a point now where with the technologies that we have available to us, with the skills and know-how in how to apply the technology, moving beyond just automation to begin to optimize (which requires a holistic view of trusted information), we're at a point now where we can address some of these transformational items that benefit the business strategically — not just, "I need a warehouse because the three reports I just got off of the system don't match one another." Or, "I need another set of business intelligence tools."

It's not about the individual piece parts, it's about looking at this holistically across the enterprise. Again, the economic factors forcing CIOs to do this today.

But equally important is being able to use IT as a means to support and help the business innovate and grow versus being viewed as a cost center as it is in many organizations today.

The sheer volume and variety of information that is inundating organizations is causing a crisis. Again, we can't afford to "manage" everything anymore ... we can't afford to do it ... so the questions are being asked, "What information is important to our organizations now?" and "How do I begin culturally to treat that information as an asset?"

And while technology can support those discussions, it's really a cultural shift in the organization.

You know, recognizing that, if I'm going to differentiate on customer service, for example, that I better have an understanding of who my customers are across the business. And that may sound like an easy thing to do, but it's not. That customer information exists all over these application silos.

So how do I get a holistic view of that information? And not just a holistic view that I may perceive to be accurate because you run into issues of "how accurate is that information; do you know?"

In most organizations, they don't today [know the accuracy]. Even on identifying what information is critical to business strategy, they don't know in aggregate how accurate that information is. And derivatively, not only how accurate is it today, [but] how accurate does it need to be to support the business goals of the business.

If you look at most organizations today and how they're making their decisions, it's through spreadsheets and email. All the wonderful things we do in business intelligence reports today, all the pretty graphs that we draw, the business managers take those reports and they export it into Excel, they manually manipulate it and fuse it with other information, email it around to their colleagues or direct reports, and then make a decision.

In order for us to reach these next levels of efficiency, we're talking about using information to make real-time decisions at the point of impact. This is a truck driver, showing up at a loading dock and finding out that the people aren't ready to load the truck. And being able to accurately record that they weren't there, have somebody sign it, so there's no problem recovering the billing that should be part of the contractual awareness where you don't have the accounts payable people calling on the customer six weeks later saying "You need to pay me for this" and them [the customer] saying "We were ready; it was your driver that was late."

So this ability to tap into these things at that point of impact ... in order to be able to do this, it's not the rear-view mirror view of information. It's understanding what has happened, yes, but what is happening now, streaming information in (in some cases through sensors), correlating with the historic information, and being able to understand "Why did it happen?" and "What should I do about it?" — "What's in the best interest of the business?" "Is this an opportunity? Is this a risk?"

This is where these new efficiency gains are coming in from an organizational perspective. It requires an understanding of what information is critical, it requires business understanding that this is critical, and it requires a convergeance between business and IT that this information is trustworthy and I can take action on it NOW versus spending a week with Excel spreadsheets or emails and moving this throughout the organization.

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Zone=, Cloud computing
ArticleTitle=IOD '09: Day Three: Andy Warzecha on making IT and business play well together