Tuesday, June 16, 2009

BI for the IT Guy (or Gal)

One of the things that I have struggled with in the past in explaining “my” product (Configuration Analytics Manager – CAM) to people who’ve not seen it, is connecting the dots from the “elevator pitch” to the real business proposition. When most IT people think of Business Intelligence (BI) products, they automatically think sales management or maybe they think “Advanced Reporting”. Since people generally tend to classify things into buckets that they can understand, once they hear “BI”, they’re automatically framing everything else said about the product into one of the above categories. When people hear about CAM and they hear, “It’s BI for IT data”, there is either a blank look of, “Why do I need *that*?” or even, “That’s cool, I can have charts and graphs on my reports now”.

The problem that I have with the above is IT management is a maturing industry. IT used to be the cost center that simply provided the business with the tools it needs to prosper. IT used to be “those people” that you only had to talk to when something was wrong, or when something new was needed. (Unless of course you are in IT management, in which case you only got to talk to people when something was wrong or when something new was needed). These days IT has become a first class citizen in most corporate environments, and is being seen as much more than a simple cost center. IT is being measured by much more than just how well they managed their budget.

Given all of the above, sometimes it feels like I’m on a crusade, and the first step is to try and get IT managers and directors to start thinking of their work in terms of business profitability. If IT managers start thinking in terms of a given process (be it keeping an application running, managing a service desk, monitoring an application, or any of the other day to day tasks an IT person performs) as their “product”, and improvement of that process as being their “profit”, then BI solutions built using IT management data will start to become a pervasive requirement for IT organizations. (What better way to help improve profit than to analyze what is and isn’t working?) CAM is poised to be *the* product to help IT when that day comes.


Eric said...

It does seem to be hard to convince people that IT serves internal customers; that these customers should be treated as if they could at a moments notice go with another "vendor". Most shops don't see the need to act as though they need to monitor their performance as they have a monopolistic hold on their customers of choice, i.e. the business which they serve.

I don't know how to rectify this or at what point along a maturity time-line it should be expected to turn. What are your general experiences with the people who seem to have little to no clue at what you are getting at the first time you explain it to them? How do you convince I.T. units that this is in their best interest?

Ted Malone said...

I wish there were an easy answer to this question...

I think it really boils down to one aspect, and that's whether the IT group is "reactive" or "proactive". If they are stuck in the "reactive" mode, I doubt that they will ever really understand the whole "vendor"/"customer" relationship that IT is evolving towards. If they are more "proactive" then they definitely understand it, and will look for new and interesting tools and techniques/processes to make themselves more valuable to their customer.