Enhancing intelligence with less

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Enhancing intelligence with less

  1. 1. Enhancing Intelligence with LessAs the economy forces organizations to reduce headcount and cut budgets, IT andbusiness units are being asked to do more with less. In attempting to tackle this challenge,the natural approach is to look at new or yet-completed projects as the first candidates forcancellation or postponement without taking a hard look at what that may do to the abilityto meet strategic business and IT goals in the short, mid, and long term. With a focus onBusiness Intelligence, we’ll take a closer look at some of the initiatives that may requiresome continued funding in the near-term, but that will result in exponential return in valuein the future. Here are 5 things that you can invest in today in order to differ, reduce, andavoid IT cost, and maybe even look like a hero in the process. • Understand Current State/Baseline BI Capabilities • Create a Roadmap • Sunset Mainframe Hardware • Compile a Sourcing Strategy • Move to Common Toolsets • Dabble with Open SourceUnderstand Current State/Baseline BI Capabilities will help to support a morecomprehensive understanding of where inefficiencies may exist. BI Best Practices shouldbe leveraged to assess the integration of information throughout the enterprise. Thisexercise would look at every system or process that is providing information either to endusers or to other downstream automated processes or systems. The dimensions thatwould be reviewed for each of the systems or processes would be: • Business Unit Interaction • Organization • Governance • Roles, and Responsibilities • Program/Project Management • Technical, Data, Data Integration (ETL), and Reporting ArchitectureThis is an activity that can be done at relatively low cost and will help to highlight overlapsor redundancy, ineffective systems or process, and data/information challenges. The
  2. 2. output of this exercise can also be used to support budget or funding conversations byproviding a comprehensive scorecard that identifies both tactical and strategicopportunities for improvement of the current BI environment or capabilities.Create a Roadmap to avoid project overrun, re-work of systems, redundant datasets, andlack of user adoption. It’s imperative to have a well defined future state vision and phasedroadmap that allows you to incrementally evolve your BI capabilities without crashing andburning on the first rollout. The purpose is to gather the comprehensive current state view,functional, technical and information requirements of the business community andgenerate an actionable implementation plan. The information needs of the businessshould be prioritized and the data required is assessed for availability and quality. Next,the information and analytical capabilities are then mapped into a future state technicalarchitecture. Organization and process changes are recommended based on functionaldrivers as well as potential impacts to the technical architecture. The resulting roadmapprovides a phased plan (not big bang) for addressing the in-scope subject areas andassociated technology components. Aside from the strategic initiatives, based onbusiness drivers, outlined in the roadmap will likely also include tactical projects to allowfor quicker delivery of value to the business community while still progressing toward thestrategic end-state vision (think short-cycle quick wins)In addition to foundational business and technology requirements, there are a few bestpractices that should be considered for inclusion as they will provide tremendous impactand increasing value to the business:• Data Lineage – having an audit trail in a central location that contains details of how data is transformed between source and report.• Data Governance – management of information that allows for consistent definition of metrics across the enterprise as well as a de facto decision of what should be used as the system of record for common data that may exist in multiple source systems.• Audit, Balance, and Control – a framework that provides the complete audit trail of every job run as part of a cycle, balancing of expected input and output of each job to ensure that records aren’t lost, and financial balancing of data at every sensible point between source and report. When custom error thresholds have been exceeded, all process jobs stop to allow for clean-up where the issue occurred instead of in the target data warehouse, reporting universe, or reports.Once the end state vision has been defined, a business case, a ballpark pricing of eachroadmap phase, and a high-level timeline for implementation of the roadmap should beincluded as part of the final package used for funding conversations. Having this
  3. 3. information will allow you to make more informed decisions about where to spenddiminished budgets without compromising business value..Sunset Mainframe Hardware makes sense due to the low cost of UNIX servers andstorage systems compared to legacy mainframes. By moving applications off of legacymainframe servers and into a distributed environment, can not only provide significantmaintenance cost savings, but also a significant reduction in development and supportresource costs due to greater availability and lower cost of resources.Compile a Sourcing Strategy not just an offshoring decision viewed as an easy way torapidly cut costs, but too often, the transition offshore is done without careful planning andpreparation. This quest for quick near-term cost benefits may be creating significant long-term risks. Experience has shown that successful sourcing requires an appropriate degreeof analysis in order to adequately assess the risks associated with the potential rewards.While there’s a general misconception that the time from sourcing analysis toimplementation must be long and drawn out, a well structured sourcing analysis canactually be achieved in a relatively short period of time. A strategic sourcing plan can setthe foundation for success by providing for short-term cost reduction, longer-termefficiency gains, and effective risk mitigation.Move to Common Toolsets because BI environments that grew from the cobblingtogether of disparate business unit or subject area systems typically leverage manydifferent database, ETL, and reporting tools. This results in the IT organization needing tomaintain a greater number of specialized resources just to provide support to the businesscommunity. This also results in the business community having to wait longer for eachdata-related request to be fulfilled since it requires the IT organization to execute eachneed. Due to this lack of ease in accessing data, business units begin to fulfill their owndata requests using Excel and Access and “Shadow IT” emerges. By addressing aproliferation of different software tools and making tool centralization and standardizationas part of your BI roadmap, you can work towards not only providing a one-stop shop forall information needs, but you can train the business community on the toolset and allowthem to fulfill their own data and reporting needs. This not only allows for easier adoptionof BI initiatives by the business community, but it requires fewer full time IT staff to supportinformation requests.Dabble with Open Source, it is never too late to test drive new and ‘free’ technology. Aquick and easy way to bring your business users and IT team up-to-speed is by tinkeringwith software. With open source options proving themselves in the market place, now is agreat time to start. There is little to no up-front investment to get some of these packagesinto a ‘pilot’ stage. Understanding new features, increased data visualization, and different
  4. 4. reporting views can easily increase the Intelligence of your BI community. Additionallyyou can develop or increase your skills for Linux as an Operating system, especially forDatabase Management Systems (DBMS). The open source DBMS can be used forsmaller, non-mission critical data warehouses and data marts.Finally, when using open source as a pilot for future replacement of existing systems,make sure to build your business case on 3 different scenarios: 1. replacing the front end reporting / dashborading / visualization tool, 2. replacing the DBMS, or 3. replacing the production operating system.The first two of these are major shifts in technical capability and should be thoroughlytested. However, the final scenario is one that had gained significant maturity over thepast few years and is quite common in large enterprises. Combine the three open sourcescenarios to satisfy small projects as pilot’s and prove out a money saving business casefor your enterprise with little to no upfront investment.Doing more with less is becoming a topic that no one can escape, as we progress furtherthrough these tough economic times we are being called to squeeze even more, becomingincreasing efficient while creating value. The age old battle between efficiency and valuehas been a tough ying and yang relationship that usually cascades one way or the otherbut never equally at the same moment in time.Business value has to be created, IT needs to be efficient, and organizations will respondtenaciously to each one of these concepts with your help. By applying any or all of thediscussed items, you will see increasing value, with decreasing cost over time.Contact:George Haenisch630-240-2130@gchjr

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