Gartner Business Intelligence Summit: Donald Feinberg on the CIO's View of BI - InformationWeek

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Gartner Business Intelligence Summit: Donald Feinberg on the CIO's View of BI

CIOs still cite BI as their top priority, but too many are leaving the "business" out of intelligence. Analyst Donald Feinberg shares his advice on collaboration and coping with the economy.

Donald Feinberg Donald Feinberg
IT budgets will be flat -- at best – in 2009, but CIOs continue to view business intelligence as their top investment priority. This is one of the key findings of a January survey of 1,500 CIOs that analyst Donald Feinberg will share at this week's Gartner BI Summit in Washington D.C. In this Q&A interview, Gartner's veteran database guru shares highlights from his keynote presentation along with recommendations for responding to the economic crisis.

The economy is obviously on the top of everyone's mind, so what's the advice you'll share this week for coping with current conditions?

Well, you'll obviously have to focus on top-priority projects and you need to deliver value. Forget cost cutting. That may give you a side effect -- maybe -- but chances are it's not going to really produce a big benefit. The real value is in delivering bottom-line results, so pick short-term, small projects that are clearly doable.

What are some of the "top priorities" and "doable projects" that you're seeing out there?

Simple dashboards for senior managers are a good example. If you have a data warehouse, develop a set of analytics and dashboards using corporate performance management (CPM) software. Then you can walk into the CEO's office with a flat-screen TV with a real-time management dashboard that they can put up on their wall. That's a priority because it helps senior executives be more proactive about managing the business. Plus, when executives can physically see the value of IT, they are going to give you more money for the next project. It's all about getting funded for more projects. So "high priority" means that it has an impact for the company. "Value" means that is shows the value of IT to senior management. And "short term" means you're sure you can do it relatively quickly.

Some say BI pros should focus on anything having to do with improving cash flow or visibility into cash flow. Would you agree?

Yes, I would, and it just so happens that most CPM software has to do with cash flow and how to improve internal processes. If you look at the top priorities that CIOs identified in our survey – improving business processes, reducing enterprise cost, managing change initiatives, expanding current customer relationships – most of them are fairly short-term, high-bang-for-the-buck initiatives that you can do with the aid of BI, analytics and CPM. These are the kinds of projects you want to do next.

Why do you dismiss cost cutting?

I don't dismiss it, but to start with, I don't like the term because it's negative. I'd call it cost optimization because cutting implies that you lose. I want to find a way to reduce the costs in my IT department for day-to-day operations so I can increase the money that I'm spending on new processes, new applications and new support for the businesses.

Your 'CIO's View' presentation has a recommendation to "ensure there's a focus on valuable information." What do you mean by that?

You have to have the right information and it has to be accurate. That means you want to use sources of information for these projects that you can trust. Otherwise you're going to have to embark on a data quality program, which costs money and takes time. If you can find something short-term where you know the data quality is good, then stick with that.

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