Pick Information Priorities, Defend Business Intelligence Spending - InformationWeek

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3/23/2009
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Pick Information Priorities, Defend Business Intelligence Spending

It's time for proactive reassessment, goal setting and communication on information management and BI programs. Integrators speak out on coping with IT cost cuts.

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out how to cut IT costs, but it's better to use a scalpel than an axe to do the cutting.

Better yet, why not try more holistic approaches when dealing with the nerve centers of information management and business intelligence? That's the essence of the advice offered by experienced systems integrators in a panel on "BI in Today's Economy" at this month's Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in Washington D.C.

An Informationweek Analytics Webcast
Resetting Information and BI Priorities for a Challenging Economy
Presented by Intelligent Enterprise & sponsored by IBM
Pulling together some of the best advice, here specific suggestions in four key areas: resetting investment priorities, cutting cost where you can, making the most of the technology you have, and defending continued investment.

RESET INVESTMENT PRIORITIES

There's no doubt that IT is being asked to do more with less -- 15 percent less is a typical target according to Gartner. In many cases, information management and business intelligence investments are being postponed or spread out over a longer period of time.

Break projects into smaller chunks. Multi-year programs are particularly vulnerable, so it's better to break them up into smaller steps that happen to coordinate with a long-term roadmap.

"We're seeing lots of three-month projects focused on specific objectives with tangible results," says Shari Rogalski, Executive Director, Accenture Information Management Services. "Technically driven projects, for example, are still happening, particularly if they are about rationalizing software maintenance or licensing costs or automating labor-intensive activities."

Instill investment and delivery discipline. Companies are taking a much harder look at the business case for new investments, and as they go forward, they're bringing new levels of discipline to the projects, says Michael Schroeck, Partner and Global Business Intelligence Leader at IBM Global Business Services.

"Encouragingly, companies are continuing to invest in BI, but maybe instead of five initiatives within a large corporation, they might whittle that down to three," Schroeck says. "They're also setting up key milestone checkpoints throughout the projects to make sure that they're on time and on budget."

CUT WHERE YOU CAN

Before you consider cutting on the people side of the organization, you have duty to look at needless technology expenditures. In many cases, costs can be cut even without renegotiating with vendors.

Look for redundancies. One of the dangers of a decentralized approach to information management and business intelligence is that companies may not be aware of overlaps and redundancies. "One of my life sciences clients, for example, spends more than $100 million per year with one data provider," says Richard Cohen, Principal, Technology Integration Practice, Deloitte Consulting. "They are now going through the organization and looking for duplicative use of data across the organization."

Move to self-service. Technology consolidation and standardization can be a huge opportunity, particularly if you can retire licenses and move to user-friendly alternatives in the process. "A good amount of the cost of BI projects is on the development side," Cohen points out. "You'll be much better off if you can put tools in front of your users that let them do their own analysis and their own querying." On the other hand, you also have to build in safeguards so that new users can't formulate large queries that will shut down your system.

Retain comprehensive skills. Even with delays in investments and cuts in software and hardware costs, it's still tough to hit the 15 percent mark without personnel cuts. Thus, "alignment of staff is a big issue right now," says Cohen. Many companies have IT staff spread among multiple business units, he adds, "but they're now being asked to do it all with a slimmed-down, core group of people" shared across all departments. It's essential, says Cohen, that the core group offers comprehensive skills -- architectural skills, development skills, data management skills and so on -- so your company doesn't suffer from a BI and information management brain drain.

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