Business and IT Aren't Mutually Exclusive—for Some Companies, Anyway

By Charles Garry  |  Posted 09-21-2005
I wish every CIO and CEO of a major corporation had the opportunity to attend the Teradata Partners conference.

This year marks the sixth Partners I have attended, and the thing that always impresses me is the fact that for about three days, it's like you stepped through the looking glass.

I say that affectionately, for only here do you meet IT people who actually are focused on delivering bottom-line value to their companies.

As an example, this morning I happened to sit down at breakfast with a gentleman who worked for a large manufacturing company.

For an hour this man discussed their model for supplying all levels of management across seven lines of business; thousands of brands and dozens of geographical locations around the world gain access to accurate and timely analytic information.

Although he worked for a group in IT, he didn't discuss hardware or software.

He talked about how different businesses use data, and you knew that he knew the business.

After more than 40 years of data processing, it's refreshing to see a growing group of companies that expect more from IT systems than simply capturing an order.

The companies attending this conference—many of them, anyway (the others are striving to get there)—have placed business analytics at the center of their business plans, not pushing it off to the side as a nuisance to the real work of the IT group.

For most companies attending, their data warehouses are business-critical. They are operational in nature. Can you say the same about your company?

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They use their enterprise data warehouse as a platform as an enabler to grow the business. They want to base decisions on actual data. Data that they can trust.

For example, one company used the warehouse to help equalize their sales territories. They had a sense that regions could be better organized so that every sales rep could have the opportunity to make a good living which in turn would drive better sales productivity, improve forecasting and reduce turnover.

The great thing is that the warehouse not only gave them the data to make changes but it also enables them to constantly monitor the success of that change and continue to make adjustments.

They even have an entire track dedicated to presentations on how different companies have created valuable business solutions.

What is interesting is that many of the "IT" workers attending this conference often feel separated from the rest of their IT brethren even within their own companies.

As the importance of the warehouse grows to the business, the larger the chasm grows among traditional IT (development, infrastructure support).

And the deeper the warehouse team becomes involved in the business, the less distinct they become from the business users they serve. That is the end result of a data-centric view of your IT enterprise.

There were over 3,200 attendees here this week.

I think we need many more before everyone is achieving the same success as some of the companies I have seen here.

Until that happens, I suppose our business users can always fall back on their spreadsheets.

That should make most of IT happy so they can keep focused on taking those orders.

Let's just hope they keep coming in.

Charles Garry is an independent industry analyst based in Simsbury, Conn. He is a former vice president with META Group's Technology Research Services. He can be reached at cegarry@yahoo.com.