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Predictive IT: Building a Good Business Case Development Model

By Susan Nunziata  |  Posted 05-05-2011 Print

What advice do you have for other CIOs looking to build a good business-case development model?

Toole: Focus on hard benefits--things you can measure, versus things that are based on soft metrics. One thing we try to do diligently is harden up the soft savings. What does being more productive really mean? Does it mean that if we apply more resources we can generate more revenue because we're more productive? Or does it mean that we can shift people to other parts of the business to generate more productivity there to help increase sales? If you harden up benefits, at the end of the day the controller can really measure the outcome in a tangible way that comes back to shareholder value.

To quote Mark Twain, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." So, how do you extract the right data to achieve your goals?

Toole: Really focus on data that drives value to the business, whether that's client-oriented, product-oriented or employee-oriented. Start there, and make sure you have trusted sources of data for your clients, your products and services, and your employees

Then the question is, "How do I get insight out of that data?" In our case, we noticed that people were using a number of different tools and warehouses to manage data. In response, we created Blue Insight, which combined 100 data warehouses totaling about a petabyte of data. We worked with Cognos and created a single tool that enables us to access that data. We now have 50 applications accessing data, and we are adding another 50.

It's about creating trusted sources of data so you can really do the processes you need to do. On the other side, you have to make sure that the data is as automated as possible and can be analyzed in actionable ways.

In our Blue Insight cloud, we now have 185,000 people who have access to that data, which we expect to grow to 200,000 shortly. It has 41 ported applications, and another 95 applications are in the pipeline for deployment toward our full-year user deployment goal.

What advice do you have for other CIOs looking to execute a similar undertaking?

Toole: When we created shared services, one thing we did was create centers of excellence on a few strategic topics; data was one of them. We created a center of excellence around business analytics that was tasked with inventorying what was in the environment and coming up, [then determining] ways to systematically consolidate it. That really helped us get our arms around a very large challenge.

Here's an example: small-deal management. This is when we're trying to take a business lead, analyze the lead and pass it on to the appropriate business partner. We were able to take a significant amount of time out of that whole process by applying analytics. It doesn't take a big investment to get a big payback.

Another example: We created a CIO dashboard, and now we're able to, in a single place, go and look at our entire operation--from what's happening in infrastructure, application portfolio management, and risk and compliance, to transformation initiatives, etc.--and analyze all the risks and benefits being delivered. It's allowed us to be much more effective in our own role of being a shared-services corporation.

The next thing we're applying is predictive analytics on top of the IBM Cognos environment. We do a very good job of managing infrastructure and reacting to any issues that come up. Now we're using predictive analytics to analyze our server log to see if we can identify trends and fix problems before they even happen. We're applying that same kind of predictive analytics to business ideas.

That's the next step: Taking data we have and predicting what's going to happen in the future.

We hear increasingly from CIOs about the business-side demand to have mobile access to analytics information from any device, anywhere. How is that affecting your use of analytics tools?

Toole: In today's world, with mobility growing as fast as it is, you have to think about three fundamental things: establishing a collaborative environment where people can work together regardless of location; within that environment you need to create communities for people to work together in intimate ways; and they must have analytics tools and predictive-analytics tools to enable them to work together as effectively as they can in these global collaborations.

We've put analytics around communities to understand how those communities work and generate best practices to bring all communities in our global environment to their optimal performance.

In building digital reputations, you have to be able to secure the environment by employing technologies, such as data loss prevention (DLP), and you have to do a lot of education so people understand how important data protection is.

There is a big role the CIO has to play, in a much broader sense, in [handling] all the potential security challenges that come with a global mobile workforce. That whole landscape of risk management is becoming a larger part of the CIO's role every day.

Where do you see the role of the CIO evolving in the next 12 to 24 months?

Toole: It's a great role to have, because you do get to see the company end-to-end. There's a real opportunity to deliver value.

Going forward, CIOs have a strong role to play in working closely with business leaders to generate revenue growth and productivity. There's so much market opportunity. There are so many exciting solutions that are changing how technology gets delivered--such as cloud technology. And there are so many benefits to helping the business get insights into data and then taking it to the next step to help them predict what will happen in the future.

The role of CIO is a critical one in the next 12 to 24 months, especially now that businesses are reprioritizing on both growth and productivity. We need to be leading the business, not following the business, in order to be truly effective in our roles as CIOs.


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