The good folks over at Accenture have started running some ads that are asking companies to take a long term look at the value of those really big IT projects such as CRM systems and other enterprise systems. They make a really good point that lots of companies are doing the work, but missing the point. To quote from their ad:
Companies often neglect to factor in business strategy when putting an enterprise system in place, says Kevin Carnahan, managing director of system integration for Accenture in San Francisco. Often companies err by focusing on getting software installed, but they miss the opportunity to get the analytics and the forward-looking information enterprise systems can provide, he adds. “They may get systems working in a way that keeps the business operating. That has a fundamental value, but companies need to take the extra step to transform transaction-level data into action-oriented metrics that enable management decisions.”
Elsewhere in the ad/article, they point out that the Accenture Institute for High Performance Business conducted two studies, four years apart, to examine the practices that enable companies to get more value out of their investments in enterprise systems. The studies consistently showed that senior executives’ top priority for their systems is to obtain better information for decision making. Hmm, this sounds like a job for the CIO and the IT team!
Having lived though several implementations of these types of systems, I can attest to the fact that just getting them in place and working is a bear of a task. Most of the firms that I’ve worked for have been so exhausted by the process, that they have pretty much stopped here. After all, there really aren’t a lot of stories about companies that have leveraged their enterprise systems to become more competitive. Just lots of disaster stories about when implementation projects go off track. As CIOs and IT departments strive to find new roles to replace the operations ones that are going away, it sure looks like using the enterprise systems to answer questions for the rest of the business is a great way to show value for the department.
How would one actually go about doing this? Well basically we are talking about collecting copious amounts of data and then further processing it in order to detect trends and spot abnormalities. The collection and processing tasks are well suited to the IT shop. There’s a good chance that the data will have to be cleaned and the output of the processing will have to be analyzed in order to ensure that you are not getting good looking garbage numbers.
Both of these tasks are not well suited for any other part of the company to perform. It will require a reorganization of the IT department and a retraining of the CIO so that he/she can present the results of the analysis in a way that matches how the business teams see the world. Additionally, the CIO will be feedback loop that brings requests for further analysis back to the IT team. Welcome to a brave new world — that’s opportunity that you hear knocking!