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Providing Real Business Value Part 2 of a Two-Part Series on Enterprise Technology Adoption

Originally published April 4, 2013

In the first article of this series, the inability of IT management to have a vision for the future of technology in the corporation was discussed.

It is true. IT management has had a miserable track record when it comes to leading corporations into the future with new technology. And the price IT management has paid is loss of credibility and loss of control within the organization. In many organizations, IT is considered to be a necessary evil, and the resources and attention paid to IT are minimized at all costs. Such are the gloomy circumstances in which many IT organizations have found themselves.

But there have been a few high points for visionary leadership in the organization. Consider these cases in point:

ERP. For many reasons enterprise resource planning (ERP) has succeeded very nicely in many organizations. With ERP the organization has integrated data for the first time. There is true corporate data; and with a world that needs compliance, true corporate data is the starting point. It is ironical that in many organizations it was the IT organization that was dead set against ERP. (It is noted that ERP is not perfect and not without its deficiencies, but over the long haul many of the promised advantages of ERP have been realized.)

Data warehousing and business intelligence (BI). Another unquestioned success has been data warehousing and business intelligence. However you measure it, the number of data warehouses, data marts and business intelligence applications simply signal that data warehousing has been and remains successful. Again, in the beginning the IT organization was dead set against data warehousing. But today it is fair to say that IT solidly supports data warehousing and that IT understands the vision of data warehousing and business intelligence.

The Internet. IT certainly understands the Internet and IT has been quick to exploit the Internet at the corporate level. In this case, the IT organization has shown real leadership.
So there have been a few successes when it comes to the IT vision for the future of technology in the organization over the past decade or so.

Which leads to an interesting question: What separates technology visions that are going to succeed from technology visions that are not going to succeed? Stated differently, how could IT management have been able to tell the difference between a winning long-term vision versus losing long-term vision?

Let’s take a look at the winners versus the losers:
Losers – CASE technology, guru-led visions, dot.com, AI

Winners – ERP, data warehousing, business intelligence, the Internet
There is one BIG difference between the winners and the losers. That difference is in having an obvious and immediate business value. Stated differently, does the new technology provide immediate and obvious business value? If there is real business value, the technology is likely to succeed. But if there is no real business value, then the technology is likely to fail.

CASE technology may have provided a way to build information systems with more discipline. However, by the time that CASE came into the world, the world was not building any new applications. It was ERP vendors and consulting firms that were building new applications, not the organizations themselves. Therefore, the business value of CASE to the individual organization was specious at best.

Guru-led visions – “secretaries will be writing code,” “get 1000% increase in productivity with 4GL,” “build applications without programmers” were hare-brained schemes with no real basis in reality.

Dot-com – the dot-com vision died BECAUSE the business plan for most dot-coms was flawed. I shall never forget a conversation I once had. I was told that my company was doomed to failure because we had “brick and mortar” thinking. We were doomed because we had products, customers and revenue. We were told that a real dot-com company doesn’t worry about such mundane things as products, customers or revenues. So much for all the “smart” Harvard and Stanford MBAs that fell hook, line and sinker for the dot-com phenomenon.

AI – there just was no real world basis for AI. And with no real world basis, there was no compelling business reason for having AI. And where is AI today?
ERP. The fact that applications can be written in a single place by a single set of developers instead of having every corporation write their own individual applications is a winning and cost-effective idea. There is real merit in ERP for lots of reasons.

Data warehousing and business intelligence (BI). With data warehousing, there is a single source of believable, trusted data. A data warehouse contains corporate data – detailed, subject-oriented, integrated, non-volatile data.  And with BI and data warehouse, analytical information is easily available to the end user. If this isn’t valuable to the customer, I don’t know what is.

The Internet. With the Internet there is opportunity to reach wide marketplaces and to reach them inexpensively. In addition, there is the opportunity to find and service individual customers. The business advantage of the Internet is truly obvious and immediate.
While there are undoubtedly other factors, what separates a winning vision from a losing vision is how closely the vision is aligned with direct business value to the organization.


  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

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