Join us at Forrester’s CIO Forum in Las Vegas on May 3 and 4 for “The New Age Of Business Intelligence.”
The amount of data is growing at tremendous speed — inside and outside of companies’ firewalls. Last year we did hit approximately 1 zettabyte (1 trillion gigabytes) of data in the public Web, and the speed by which new data is created continues to accelerate, including unstructured data in the form of text, semistructured data from M2M communication, and structured data in transactional business applications.
Fortunately, our technical capabilities to collect, store, analyze, and distribute data have also been growing at a tremendous speed. Reports that used to run for many hours now complete within seconds using new solutions like SAP’s HANA or other tailored appliances. Suddenly, a whole new world of data has become available to the CIO and his business peers, and the question is no longer if companies should expand their data/information management footprint and capabilities but rather how and where to start with. Forrester’s recent Strategic Planning Forrsights For CIOs data shows that 42% of all companies are planning an information/data project in 2012, more than for any other application segment — including collaboration tools, CRM, or ERP.
I had an interesting conversation with a Forrester client in response to an inquiry about the definition of “time to value” for technology solutions. When I received the question, I thought, “That’s easy!” While there is no “GAAP” definition of time to value, I was ready to say that it would be one of two things:
1- The time from project start to the start of business benefit accrual. So, if a project took 12 months to implement, and then three months for the business to adapt to it, the time until business benefits began to accrue would be 15 months.
2- The time from project start to the date at which cumulative business benefits exceeded the cumulative costs. In other words, the time until the “payback” of the investment.
However, in trolling around to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything, I stumbled upon a potential third definition (and I wish I could point back to the source). One commentator on the Web suggested something a bit different – and something that has a great deal of merit as we rely more and more on technology to drive business gains. In his definition, time to value represented the time until the business targets for the solution were achieved. So, rather than looking at the start of benefits, or the date we’re no longer cash-negative, we are now looking at the time until the full desired benefits are achieved. So this becomes:
3- Time to value is the time from project initiation until the projection of total business benefits is achieved.
This change in perspective has a number of implications:
My latest Forrester CIO client visits tell me economic uncertainty is actually helping IT leaders accelerate plans for the future. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Perhaps it’s just because I started in Europe, where the hourly ups and downs of sovereign debt crises cause government policy whiplash paired with market cap acid reflux. Most consider trying to plan anything in this environment, particularly slow-changing corporate IT systems, impossible. Or perhaps, as IT leaders, we’re still just haunted by the great tech recession a decade ago, and we just expect IT budgets will always be the target of corporate austerity efforts.
But one thing is clear: For some, uncertainty breeds paralysis. For others, the very presence of uncertainty offers a platform to drive clever and radical change. Consider two of the many stories about the latter I heard recently:
One IT leader uses uncertainty to reduce his dependency on Microsoft software clients. To be clear, every IT leader I met faces daunting budget pressure. This client’s business is producing basic materials for construction projects globally. Depressed demand for building materials means his company has turned otherwise dormant kilns for firing these materials into ovens for destroying old tires and drugs seized by police. Why? Because finding productive uses for capital investments helps (at least) service debt on that capital when current market demand disappears (and apparently, these kilns burn at such a high heat, they produce zero emissions — that’s cool).