The availability and granularity of data in an enterprise is increasing exponentially. Business leaders who figure out how to capture, store, and translate this data into business actions will continue to outperform their less savvy peers.. The ability to gain insights through access and use of the right information in the organization is critical to enable fast and accurate actions. Therefore, organizations have increasingly come to value their information as a strategic enterprise asset. They are aligning access to the information they need with their organization’s strategic objectives.
The information proliferation from transactions is happening across the organization’s business processes – making it critical to integrate and manage these diverse information assets and leverage the power of insights from an integrated view. Also, business processes today are becoming more collaborative, flexible, and agile to address changing business needs. This has increased the need for integrated information to analyze, manage, and optimize the networked business processes.
In order to ensure they derive high business value from various IT initiatives, organizations have to create a sound information strategy. It should encompass stakeholder requirements to effectively leverage information assets across the organization and create an integrated view that directly adds value to the current business imperatives. “Information strategy is the key step because it establishes the mechanics to make the vision of making information a business asset into an operational reality,” says Srini Pallia, Senior Vice President, Business Technology Services, Wipro Technologies.
While many organizations have established systems to manage information, they do not do it in a planned and organized way because there is no strategy driving it. The extended nature of enterprises integrated with partners, customers, and competitors adds to the challenges of integrating information. Key challenges that stand in the way of smooth management of information include:
- The deluge of both structured and unstructured data employees produce and consume
- Siloed storage
- Integration complexities
- The ever-changing technology landscape
Srini says most organizations still struggle with fragmented information-management initiatives and architectures, a proliferation of tools, and silos of departmental applications that result in poor quality of information. This creates a lack of trust in the enterprise data. “Bringing these initiatives together into a coherent strategy is vital for effective use of corporate information,” he says.
An A.T. Kearny 2009 IT Innovation and Effectiveness study says executives consider two factors – inconsistent data and IT complexity – as the biggest IT-related barriers to company growth.
These challenges require organizations to formally determine how they will create, manage, distribute, and use information within their enterprises.
Information strategy is an integrated plan for extracting, analyzing, and aligning information to business objectives across organizational and technological boundaries. It helps deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.
“Organizations need an information strategy that ensures that information of value is consistently available to the key stakeholders across the enterprise at the right time. An information strategy blueprint must move organizations from a network of silos to an integrated enterprise-wide viewpoint. The goal is to unleash value by leveraging information as a strategic enterprise asset,” says Srini.
The information strategy blueprint has four distinct layers:
- Information life cycle management including master data, metadata, and unstructured content is the foundation layer of the blueprint. It uses domains of data management, quality management, governance, and archives to ensure high-quality data is available across the enterprise.
- Business intelligence delivers operational and analytical reports that help organizations improve operational efficiencies.
- Business analytics help organizations plan and optimize business operations.
- Enterprise performance management allows organizations to measure themselves against financials and other strategic parameters.
By year-end 2012, information assets will appear on the balance sheets of 25 percent of Global 2000 companies, according to a recent Gartner report.
Enterprises that have adopted this strategy have achieved “significant success,” according to Srini. For example, a specialty retailer adopted a streamlined information strategy, which suddenly gave it extensive access to information across the organization. This was information it never had before. The result: new, valuable insights helped increase its market share by four percent and its gross margin by 2.6 percent. The information caused it to take action that reduced employee churn from 8.1 percent down to 6.1 percent.
Technology and management
As organizations increasingly understand the need for comprehensive information strategy, they adopt platforms with a complete stack of information-management tools. Market behavior also reflects this approach towards “stack-centric” buying, including the consolidation of information platform vendors (SAP’s acquisition of Business Objects and Sybase, Oracle’s acquisition of Hyperion and Demantra, to name a few) to offer comprehensive solutions across the information strategy stack.
The focus on technology innovation is also shifting from silos and best-of-breed “tactical” implementations to a more mature information-management approach directed towards strategic objectives, believes Srini. The market consolidation by leading vendors makes it easier to align the platforms to the integrated information strategy.
In addition to choosing the right technology solution, organizations should manage some of the key non-technical issues including governance and stakeholder management, Srini says. This ensures effective top-level executive sponsorship across business and IT departments, which has a major impact on the progress and success of any information-management initiative.
A July 2009 InformationWeek Analytics/Intelligent Enterprise 2009 Business Intelligence Survey found 47 percent of participants reported they had standardized at least one business intelligence tool deployed throughout the company.
The key benefit
Srini says “having the right information strategy can have a direct positive impact on a company’s business performance, dramatically improving its ability to accomplish its mission by making smarter decisions at every level of the business from corporate strategy to operational processes.”
Lessons from the Outsourcing Journal:
- An information strategy blueprint must move organizations from a network of silos to an enterprise-wide viewpoint. That unleashes value by leveraging information as a strategic enterprise asset.
- Enterprises face challenges in creating an enterprise-wide look. These challenges include siloed storage, the ever-changing landscape of technology, integration complexities, and the constant deluge of data.
- Companies need a comprehensive information strategy to integrate information silos and provide business unit leaders with relevant, trusted, well-designed, and usable information they can share rapidly and consistently to support enterprise business objectives.
Wipro set up the Council for Industry Research, comprising of domain and technology experts from the organization, to address the needs of customers. It specifically looks at innovative strategies that will help them gain competitive advantage in the market. The Council in collaboration with leading academic institutions and industry bodies studies market trends to equip organizations with insights that facilitate their IT and business strategies. For more information on the Research Council visit www.wipro.com/industryresearch or email [email protected].