By David McNally, IT Executive Advisor, IDC
Evolution of the Information Technology Job Function
Over the past several years, the priorities of information technology teams have shifted. IT staff used to focus on building an integrated enterprise to optimize business processes. Today, an additional priority is extending the enterprise and improving engagement with customers, partners, and suppliers to maximize efficiency and take advantage of new opportunities.
The vast majority of enterprises have implemented integrated transaction processing systems and operational reporting. Enterprise-wide systems are common in most industries. They no longer differentiate businesses, nor do they deliver the information and insight necessary to compete with market leaders. Today’s top competitors look to speed up their integrated supply chains and create opportunities for customer intimacy and feedback. The pace of business change has accelerated across all industries.
As a result, the role of IT teams has changed from defining the business and building transactional systems, to driving innovation to the point of engagement with customers, partners, and suppliers. IT departments are now charged with developing innovative solutions that improve engagement and information sharing, ultimately creating new value and efficiency in these relationships.
Projects are focused beyond the four walls of the enterprise, ensuring that companies bring information to bear at the moment it’s needed. IT is seeking ways to manage an Extended Information Architecture, which allows all employees access to crucial information in real time, and where it can have the biggest impact. In fact, 48% of IT professionals surveyed by IDC believe that faster access to information (i.e., faster query response times) would have the most positive impact on their company and business unit.
Innovations in IT
The following four key technologies are enabling a new breed of analytic capabilities for creating this new model of internal and external engagement in both the public and the private sector:
- Big Data
These technologies have allowed market leaders to extend the reach and accelerate the cycle time of their information systems. Cloud services are providing massively scalable computing, ubiquitous access to data and closer proximity to customers. Mobile solutions have created exciting new services for field workers and customer service alike. Social business capabilities enable collaboration and deliver a connected enterprise, customer communities, and market feedback.
However, it’s the use of analytics that is delivering the greatest value for today’s business leaders. Analytics are essential to improving every aspect of business performance, from strategy to operational excellence, and creating agility. Companies need to adapt to changing market and customer demands or suffer the consequences. The key to business agility is fact-based decision making and insights delivered at the speed of today’s business.
Impact of Technology
Solutions for advanced analytics need to be considered in light of the explosive growth of data. Big Data refers to a new generation of software and architectures designed to economically extract value from massive volumes of a wide variety of data by enabling high-velocity capture, discovery, and analysis. IDC sees four critical characteristics of Big Data: Volume; Velocity; Variability; and Value (“the Four Vs”).
- Volume. CIOs in all industries are facing unprecedented increases in data from the enterprise, from integrated cloud services, and from Data-as-a-Service providers.
- Velocity. The use of intelligent devices (e.g., smart meters) provides instant insights.
- Variability. Unstructured data presents new opportunities for insights, as well as new challenges in undefined relationships.
- Value. Finding value requires defining new insights in disparate data.
The good news for IT departments is that new tools have emerged to manage and process Big Data in real time. Business intelligence tools are able to combine data from the extended enterprise and provide end users with more intuitive searches.
The key to effectively delivering real-time analytics from Big Data is in-memory computing. Analytics solutions powered by in-memory computing deliver highly responsive insights to satisfy customers, optimize supply chains, and get ahead of market opportunities.
Examples of the impact of in-memory technology can be seen across all industries:
- Pharmaceutical trials – Accelerating new product time-to-market
- Supply chain optimization – Respond to real-time simulations
- Retail – Tailored offerings to customers based on real-time insights
- Product development – Improve response to market changes
- Profitability analysis – Fine-tune analysis using multiple, large data sources
- Service optimization – Allocate resources based on current conditions
- Financial services – Risk management reporting responds to rapidly changing financial markets
Data de-duplication and compression are the underlying capabilities of in-memory computing that enable real-time transformation of Big Data into actionable information. In-memory technology can also provide important cost savings and better IT staff allocation. According to IDC’s SAP HANA Market Assessment survey in 2011, the top two IT benefits of in-memory computing are less time spent on creating data aggregations and less time spent on database administration. Both of these issues point to key shortcomings of existing methods of information management and analysis. [Chart: “Expected Business Benefits of In-Memory Technology”]
The delivery of information and insights is now often at the at the point of customer and partner engagement, which often happens away from a desk. This is where IDC has seen massive improvements made in mobile technology to help drive analytics. New mobile form factors and gesture-based interfaces have made mobile devices essential for mobile workers; the power of these devices combined with mobile communications makes them ideally suited for powerful mobile analytics solutions. These solutions allow IT to deliver insights and services to a mobile workforce, as well as to customers and business partners.
Delivering Faster Results
The availability of tools to collect, manage, and provide real-time reporting on Big Data provides IT teams with an opportunity to quickly deliver business results. The combination of analytics with cloud, mobile, and social media capabilities will deliver the greatest value for IT and the company. Adjacent technologies such as data visualization, geospatial, and location-based services will further demonstrate the value that IT can deliver from Big Data analytics.
Learn more: Driving Business Innovation and Improving Job Performance – Information Technology