On-demand IT services can unlock the value of business data

Analysing data: How CIOs can help the business find a way out of the recession...

Even in these straitened economic times, IT innovation is still possible - especially if you start to use on-demand services, says Bob Tarzey.

As the new government seeks to balance the country's books, most businesses are also trying to knock their finances into shape to improve their position or return to profit. For any organisation, there are two means to this end: increasing income and reducing costs.

When it comes to IT, many CIOs will find their own spending in the front line for cost cutting. There will generally be little new money to refresh infrastructure and kick off projects. This financial stringency may be frustrating but it does not preclude innovation, especially if a new service can be shown to help the business achieve its overall goals.

One way to tackle innovation is to focus on the most valuable asset in the IT department's custody - data. In the databases IT manages lies information that can transform the business. By focusing on information rather than worrying about technology, IT managers can play a crucial role in helping their organisation take a lead as the economy recovers. A recent Quocirca report, A gift from IT to the business, looks at one particular area where this is the case, spend analytics.

money charts: CIOs

Analysing spend data can help CIOs find a way to innovate in tough economic times
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Data about what a business spends is stored in a bewildering array of ERP, accounting, contract and other databases. Some data will be organisation-wide, others departmental. Organisations that have grown through merger and acquisition often have a legacy of many incompatible systems.

Single integrated source
Pulling this data together into a single integrated source can show a business where it has multiple contracts with the same supplier and where multiple suppliers are used for providing the same items. But this is just the start.

Spend data, on its own, lacks much of the context for good decision making. What is the risk profile of a given supplier, does it make sense to pay more for stability of supply? Is the supplier meeting the latest standards required by the business? Enhancing spend data with this sort of additional information enables decisions about cuts to be made in an informed and rational way.

The government itself has recognised the value of enhancing this data and has turned to on-demand spend analytics provider Rosslyn Analytics. It used Rosslyn's RA.Pid service to extract data from HM Treasury's Coins database and then enriched it, making it available for viewing by the public through a web-based interface.

For the government, the aim of this project is as much about exposing what it sees as the profligacy of its predecessor as about...

By Bob Tarzey

Bob Tarzey is a director at user-facing analyst house Quocirca. As part of the Quocirca team, which focuses on technology and its business implications, Tarzey specialises in route to market for vendors, IT security, network computing, systems manage...