The dirty secret about real-time visibility in IT

It might seem too early to be talking about “strategies for recovering your IT budget,”given that many firms are only just beginning to feel the fallout fromthe worldwide recession, but the title of our Webinar last week waschosen for a few deliberate reasons.

Even if an economic recovery is still months or years away,“recovery” in the sense of an IT budget is really referring to returnon investment. It’s also about recovering the credibility of the ITmanager who will need greater support from senior management if theywant to move forward on other essential initiatives. And as timely asit might seem to be discussing these things in 2009, I think the adviceour guests from IBM offered would hold true even in period ofrelatively healthy corporate spending.

As one of the world’s largest IT service organizations, I know thatIBM gets to see the front-line challenges of many enterprises. Althoughthe Webinar makes a subtle case for putting money into its Webspheremiddleware product line, the emphasis was on actionable steps that willmake IT departments less reactive and more responsive to suddenfluctuations in the economy, their industry or just their ownorganization.

The two IBMers who joined me, Peter Beggs and Steve O’Keefe, offeredthree different strategies. These included using an enterprise servicebus to help offload some of the integration problems that lead tocomplexity bottlenecks, virtualizing applications as well as hardwarein order to more dynamically make use of IT infrastructure, and applybusiness process management (BPM) to the activities that make companieswork. They cited customer examples like CIBC and Mark’s Work Wearhouseto back up their points, all of which can be seen via the replay of the Webinar, available on-demand now.

About mid-way through the event I took a poll with the audience tosee which of the three drivers for things like BPM reflected their ownexperience. The choices were as follows: greater efficiency and reducedcosts, real-time visibility for smarter decisions and actions, andfaster and easier response to change. Although the first and thirdoption got a few clicks, the second one, about visibility intooperations, barely registered.

Of course, you can’t put too much stock in a Web poll, but later Istarted thinking about what choosing that option would say. Althoughwe’ve profiled a lot of companies who have claimed to have gottenbetter visibility into their enterprise data via customer relationshipmanagement, server consolidation or some other tactic, they were onlyvocal about their lack of visibility after the fact.

When you’re struggling to find out what’s really going on – which iswhat that second poll option was getting at – it’s like a dirty secretyou don’t want reaching the outside world. It reflects poorly not onlyon the systems designed to track and manage those processes but alsothe people who set them up, and the people who are involved in thoseprocesses.

Like most people, this recession has left me sick to death of thephrase “doing more with less.” The hard truth is you’ll never be ableto do more with less unless you really know what it is you (and yourcoworkers) are doing now. Or unless you’re willing to admit that youdon’t, and begin to do something about it.

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