Information Availability: Exploiting the Full Value of Information to Drive Business

June 2, 2011
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Year after year, analyst survey results show that CIOs view their top priority to be aligning with business strategy and objectives while controlling costs. To address the imperative to improve business alignment, many IT organizations have shifted their focus to delivering services rather than technology and to managing these services based on business priorities. To succeed here, IT has been bridging technology silos and assessing service quality from the end user’s perspective. But making sure all IT assets are managed to meet business needs is only part of the challenge.

Year after year, analyst survey results show that CIOs view their top priority to be aligning with business strategy and objectives while controlling costs. To address the imperative to improve business alignment, many IT organizations have shifted their focus to delivering services rather than technology and to managing these services based on business priorities. To succeed here, IT has been bridging technology silos and assessing service quality from the end user’s perspective. But making sure all IT assets are managed to meet business needs is only part of the challenge. For many of the services IT supplies to the business, the service is only as good as the information it relies on.  After all, what is IT ultimately delivering for the business? It’s the information that matters – the technology is the enabler, but the information is the true business gold.

Today, critical information is created and stored in many formats – data, documents, emails, blogs, and so on. When information a user needs is distributed across more than one type and system, assembling and analyzing the information is a largely manual task that invites errors – errors of omission, of timeliness, of expertise on the part of the person doing the compiling and connecting. Bridging these information silos and creating the effect of a universal information pool from which intelligence is readily retrieved is a key need for both IT and business.

Unified Information Access (UIA) provides the solution to this long-standing problem of information isolation. UIA ingests all types of content and data, creating a universal index and allowing integration and retrieval of all types of content and data with one simple, search-style query. Users win on both ends: the method of seeking information is simple, and the pool of information is complete. The best UIA platforms retain explicit data relationships as well as identifying implicit ones, ensuring the aggregated information is intelligent and relational – which in turn assures that users get the information they need quickly.

One of the most important strategic missions of IT organizations is providing immediate access to timely, complete information to enable a transaction or business process. Often the requests are ad hoc and complex, requiring access to more than one source to be effective. True UIA platforms provide this ad hoc access to retrieve data and content with the precision of SQL and the simplicity of a search interface. And the results aren’t just a list of documents and records to review. Instead, results are presented in the context of a useful user interface that allows further analysis. For example, the display may include not just complete customer history and the status of a current transaction, it can also show an assessment of that customer’s relative value to the business, their opinion of your company, and other factors such as what kinds of promotions motivate them to purchase additional services.

So what should you be thinking about today to deliver on business expectations for easier and faster access to this comprehensive information? Are there changes you can make that will return value quickly and be worth the cost and time investment? Do you really need to do anything at all?

A UIA platform allows you to replace your search engine, but you can start incrementally by implementing one strategic project, such as a Voice of the Customer solution to give sales and customer support people immediate and complete information about customers. If you look for a UIA platform that supports rapid development, you can quickly get this project up and running. With metrics in place to prove the value, you can demonstrate another example of IT alignment with business goals and the value of agile technology in supporting business transactions.