In which Jill puts IT-business alignment in the hands of IT. Yes, really.
At the Gartner MDM Summit recently I watched John Miller, Global Solution Architect at Dell, discuss the high-tech behemothâ€™s customer data integration program. John is flat-smart when it comes to data, which is a good thing considering that Dell has 160 million customer records, which oh by the way it needs to access in real time. You see, 5 million of those customers contact Dell every day, 3 million of them via the web.
Before its CDI initiative Dell had whatâ€™s become a familiar business problem: people entered customer information in different ways via different systems of origin. I know. Your company has that problem too. Dell set about fixing it before you did, though. Thatâ€™s because Dell Financial Services, a corporate powerhouse in its own right, needs to do a real-time credit approval within 30 seconds so that they can send that ultra-portable Inspiron Mini 12 laptop out to the harried business traveler looking to free up some real estate inside that overstuffed briefcase, and fast!
John (who, full disclosure, is a past Baseline client), described Dellâ€™s journey from homegrown CDI solutionâ€”â€śWhen we needed CDI, there were no packaged tools on the market, so we went and built our ownâ€ťâ€”to a structured, metrics-based vendor selection process, through the current state of the companyâ€™s MDM deployment. (The homegrown CDI system has recently become a data source to Dellâ€™s new hub.)
My experience with high-tech companies is that they have unique cultures. They employ a lot of smart people who, when they have a need, roll up their sleeves and build their own solutions. Those solutions add up and become new legacy systems that are hard to keep track of. Indeed, the proliferation of these one-off systems can protract business processes, sabotage streamlined decision making, and turn the best-intentioned business user into a hardened cynic.
But at Dell not only did Johnâ€™s team approach MDM with rigor, they did so with a laser focus on the business need. â€śIn general, people in IT donâ€™t engage the business as much as we should,â€ť John explained to a crowd of earnest MDM beginners intent on discovering best-practice nuggets. â€śWeâ€™re afraid of the answers weâ€™re going to get since the business doesnâ€™t understand what we do. With our new CDI effort we learned how to ask our business people the right questions.â€ť
The lesson here is that IT needs to emerge from the shadows and claim the conversation. In waiting for the business to define the rules of engagement, important conversations are never had, important relationships are never made, andâ€”not to put too fine a point on itâ€”important business applications donâ€™t get built. What Dell did was to simply ask the right people the right questions by leveraging the culture and the vocabulary of the business. Your company needs to start these conversations. And most likely, IT needs to be first to the table.
Posted December 22, 2008 5:53 PM
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