Are data management consulting and business management consulting becoming one and the same?

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Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

There is a plethora of white papers, webcasts, newsletters, conferences, and general advice emanating from the technology industry today. But why are many messages from the most dynamic and innovative industry on earth so similar? For example, this is the latest advice, paraphrased from one leading analyst organization, on how to implement BI:

  • Ensure business vision and sponsorship
  • Ensure data lineage, governance and quality
  • Combine planning, reporting and analysis
  • Enable forecasting and simulating (modeling) scenarios
  • Account for cultural change
  • Make applications more intuitive, making them easier for business users

Granted these are all sound management principles, but are they ground-breaking? A similar set of ‘to do’ actions could be applied to virtually any enterprise software including ERP, CRM, and SCM. How many times have you heard “set goals and milestones, implement in bit-size chunks, and measure results”? In recent times the IT industry has been mesmerised by investment appraisal techniques such as ROI and TCO.

Much of what we read in the technology industry media today follows good data governance and general management practices. This is all well and good. Now this might be because, as Larry Ellison believes, real innovation is now largely dead in a fast-maturing software industry, and we no longer have enough ‘new’ new stuff to talk about. I prefer to believe this is not the case. The IT industry is as vibrant and as energetic as it ever was.

However, times have moved on and the technology is now the easy bit. User interfaces are now much easier to navigate. Implementations can be completed in weeks in many cases. The depth and breadth of software functionality is awesome. Software mostly works.

We now understand that failed CRM and BI implementations (for example) are not mostly the fault of the software, but rather overall project management. Typically problems have centred on available project management and technical expertise, lack of executive sponsorship, and lack of buy-in from end users. No wonder business management advice is in vogue.

In addition, many IT project management techniques such as ITIL and PRINCE have proved unwieldy and frustratingly slow from an end-users’ point of view. Empowered business managers with BlackBerrys in their pockets, laptops in their knapsacks, and PCs in their homes want their say. IT is becoming inseparable from the business and deeply embedded in our everyday lives. Who can say where technology ends and life begins? Data (or IT) management and general management principles are becoming blurred.

Vendors and industry commentators have an obligation to help customers navigate through the complexity of the technology industry so they can make well-informed superior purchasing decisions. This will help the industry to continue its high levels of growth despite the world economy slowing down.

Increasingly technology consumers will value knowledge that combines elements of both technology know-how and best business management practices. This knowledge needs to be at an appropriate granular level to enable effective project management and implementation of a specific technology. More focus on helping and guiding customers and to listening to their specific information needs will help to provide the compelling and rich hybrid ‘business and IT’ content that customers need and want.