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Optimizing Management Of IT Through Dashboards

by Lyndsay WiseMonday, June 15, 2009

With all of the talk about the lack of collaboration between business and IT, IT seems to get overlooked in the drive to implement and to take advantage of business intelligence solutions.  Although the vast benefits of these solutions tend to rest within the realm of sales, marketing, finance and operations, the ability to apply BI beyond the development and maintenance of these systems is under explored in many organizations. 

As organizations look towards optimizing their processes, managing their resources, improving employee performance and reducing costs, the need for IT to implement a centralized solution to manage these processes becomes essential within enterprise environments that rely on their IT departments for projects, maintenance, SLA (service level agreement) delivery, etc.  Because of these general requirements, solution providers offer various types of offerings targeted on IT departments to manage their technical support, projects, SLAs, network optimization and the like.  Consequently, many organizations use BI to manage their help desks, network performance and overall IT departments.  The benefit to organizations is that the opportunity exists to implement a best-of-breed solution that targets these processes, or use a current BI solution to manage IT needs as well.  Overall, great flexibility exists that allows IT to be a great benefactor of BI solutions.

BI For The IT Organization

In general, analytics and KPI management are applied to IT departments in a number of different ways.  These include, but are not necessarily limited to, help desk or call center management, project and portfolio management, network and resource management and optimization, and SLA delivery.  Depending upon the offering required, each of these can be implemented separately or as part of an overall departmental solution.  In addition, solutions exist that target one or many of these uses and can be tailored towards the individual organization.  For IT departments already managing a large IT project, using the same solutions can help them manage these initiatives, larger projects, help-desk tickets and performance metrics, and network traffic analysis.  Also, the ability to leverage an existent architecture or current BI initiative can lessen overall costs and time required in comparison with new initiatives because the expertise and architectural resources already exist in-house.  With IT, this is even more so because of their experience managing software and internal applications.

KPIs And Performance Optimization

Based on the applications of analytics and metrics management within the IT department mentioned above, organizations can use these applications to manage all areas within IT.  Consequently, it becomes essential to identify what areas are important for IT to manage and whether they fit into the overall goals of the organization.  For instance, to improve customer satisfaction and to manage problem tickets and resolution, IT managers can handle overall problem resolution and open tickets by using BI to set metrics and monitor team performance and general customer satisfaction.  Targets can be set to make sure that employees and managers live up to their expectations.  Also, potential problems with SLAs can be identified in advance to either fix any issues or to alert the department that is expecting deliverables.  This helps improve customer satisfaction by keeping open communication between IT and business.

Market Breakdown

For organizations looking to evaluate IT department dashboard and KPI management solutions, there are three types of solutions to choose from: full business intelligence, data visualization or dashboard specific, and best-of-breed solution providers that target their offerings specifically to IT departments.  Each of these solutions offers different benefits to an organization’s IT department. 

BI offerings such as those offered by SAS and IBM/Cognos provide organizations with the ability to utilize modules targeted to different departments and industry verticals.  Consequently, organizations can apply BI across their organization and still get targeted solutions for each of their business units.  Within larger BI players, organizations can take advantage of the wide expertise and current customer base that serves as a guide for vendors developing targeted BI solutions.  Even for IT departments that decide to develop their own solutions or build a customized solution, taking advantage of vendor expertise may mean saving time and money related to extra development.

For solutions that are data visualization or dashboard specific, offerings exist that pull defined metrics and algorithms into an appealing interface whereby decision makers and managers can set targets and manage overall performance and daily business processes.  Solution providers that offer targeted IT and help-desk dashboards include Pureshare, Klipfolio, and iDashboards. These solutions can take operational data or data stored in a data warehouse and turn it into actionable information.  In many cases organizations simply want to manage their IT portfolio or know  whether they are meeting their service level agreements.  In cases such as these, dashboards can provide organizations with quick implementation times, lower costs than their BI counterparts, and easy-to-use visual interfaces.

Best-of-breed offerings are those that are developed for a specific purpose, whether they are for departmental benefit or are vertical industry specific.  Within the realm of IT management and analytics, there are several players that exist that can help organizations manage their whole IT portfolio or simply one business aspect within the IT department, such as help desk or network analysis.  Some of these solution providers are uptime software, Managed Objects and eMiteAnalytics.  They can offer IT departments solutions that may best meet their business requirements right out of the box.  Although they service organizations within many different verticals, because they focus on providing software and services based on one set of business problems, their solutions may not as be well known within the BI industry as a whole.

Which Solution Is Right For Your Organization?

Unfortunately, no matter what the solution, there is no one-stop shop regarding solutions for IT departments.  Because of the diversity of solution offerings and organizations, it becomes important for each organization to understand their business requirements and issues that exist that inhibit organizational effectiveness.  This way, organizations can better tackle whether full scale BI solutions, IT dashboards or best-of-breed offerings best meet their overall requirements.

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is an industry analyst for business intelligence. For over seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay is the channel expert for BI for the Mid-Market at B-eye-Network and conducts research of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, marketing performance management, master data management, and unstructured data. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com. And please visit Lyndsay's blog at myblog.wiseanalytics.com.


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