This editorial was originally published on July 2, 2008. It is being re-published as Steve is at SQL Intersection.
Information Technology Does Drive Value, or does it?
I think this is highly dependent on the IT leadership in your company. Your CIO (or equivalent) can either view his domain as functional or strategic. If it's functional then you're no different than the groups that clean the office, ensure the water is on, the doors open and close, etc. IT then acts as a utility service, which is something it must do. If the department can't provide the reliability and stability that approaches that of a utility, it's a mess.
But if you view IT as a strategic group, an asset to the company, than it must make the business better by more than just reducing costs through automation. At that point IT must really find ways that not only provide more benefits than it costs, but must really drive the business forward.
IT must bring the company a competitive advantage against others.
I do think that Business Intelligence systems, with data warehouses, well designed, focused cubes, and fancy interactive reports, can bring about a strategic advantage. However I think well designed systems are complex, require time, and many companies and staff are unwilling to make the investment.
There are other ways to build systems that create synergies, that are worth more than the sum of their parts (or investments). Database administrators have a great advantage here, seeing many sides of the company, it's technical side, the business side, and the data. Knowing the data that's available (or even missing) is key here.
Those working with data have the chance to find opportunities and build small scale prototypes or systems that can show value. Take advantage of this, talk to business people, find out more about how your company works, and look to make a difference. Who knows, you might find a great new career in designing systems.
At the very least, it would be one great thing to bring up at bonus time.
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