Cutting costs should not mean cutting revenue.

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Image courtesy of BusinessWeek 9/25/08: "AmerisourceBergen's Scrimp-and-Save Dave"

The financial panic of late has caused a lot of attention on cutting costs – from frivolities like pens at customer service counters to headcount – organizations are slowing spending. Bad times force management to review every expense, and in these times obsess with them. Financial peace however has two sides – expense and revenue.

A side effect of cost cutting can be stunted revenue, over both the short and long terms. It is easier to evaluate costs than to uncover revenue opportunities, such as determining  truly profitable offerings and adapting your strategies to maximize sales. Also as difficult to quantify are the true loses in unprofitable transactions, and competitive strategies that can negatively impact your competition.

The answers to many of these questions can be  unearthed from data scattered around an organization, groking customers and instantly shared knowledge between disciplines. For example, by combining:

  • customer survey data;
  • external observations;
  • clues left on web visits;
  • and other correspondence within the corporation;

…an organization can uncover unmet needs to satisfy before the competition, and at reduced investment cost.

When external factors, like a gloomy job outlook, cause customers to change behavior, it is time to use all information at your disposal. Those prospects changing preferences for your offerings can provide golden intelligence about the competition or unmet needs.

Pumping information like this is the heart of business intelligence. Marketing and Sales can uncover the opportunity; however, it is up to the enterprise to determine how to execute a timely offering. Financials, human capital planning, and operations, work in concert to develop the strategy which requires forecasting data, operational statistics and capacity planning data to line up.

A good strategist views all angles, not just reducing cost.

Enterprise Information Strategy in 2009

If you’ve been in an IT-related role for more than 10 years, you’ve likely enjoyed the boom and bust the economy has provided. Healthier times enhance business capabilities in the form of multi-million dollar, cross organization implementations, while leaner times like these afford only the most critical needs to be fulfilled. So while the volatility wreaks havoc on your organization, one IT spend continues to stay strong. Strategy.

Strategy is a sound investment in prosperous times since the confirmation it provides protects the investment of larger scale initiatives. For example, a company committed to providing better customer service and market additional products into its customer base will undertake a 2 to 3 year set of tactical CRM initiatives. Success factors include the three usual suspects, ‘People, Process and Technology’, and aligning each with an ideal future state vision is critical.

A well executed strategy provides an education for stakeholders and builds consensus among individuals who may have never sat around the same conference room table before. It coalesces and prioritizes goals and objectives, drafts a future state architectural blueprint and describes business processes that will endure, and establishes a long term Road Map that orchestrates incremental efforts and illustrates progress.

So if strategy is a safe bet in better times, why invest in one now?  For executives I’ve met with most recently (Q3 and Q4 2008), a popular form of strategy is analogous to grandma’s attic. At some point, it may have occurred to you to look in grandma’s attic for something that may be useful, and if you’re truly fortunate, there may be something extremely valuable you hadn’t counted on. For C-level executives looking for ways to improve their bottom lines, the same treasure hunt exists in the corporate information they already possess.

To understand whether your enterprise information holds hidden treasures, explore these 10 questions with your organization. Answering ‘No’ or ‘Not sure’ to any questions that have exceptional relevance within your organization may suggest looking into an Enterprise Information Strategy enagement.

  1. Do visionaries within my company have visibility to key performance indicators that drive revenue or lower costs?
  2. Do I understand who my customers are and which products they own?
  3. Am I able to confidently market additional products into my existing customer base?
  4. Do I possess data today that would provide value to complimentary industries through new information based offerings?
  5. Will my information platforms readily scale and integrate to meet the demands of company growth through acquisition?
  6. Am I leveraging the most cost effective RDBMS software and warehouse appliance technologies?
  7. Do I understand the systemic data quality issues that exist in the information I disseminate?
  8. Do the organizations I support understand the reporting limitations of my current state architecture?
  9. Is there an architectural blueprint that illustrates an ideal 2 to 3 year business intelligence future state?
  10. Does my company have visibility to a Road Map that timelines planned projects and the incremental delivery of new business insights?