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IT Innovation: From Cost Centers To Sales Enhancers

How can IT convince business to let IT innovate beyond a datacenter clean-up focus?

IT must innovate - it's the new clarion call in this looming recession.

Given the cost pressures required just to keep the lights on, how would IT be able to convince business to let IT innovate beyond a datacenter clean-up focus?

The answer lies in the basic principle for any IT investment: Intelligence is king, only now IT needs to be that king in real time. Here are some scenarios to illustrate the power of real-time information correlation that makes IT a sales enabler:

A standard insurance company function is to have a service center accept calls about changes to addresses, it is likely that call center is off-shore. The real question is whether anything is done besides registering the address for billing purposes. A new move might mean a new zip code. There are statistics available about the demographics of zip codes, could the people moving be going to a wealthier zip code, a retirement zip code, moving from the city to the suburbs, or empty nesters moving from the suburbs to the city. There is a likely chance that the move is the result of a life event change. It would pay for the insurance company to have an idea about that and reach out to that consumer. It would be an opportunity to upgrade service, cross-sell, etc.

This kind of information could be made available to the service center in a short information collection form that could add a personal touch to the interaction, taking supplemental information that could result in further cross-selling. Having the local insurance agent be informed of a client moving into the neighborhood would be very helpful and extend the personal touch.

Given the amount of legacy applications that house all of the data about clients, agents, products, and demographics, enacting this scenario immediately is unlikely unless a shift in information strategy is undertaken.

Similar questions should be raised about the effect of advertising and promotions on consumer habits. There is some correlation with Web-related promotions because consumers click through promotional links to take advantage of a sale or a coupon. But how well does an enterprise understand the effect of TV or radio advertising in a given market? Advertising is an investment just like IT -- so should IT be structured to provide real-time correlations of sales data in regions linked to advertising and promotions?

In either of these scenarios, assumptions about information ownership, event correlation, and coordinated business services needs to be rethought. That is a painful list, but it is inevitable because the Internet has made it difficult for many enterprises to get a consumer to be locked into to all services possible. Very direct promotional attention that makes the consumers experience worthwhile is where enterprises will add value that will differentiate. This cannot be done without comprehensive correlated information based upon business rules that enable an enterprise to react in real time.

More Stories By Tony Bishop

Blueprint4IT is authored by a longtime IT and Datacenter Technologist. Author of Next Generation Datacenters in Financial Services – Driving Extreme Efficiency and Effective Cost Savings. A former technology executive for both Morgan Stanley and Wachovia Securities.

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