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Microsoft Industry Blogs – Belgium

make-the-case-for-data-platform-modernisation

In the past, IT departments were all about maintaining and optimising services. But today, the role of IT is about transforming the business through infrastructure investment. Modern IT leaders must become change agents.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s not enough just to know how the business’s technology needs to evolve. You have to be able to convince others, so that they’ll allocate the budget needed for software licenses, hardware, migration and change programmes. For many IT leaders, this in uncharted territory.

The key to making the business case for new technology, such as a modern data platform, is being able to frame the problem correctly. You know that a modern data platform can enable greater productivity, lower costs and improve customer service. You know that accurate, timely and relevant information is essential to customer/supplier interactions, optimised business processes and effective decision making. Before you can convince others, however, you have to take them on a journey:

Step 1: Define the objectives. The more closely you can tie a proposed investment to the current challenges an organisation faces, the more likely your audience is to be receptive to the rest of your argument. Some of the most powerful objectives include:

  • Improving profit margin or reducing costs
  • Increasing customer loyalty / improving service experience
  • Entering new markets or acquiring new customer segments
  • Responding to change in markets or customer needs
  • Modifying a commercial business model

Taking the example of data platform modernisation, you might point to:

  1. Reducing the total cost of ownership of your data platform estate through:
    • Hardware consolidation, improved server efficiency and lower management
    • Simplifying and rationalising your data platform to remove legacy support costs
    • Reducing storage costs through use of cloud storage with Microsoft Azure
  2. Enabling a better customer experience and a greater reach of online presence
  3. Increasing availability of applications, by reducing both planned and unplanned downtime
  4. Improving application performance, leading to improved employee productivity, as well as higher accuracy and timeliness of business information
  5. Improving the speed of batch and real-time reporting leading to faster operational decision making and end of period closing / reporting
  6. Accelerating application development and testing, reducing bottlenecks in IT and allowing IT dependent business change to happen more rapidly

It’s easier to make the case for a systemic change when you can point to systemic benefits throughout the business.

Step 2: Identify enablers. Once you’ve articulated the challenges your organisation faces, you need to be able to align each problem with potential solutions. One way to think about this is by looking at IT enablers — new IT capabilities that facilitate a business benefit. Some of the most common IT enablers for a data platform modernisation project include:

  • In-Memory OLTP
  • Clustered Column-Store Index
  • Flash-storage
  • SQL Server Always On
  • Virtualisation
  • Contained Security
  • Windows Azure Pak
  • Azure IaaS
  • Azure SQL DB

Step 3: Explain the path. Now that you’ve piqued your audience’s interest, you need to find a way to join the dots by exploring the necessary business changes and enabling changes. Business changes are the permanent adjustments an organisation must make to realise the benefits it’s after. Enabling changes are one-time changes needed to accelerate and support business changes. Some common IT enabling changes include:

  • Database upgrades
  • Database migrations
  • Application updates
  • Extending data centre into external providers
  • Storage upgrades
  • OS & Hardware upgrades

The benefits we focused on here are quick and cost relatively little to implement, so they typically pay for themselves in short order. That makes them an easy way to get started on the road to data platform modernisation.

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