Determining Data Platform Value: A Combination of Strategy, Finance, and Technology

According to a recent Ernst and Young study, CFO-CIO: a growing collaboration, in the past three years, 71 percent of CFOs have increased their involvement in IT purchasing decisions. The report points out that this is true even though many CFOs admit they have “insufficient understanding of IT issues” and are more focused on “managing costs and profitability” than on assuring that IT adds strategic value to the organization. However, the study states that, “To succeed, organizations must make bold technology investment decisions that are driven by corporate strategy.” This means finance and IT must work with business leadership to identify solutions that meet strategic, technical, and financial objectives that advance the business.

From this starting point, the CIO can help business leadership and the CFO to identify the technology capabilities necessary to drive the business strategy. For example, the business strategy might require a data platform that includes business intelligence (BI) features: BI might help the organization increase sales by understanding factors such as customer purchasing patterns. If a potential data platform includes BI functionality at no extra charge, it can be a better strategic acquisition and more cost effective than a platform that requires additional purchases to gain BI capabilities. Or perhaps the strategic business need is for faster point-of-sales (POS) responsiveness to improve the customer experience at the cash register: Faster credit card approval, for example, means customers don’t have to endure long waits at checkout. In this case, if a data platform includes functionality such as in-memory processing to speed responsiveness, that platform will have more strategic value and better ROI than a platform that charges for the features necessary to meet strategic goals.

Another strategic consideration is the platform vendor’s partner ecosystem. It’s important to know that a wide range of trusted third-party experts, applications and services are available to help extend the value of the data platform. As the world’s most widely used data platform, Microsoft has a worldwide network of more than 70,000 SQL Server partners, and 9,500 Microsoft-certified Gold and Silver partners in business intelligence and OLTP, as well has partners that provide applications for nearly every industry and expert services. Click here to learn more about Microsoft’s partners.

A Methodology to Determine Value

Once the strategy and necessary technical functionality have been identified, a potential platform solution such as SQL Server can be investigated. The CIO can ensure that the recommended solution is financially sound. A Forrester Consulting report, “The Total Economic Impact Of Microsoft SQL Server: Cost Savings And Business Benefits Enabled By Microsoft SQL Server 2014 And SQL Server 2012 For Mission-Critical Transaction Processing Applications,” gives CFOs a methodology for determining the Total Economic Impact (TEI).

As a starting point, the Forrester TEI study serves as a framework “to identify the cost, benefit, flexibility, and risk factors that affect the investment decision.” The study is based on a survey of SQL Server customers to determine how SQL Server performs in mission-critical scenarios. The survey covers “key assessment requirements,” such as:

  • “The performance and speed of applications running on the platform.
  • “Security and data privacy requirements.
  • “Reliability and minimization of downtime of applications.
  • “Ability to provide data access to the right people.
  • “The ability to integrate efficiently across other organization systems and applications.
  • “The ease of migration and expansion of cloud capabilities.”

Adding the Data Expert Perspective

As CFOs examine the key factors listed above, they can incorporate IT’s expertise into the assessment. For each of these key assessment requirements, CIOs can provide input gained from their own experience and that of the community of Microsoft data platform experts. Their knowledge gained from day-to-day experience with the technology can add the dimension of real-world understanding of the platform’s value and thus round out the assessment.

The next blog in this series will discuss the perspectives of data platform experts as they explain how they see SQL Server and the Microsoft data platform adding value in real-world scenarios and serving as the underpinning of compelling data and business strategy.

In the meantime, to learn more about how the Microsoft data platform can help advance your organization’s strategic agenda, visit