Delivering Financial Transparency From The Ground Up

When it comes to determining true costs and accurate consumer usage for the new IT-as-a-Service model, there’s a lot more behind your business unit invoice than you think.

At EMC a team of business analysts has spent months conducting rigorous reviews of EMC’s IT data and then mapping and costing out every aspect of each ITaaS offering to make sure the new, financially transparent model is accurate.

As EMC IT makes the transition from working with a lump sum budget to charging back or showing back costs to individual business units for the IT services they consume each month, users can be confident that their usage is being carefully tracked and priced. After reviewing and remediating data gaps, we estimate that we are currently at 92 percent accuracy and climbing.

Getting to that level of quality data shouldn’t be underestimated, nor should the importance of such an achievement to the ITaaS transition. After all, each time a business unit consumes a service via ITaaS, IT needs to make sure the amount it is charged for that service reflects all of the costs to provide that service, from the more obvious infrastructure on which it runs to the labor supporting and other non-direct cost such as data center overhead.

Cost transparency doesn’t just require financial data, though that is what most people think about when they hear the term. It also depends on information about hosting, applications, infrastructure, licensing and maintenance, and other things that let us associate costs to services.

Fortunately, EMC IT had already been tracking much of that information in its configuration management data base or CMDB, which it created in 2008 to better manage and support the IT service management processes such as change, configuration, incident, problem, etc. The CMDB is a federated collection of previously siloed infrastructure and system information from across different IT groups that serves as an inventory of all the things we manage in IT. We added the CMDB data to our other sources of financial data to build the cost transparency data set.

Several months ago, a Cost Transparency Team first began manually comparing CMDB and financial data between the various systems to make sure any gaps in costs were taken care of. This painstaking data remediation approach was costing IT thousands of dollars over a given work period. Eventually, we were able to automate much of the data quality process to help us compare data and do remediation of cost discrepancies much more quickly. It now costs us a few hundred dollars over the same period of time to accomplish the previously manual work.

To make sure our cost data continues to be true, we have created an eight-member Data Quality Council that acts as quality stewards to the data. The Council will stay in effect beyond the ITaaS project completion. What’s more, the Office of the CIO is also tracking IT data quality on a quarterly basis using a metric that measures over 200,000 data points weekly.

A key objective of all this attention to data quality is to give businesses the confidence they need in IT to believe that IT has the required information to support its service costing process.

If users do have any questions about what they are being charged, we are able to check on their concerns and show how the data supports those costs and, if needed, fix the data almost instantly. We don’t allow it to go into a black hole. We are going to be transparent to develop customer trust.

Outside vendors have motivation to make sure their costs are accurately reflected in the prices they charge customers because they need to make sure they make a profit while providing value. We are motivated by the fact that we’re in the game to win business and gain value for the company. We want to make sure we spend the company’s money wisely.

So if you’re a consumer of cost transparency you should know that a lot of effort has been invested to ensure that the data used to help to produce the invoices is of high quality. We are continuously reviewing and improving our data to maintain this high quality.

About the Author: Dell Technologies