The role of the IT department used to be straightforward: keep systems running and costs down. PrintThe new role of IT is to help users find and use relevant information at decision time with simple tools that are easily accessible.

If that sounds like an expensive shift, compare it to the cost of doing nothing. If IT doesn’t provide the answer, business users will find their own ways to get what they need. And user-driven solutions don’t usually take much notice of crucial requirements, such as organizational data quality, data governance, or data integration. When processes are fragmented, risk increases across the board.

So, IT must enable self-service access to information and intuitive, flexible analytic tools, while making sure database platforms are high performance, secure, trusted, and available. Happily, these objectives are not mutually exclusive. For example, IT staff can be better utilized if they offload information access and analysis tasks to their business colleagues. What’s more, this helps shift the image of IT from cost center to creator of value.

Achieving these goals means bringing all of an organization’s data together, which is why most IT departments aspire to a single-platform data strategy. However, the fact is that most IT departments don’t have a data strategy of any kind. Indeed, only 26% of organizations have a business analytics strategy.

Maneuvering from hindsight to insight to foresight is a big challenge. Yet each advance requires information that moves a degree faster. However, only 18% of business users say their IT responds fast enough for their current business analytics requests.

The demands made on a single-platform strategy are even greater because the platform must access and process structured data, unstructured data, and ‘live’ data to perform real-time analysis. However, analysis is almost never performed on live data, which is kept in a transactional database, while structured data is stored in analytic databases separate from unstructured data. To achieve their goals, companies must create a platform that can bring together and process these fundamentally different types of data — live, structured, and unstructured — to generate the results real-time decision making requires.

Although the demands are formidable, a single-platform strategy can do it, in part by reducing complexity and making data movement unnecessary. It also manages both transactions and analysis, which significantly reduces data redundancy.

The key is in-memory computing database technology, which provides a foundation for accomplishing the kind of unified data platform that was impossible in the past. In-memory computing databases are much faster and more flexible, handling schema changes in minutes.

And the bigger picture is that a well-integrated data environment dramatically reduces data center complexity and costs. The whole organization can respond faster to business needs and opportunities.

Find out more in Blueprint for Success: Ingraining Insights into the DNA of People and Process, our exclusive IDC interactive infographic. It makes clear why businesses, as well as IT, can and must transform in order to be able to run a real-time enterprise that simultaneously transacts, analyzes, and acts.

SAP’s vision for a real-time data platform offers a fundamentally new approach to data processing. By unifying all data assets into a single environment, it greatly simplifies the IT landscape and helps unleash the power of data. Learn more at