McDonalds see business value in the WAN

* Lessons from IT Roadmap Chicago

A few years ago the concept of aligning IT with business goals became a popular topic in the industry press. Unfortunately, while virtually nobody argued that you should not make that alignment, few IT organizations were sure how to make the connection between what they were doing and their company’s business goals. For example, if you increase the capacity of your WAN, what clearly identifiable business goal does that directly support?

That situation seems to be changing. For example, in recent newsletters (see “Cisco analyst conference mulls super fast pipes vs. highly functional nets”, and “Does your WAN benefit your business’ business?”) we discussed how Cisco’s and Avaya’s analyst conferences have changed over the years. We pointed out that while these conferences used to focus almost entirely on technology, the most recent conferences have focused much more on the business value of technology.

Last week Network World produced its IT Roadmap conference in Chicago. At the conference, Network World President and Editorial Director John Gallant interviewed David Grooms, vice president and U.S. CIO of McDonalds. Grooms talked about how McDonalds had deployed a broadband network to roughly 10,000 of its restaurants in the United States. It also deployed Wi-Fi at most of its restaurants. The Wi-Fi networks support customers who want to access the Web as well as a host of business applications.

Grooms stated that his organization had developed a number of traditional business cases to justify the investment. He pointed out, however, that financial metrics such as payback period and internal rate of return were not the primary reason for the leadership at McDonalds to decide to upgrade the network. He stated that from a customer perspective, the company wanted to improve the restaurant experience for its customers and wanted to make the McDonalds brand more relevant. From a business perspective, it wanted to both deploy new applications in each restaurant as well as to improve the performance of existing applications. For example, one of the company’s goals was to have the network infrastructure in place that was robust enough that when a customer’s credit card gets swiped into a point of sales terminal, the credit validation comes back in 3 seconds or less.

In the next newsletter we will give another example of how some IT organizations are justifying investments in IT based largely on the business benefits associated with those investments. In the meantime, we would like to hear from you. What type of process does your organization go through in order to justify investing in a WAN upgrade?

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