Insights tracking: define your scope and measure your success

We all have hobbies, but the hunt for IT cost data insights shouldn’t be one of them. To treat this practice as something to do in your spare time is to miss a real opportunity to drive meaningful change in your organization.

Instead, insights hunting should be operationalized, started right away, and conducted on a regular cadence. There is no need to wait for perfect IT cost data. As long as you focus on ensuring you have something that is consumable, defensible, and actionable, you’ll know your data is good enough to make a point. More often than not, you need less data than you think to make a good decision that has real benefits.

Valuable IT cost data insights

Diving into action

Insights typically take one of four forms: cost reduction, cost avoidance, spend reallocation, and increased productivity. (Note: I’ve focused on cost, though consumption-based metrics would also apply.)

IT cost data insights categoriesWhy is this important? As you think about purposeful insight hunting, you need to have an objective. “I need to reduce spend to meet new budget objectives” or “I need to free up funds or resources to allow me to pursue this other course of action.” This requires you to think of the types of spend or the types of resources that may be affected.

You also need a repeatable, systematic process to identify and prioritize insights, and to track achievement of benefits. Apptio’s SaaS-based suite of Cost Transparency and IT Planning applications provides an effective platform for analysis of IT cost data. And, they come with built-in tools for insight hunting: Value Explorer and Insights Tracker.

Apptio Value Explorer

Value Explorer is part of the overall reference project that Apptio maintains. It’s accessible to every customer as a repository of the outcomes, insights, and things we would expect you to be able to learn from Apptio in its out-of-the-box form.

Within this tool and based on where you’ve deployed the product, you can use a whole set of filters to look at various approaches based on persona, capabilities (benchmarking, chargeback, optimization, etc.), IT domains, and your desired outcomes. Here, you get a sense of how to use the product in specific areas and sub-areas of IT, with associated capabilities, examples of typical approaches and consequences, and recommendations for how Apptio can help. When you make a selection based on what Apptio does and what it answers, you receive a link to the out-of-box report.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re most interested in finding insights within application TCO. The tool provides a set of filters for various approaches, capabilities, data types, etc. based on user persona, capabilities, IT domains, desired outcomes, and even the application that you are using. As you make selections, the tool narrows down to relevant information (see figure 1). User Persona tracks the audience most likely to consume the data. Capability will tell you what potential actions will be, and Desired Outcome gives you the defensibility you’ll need to sell the opportunity.

Apptio Value Explorer dashboardUnderneath the filters is a table with three tabs. Within this table, you get practical information about the Apptio application most applicable to your question, the area of IT and related sub areas, the associated capability (review, optimization, showback, etc.), and the typical approach and consequence we’ve witnessed in the industry. Here, the tool outlines the challenge, your current state, and what Apptio recommends, based on the module and capability, including a link to the out-of-box report. 

Apptio Value Explorer dashboard filters

Apptio Insights Tracker

Insights Tracker is a companion to Apptio Cost Transparency and Apptio Business Insights that can be deployed as a project. It allows you to record and track progress for the insights you find—essentially becoming the business case for the insight as well as a place for you to test whether or not the insight is consumable, defensible, and actionable

Let’s say you’ve identified $1.83M in opportunities and you’ve realized $340,000 across 5 different initiatives, classified by type: cost avoidance, cost reduction, spend avoidance, productivity increase, and etc. 

Apptio Insights TrackerFrom a financial perspective, how are you doing? Are you making progress and realizing savings? How much effort are you putting in for the impact you’re having? Insights Tracker provides the reports you need to show how you’re pulling levers to achieve your objectives.

Coming full circle

These tools help you bring insight hunting strategies to life. Use Value Explorer to identify an opportunity, drop into the out-of-the-box Apptio product to find the insight, test for consumable, defensible, and actionable characteristics, and use Insights tracker to set up a report to classify and quantify it.

Though not an exhaustive list of all possibilities, Value Explorer provides a great place to start and will help you understand how others are leveraging Apptio. Goodness won’t jump out of a report by itself but if you want to go from wishful thinking to getting people to take action, we can help you construct a reasonable argument and provide visibility into where you’re getting the data. This will help your insight gain the traction you need to provide real benefits to your organization.

When that insight is consumable, defensible, and actionable, there’s typically not a lot of convincing needed to achieve your objective.


Bill Balnave is Regional Vice President of Solutions Consulting at Apptio. This is the final installation in a 3-part series on data analysis. If you’re just tuning in, here are quick links to Bill’s first and second articles: Striking gold: how to get useful and valuable insights from your IT cost data and 3 best places to start your search for cost optimization insights.

If you enjoyed this series on Insight Hunting, you may also want to read 6 Best Practices for Optimizing IT Investment to Fuel Innovation