opinion: Can Chargeback Invoices Help Win Over Your Business Units?
As a consultant, I'm lucky enough to spend time in a lot of different organisations. One of the things I see a lot of is a divide between IT and business departments. Not much communication, perhaps a little distrust, and a willingness to believe the worst in each other. I believe that the invoice the IT departments give to the business units for mainframe usage can help this relationship. Don't believe me? Let me explain.
A lot of IT departments will charge business units "blue dollars" for their mainframe (and other IT resource) usage - chargeback. For non-mainframe computer systems, this is often a fixed price for the price of the hardware and software. Maybe a bit extra to cover the cost of machine room, IT staff etc. For mainframes, it's a bit more complicated as several business units will almost always share a z/OS system.
So, the IT department will setup procedures to record the mainframe usage of the business unit usually CPU seconds. Periodically (say, every month), the business unit will receive an invoice for the mainframe usage. OK, nothing new here.
Now, I'll bet dinner at my favourite restaurant that the normal business unit doesn't welcome this invoice. Sure, it's not "real money". But it's still something that has to be paid from the business unit's budget. So the business unit manager receives the invoice, gives a heavy sigh, and approves it. There may be some analysis to see why it is what it is, but that's about it. That heavy sigh is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the invoices is probably big mainframes aren't cheap. Secondly, the business manager sees this as an overhead like paying for electricity. He needs it, but it doesn't seem to generate revenue. Thirdly, it's the mainframe. Sure, it's doing work that's necessary. But it's hardly new or exciting is it? It's been quietly humming away, and the only time the manager hears about the mainframe is if there's a problem, or when that invoice arrives. And that's the window of opportunity.
Look at that chargeback invoice again. It says "Give us $x." Nothing exciting about that. But take a look at a part of a bill I recently received from my electricity provider:
Now I'm getting something more, not just a "give me money" request. My bill is giving me information that I can use to understand what I'm paying in this case a nice graph with my usage over the past couple of months, and the same time last year. Not just a "give me money", but also a "and here's something to help you understand it all." My electricity bill also has some advertising about an offering they're releasing. So they're using that invoice for marketing.
IT departments can use the same tactics. If you provide your users with a nice graph on the invoice, they'll see their usage. If it's increasing, it gives them a gentle reminder that their costs are increasing.
You could go another step, and automatically add some information to help them reduce their bill. For example, if they've got a lot of batch jobs in more expensive peak periods, you could automatically add a line to the bill:
You have a lot of batch running in more expensive peak periods. Run these between 8pm and midnight to reduce your costs.
And you can go on from here. Advertise town hall meetings, services or other things that you offer your business units. Include some information about your IT department's achievements:
The IT department upgraded your mainframes to IBM z13s last December. This will improve the performance of your applications, and reduce your CPU usage by 5-10%.
The thing I like about this is that it's a simple step. I've created chargeback bills, so adding a little extra to invoices isn't that much work.
But what does all this give you? Well, it doesn't sound like much, but now you're using one of the regular communications you have with your customers (the business units) to inform and market. Even better, it's a comunication that they are almost guaranteed to read. I'll bet that dinner at my favourite restaurant again that such a simple step will make the business units see IT in a better light.