As an IT leader I see how technology impacts the “every day” life of people. These are fellow employees, friends and family members that I know and care about. There is no denying that technology has become pervasive and integral to our business and personal lives.
IT has evolved to meet this change in our lives. No longer can IT afford to be thought of as the “computer guy” who speaks a language the rest of us don’t understand. Additionally, IT cannot be solely concerned with “just keeping the lights on” for our businesses. Finally, IT has to claim it’s proper place in business as a partner and not the supporting role it has been relegated to.
To this end I believe there are three core concepts that IT must focus on to grow into a mature business partner. First, IT has to become customer centric. Everyone is now a customer of IT and we as technology professional need to seize this opportunity to build a relationship with the world of customers out there. Second, the implementation and support of technology needs to become proactive versus the traditional reactive model. This would mark a significant change in how the business views technology. Finally, technology is there to run our businesses. To that end IT professionals need to engage business partners within and outside our organizations.
It is often said that every business is now a digital/technology business. Whether you are a high tech start-up or a century old construction company we all are becoming increasingly dependent on technology. Our finances, business processes and communication are entrenched in tech.
What this means is that virtually all of us are consumers of technology. We are in fact, customers of IT in some form or fashion. This represents an exceptional opportunity for IT to engage each of our employees as customers. I heard a great quote recently that went something like, “IT has customers not users. Drug dealers have users.”
To call a consumer of technology in your organization a user is a disservice to them and the IT department. We should have partners and customers and treat them as such. IT professionals can gain a lot of credibility by simply engaging with people on a more personal level. Find out what your customers need and help them find a solution. The benefits of this type of approach include higher customer satisfaction and engagement and a reduction in “Shadow IT”.
To learn more about customer focused IT check out http://www.usercentricit.com/.
Running IT in a proactive vs. reactive fashion
“Keeping the lights on” is an important piece of IT. However, it cannot be the main focus of IT going forward. The key to making this transition is to build secure, reliable and consistent infrastructure to support your business. Like any other business unit, if the foundation of your technology platform isn’t sound then you cannot truly trust in the services and processes that you build on top of it.
To have confidence in your infrastructure you need visibility and expertise. IT is very good at collecting data. The key is to discern meaningful information from your data and put that information to use to solve problems before they arise. A quiet help/service desk could be a beautiful thing if it is done right.
Thanks to consumerization of technology most customers view tech no differently than their car, refrigerator or washing machine. That is to say, they don’t necessarily want to know how it works, they just want it to work. Long gone are the days of a user needing to know how to run a program from a command prompt. Deploying technology and infrastructure that is hard to use or unreliable only hurts IT’s mission.
IT must embrace and enhance their product to include visibility into how their products work and are being utilized. New cars purchased today have evolved past having a GPS system installed to relaying data in real time to the manufacturer about performance. Your car dealer probably knows more about when your car needs service than you do. You get up each morning and your car just starts and gets you where you need to go. That is by magic, that is planned reliability and consistency. Impact warning sensors, air bags, structural integrity improvements all make your journey that much more secure. A customer’s experience with technology should not be any different.
It is important that you invest in the tools and people that can interpret those logs files and service tickets to identify points in your infrastructure that need attention or improvement. If you are waiting for things to break or become a problem before you know about them, you are losing the confidence of your customer. When a computer doesn’t boot, an app doesn’t run or the network is slow I guarantee the person is thinking “This doesn’t happen to my iPad at home!”
Business Driven, Forward Looking
Essentially every business in the 21st century is a technology business. Technology and the information it serves is the backbone of any successful business going forward. The keys to IT success going forward will rely upon its ability to integrate with and provide a vision to the business.
Focusing on the business goes beyond simply building cases for technology deployment. True business alignment requires that IT understand their business. IT leaders need to educate themselves on business processes including financial, production and customer service.
The future of technology is the future of business. As IT leaders it is our responsibility to build services that meet the goals and desires of our organizations and the people that depend on technology to create, service and consume. Like generations before us we are challenged to build the infrastructure of a new world. It is a monumental challenge but one worth the effort.