Just a few years ago, we referred to others in our organisation as "users". A rather disparaging term that gave way to the more friendly "customers". However, this new approach caused much confusion, as we realised that believing the "customer is always right" was tantamount to professional suicide!
Since then, global developments in technology have moved IT from backroom support to shop window, making it more important than ever that we gain the trust, respect and loyalty of our business peers and decision-makers - indeed, of all our internal stakeholders (that is users, customers and "the business" combined).
In other words, we must become their trusted provider of choice.
This is one of our biggest challenges in the new millennium. The term "provider of choice" is an important and powerful one, combining an ability to balance our internal service between what our stakeholders want, and what our company can afford to invest in it.
Attain this IT nirvana and you will be at the centre of your company, able to take your place in the window display, and to have a major impact on delighting, retaining and attracting real customers. Becoming the IT provider of choice is the way to please all of your customers, internal and external, at the same time.
The key is to alter the perception of everyone in your company, from feeling they have no option other than to use the IT department, to actively choosing to use them. This you can do by inviting positive comparison with external service providers. That way, they will want to use you in everything they do, placing you at the heart of organisational strategy, including in all things E.
Many organisations are addressing this through service charters. The term is more relevant than the traditional service level agreements, where statistics and paper ruled supreme, and we relied on our own performance statistics to justify our existence. A charter goes much further, and quantifies the relationships across the whole business, specifically covering:
An IT director was recently explaining the positive impact of such a charter on internal perception and trust. He painted a compelling picture of his IT team being facilitators at the centre of all corporate customer activity.
With e-business, for example, he saw their role as bringing together all the key elements of marketing, HR and IT, and ensuring these relationships work in harmony.
By doing this, his IT team are ensuring they play a major role in this new and exciting arena, without taking over, or claiming a God-given right to own the new world. Furthermore, the role of IT becomes totally indispensable.
Choosing to become a provider of choice is not always the easiest journey to undertake, but when you succeed, you will know when you have arrived.
Becoming the IT provider of choice is the way to please all of your customers, internal and external, at the same time
This was first published in March 2000