How do I manage business expectations

Can you offer me any advice on how to manage the expectations of the business? End-users only contact my team to moan about a...

Can you offer me any advice on how to manage the expectations of the business? End-users only contact my team to moan about a fault and then expect us to solve it immediately.

At board-level, there is a pervading belief that e-business can transform the whole business - I am forever trying to explain that there are many constraints, such as time, finances and technology

Make it clear what is possible

Erika Henson
Strategic consultant, AMS

Be clear about what improvement e-business has brought to your end-users. Try to work out what benefits have been seen by each section.

The next two steps describe how to communicate this to the two different audiences.

  • Hold an "all-comers" meeting to explain what they can expect from current e-business initiatives. Get all their issues on the table and make it clear what is and is not possible, so a common ground is established and you are no longer seen as a bottleneck, but as a facilitator. If possible, use the e-business initiatives to allow some participants to attend remotely, if desired

  • The best approach with the board is again communication. Try to establish a sponsor on the board who will be open to your input on expectations of current and future e-business initiatives, enabling you to set realistic expectations up front. If you can get them to attend the all-comers meeting, they will see at first hand the current limitations and benefits.

    Communicate with your users

    David Roberts
    Chief executive, tif

    Yes, the dreaded "e" is everywhere. Unfortunately the expectant board is right; it will transform the business into continued profitability if it is part of an organised plan, and into extinction if not.

    What the board is probably not fully aware of is that "e" is also elusive and expensive. Your function must be seen as an essential business component rather than an emergency service.

    To make the transition your team must take itself to its customers. Communicate with your users. Do not moan about time, finances and technology as though they are constraints; create some time to argue the case for the money. Then buy the technology with their support and apply it to the business need. Be positive.

    Make sure there are SLAs in place

    Roger Rawlinson
    Head of e-business, NCC Global

    The issues you describe are symptoms of a lack of communication and understanding between IT and the business. If end-users expect faults to be remedied immediately, it suggests that there may not be an agreed service level agreement in place, whereby fix times are prioritised by the business impact of the fault. Is there a channel between IT and end-users for briefing and feedback?

    Does the board know why e-business can transform the business? Is it new channels to new or existing customers? Will it create more efficient supply chains, save on office space or reduce marketing costs via the Web? Find out what the board wants to do as a business, then assess what IT will need to enable it.

    Align your strategies

    Paul Williams
    Arthur Andersen

    In today's fast-moving business world there is often an expectation that technology will deliver whatever it is that the business wants, whenever it wants it. We all know that this is not that simple.

    You need to have a fully articulated strategy for IT that is aligned with the overall strategy of the business. You do not say what business you are in but technology is much more than a support for business. If used effectively it should also enhance and enable front-line business activities. You need to work with your board to establish a framework for the development, replacement and implementation of technology solutions within a mutually agreed and understood timetable and budget. You then need to support your day-to-day technology delivery activities through the use of service level agreements to enable a mutual understanding of performance expectations. A system should then be established using key performance indicators to measure the performance.

    Formulate a joint action plan

    Roger Marshall

    You have a problem in customer relationships, a common theme in Strategy Clinic questions. Let's start by examining the language used - rather than "customers" or even "clients", you refer to "the business", "the board" and "end-users". This is not a good way to look on them. They are your customers. You should be working together for the good of the business, not staring at each other with a mutual lack of sympathy.

    So do not talk of managing the expectations of the business as if they are unruly children who need to be controlled. Spend some time under-standing what they want, explain to them why there is a gap between what they need and what you can achieve and discuss with them how that gap can be bridged, formulating a joint action plan.

    Try to be customer-friendly

    Lynn Mercer
    The Impact Programme

    It is crucial to understand what the business expectations are and why. Is there appropriate dialogue with the business? Are the costs and benefits of different levels of service understood? Should agreed service standards be used as quality benchmarks? Is performance measured?

    Your question suggests real frustration and its language is not particularly customer-friendly. I wonder if the issue is really a technical one or, in fact, people-related. The attitude and leadership of the department head will set the working environment and culture, which needs to be positive, open and helpful.

    Finally, it is not helpful for a board to have constraints put on its strategic thinking. Is it not the role of the IT leader to help business understand e-commerce, including its many opportunities, threats, costs and benefits? Why not help the board understand how e-commerce can transform its business, if it deems that this is an appropriate business strategy?

    In the coming weeks

    After the Love Bug virus, I took some advice from a security consultant and thought all was OK. While not as damaging, the Kournikova virus got through recently. Is this inevitable or should I go back to the security "expert" and ask for a refund?

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