Service Management

Rob Stroud
IT Will Transform or Be Transformed
Written by Robert Stroud Mar 05, 2012

This might be a “scary story” if it didn’t point the direction in which IT should be looking to change, and what it can do to facilitate better business agility. It originally appeared here and is used by permission. Please add comments or questions for Rob, or tweet him @RobertEStroud —Roy Atkinson

Imagine for a moment that you get on the plane after using a valuable upgrade to get into a nice seat with allegedly better service, free movies (that you have probably already seen), a choice of meals, and folks that call you by name. Unfortunately, you quickly realize that your expectations may need to be lowered. The staff keep skipping past you to take everybody else's order for the meal, skipping you during the drink service, forgetting your name constantly, and—worst of all—forgetting to turn on the entertainment system.

The good news is that you reach your destination safely and on time – very important – but only by sitting through ten hours of shocking (in a bad way) customer service. But after you have traveled for a while on a single airline or airline group, you become a captive audience to that airline. So what do you do? You suffer through a few bad experiences, followed by calling the airline, writing some emails, and posting some tweets, and the response is simply promises of better service or some points to your frequent flyer account.

Parallel this to the way that many businesses feel about their IT service delivery. Imagine that the business doesn't get the level of agility it needs with change taking too long. There is too much perceived "process," which is exacerbated by poor or nonexistent communication with the business. The business perceives little or no value from IT, and simply views it as a necessary evil. Many organizations simply refer to IT as the office of "NO."

IT doesn't have to be this way, and if we don't transform, we will be transformed.

When I spoke recently in Europe at a series of application portfolio management events, a large part of the time was spent discussing the transformation that is taking place in many organizations, sometimes by choice and sometimes imposed. I spoke to the head of IT for a large multicountry company who shared with me a story about the demise of the large central IT organization. The experience with the IT department was so bad that the business started investing directly in its own IT, creating a "shadow IT" department. This was done initially for development, then delivery. After eighteen months, there was no requirement for central IT.

The organization didn't own a data center, all infrastructure was delivered by third parties, and the business was managing the relationship with the suppliers closely and establishing contracts that allowed them to rapidly transition to an alternative supplier should the service not meet expectation.

IT's value propositions were agility, end-user satisfaction, and the adoption of capability through a growing market share, all while the business was profitable. The response from IT to this delivery was defensive, of course, asking internal audit to be involved to ensure that the correct checks and balances were in place, privacy laws were being complied with, data was secure, continuity requirements were in place, and so on. After a few months of reviews and a few debates with the CIO, head of the business division, the CEO, and the CFO, the outcome was excellent for all involved. IT established an "Office of the CIO in Group IT" that set base guidance for security, data privacy, and retention and agreed to negotiate and monitor contracts with third party providers. The business was responsible for all development, meeting capability requirements, and so on. The result? Capability was close to the business, the business was driving IT-enabled business value, the responsibilities for IT were clarified, and a chargeback agreement for the services consumed was met.

Back to my airline experience. Yes, this is a real experience, and the outcome is that I am transforming myself to leverage significantly more virtual meetings. I have changed airlines and I have no issue using social media to communicate both my excellent and poor experiences. Just call me Rob "Transformed" Stroud.

So what do you think? Are you transforming or will you find yourself transformed?

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