Who does IT really serve?

CIOs are grappling with the shift in IT that takes control away from them to the business consumers (end users) to set the agenda. What are the implications of this shift and how can CIOs and enterprise IT adapt?

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I’ve talked with numerous CIOs in large organizations who say they are grappling with the shift in IT away from CIO leadership to the current situation where business consumers (end users) set the agenda. What are the implications of this shift and how can CIOs and enterprise IT adapt?   

My experience is that adapting starts with understanding whether the IT services are defined to serve the enterprise or the business users. When serving the enterprise, organizations define services and IT employees’ responsibilities to:

  • Control spend
  • Ensure compliance
  • Reduce complexity
  • Ensure that tools are available for productivity
  • Ensure that all services are managed from the perspective of the enterprise goals and conducted on the timeline and agenda of the enterprise

In most organizations today, the end-user computing workplace is still defined by the enterprise point of view. Let’s look at a fairly common occurrence as an example of the experience for the end user in an enterprise-driven IT world.

A problem occurs on the user’s laptop or PC, so the user calls the service desk. Sometimes tech support is stunningly unresponsive; after all, they are tasked with resolving problems on the enterprise’s agenda and timeframe. When IT responds, it can be a frustrating experience where the user describes the problem with varying degrees of success and IT then takes the user through a problem-solving resolution structure designed to allow the enterprise to understand what the issue is. The end result may be that they tell the user they will dispatch tech support to the user’s desk to further resolve the problem. Then the user must wait. This is a deeply dissatisfying experience, and the user feels frustration instead of affection for the organization.  

If you think about this example from the enterprise perspective, the actions make perfect sense. The process efficiently identifies where there is a problem, the service desk team triages the problem and can then efficiently use enterprise technical resources to resolve the problem in the most efficient and productive way possible. Great for the enterprise. But it really, really stinks for the business consumer.

In today’s new world in which the business consumer sets the agenda for IT services, CIOS need to change the above approach and perspective to accommodate the users’ perspective. Users want to be able to show someone their problem (at a kiosk, perhaps), instead of trying to describe it. And they want IT to deal with the problem in the user’s timeframe, not the enterprise timeframe.

There are some new service offerings coming out in the marketplace, which are really compelling. The reason they are gathering steam is that they define the service from the end-user’s perspective, not from the enterprise objectives.

But there is an underlying implication and challenge for IT as it moves forward in a path to serve end users. CIOs must determine how IT can conceive and drive services from the viewpoint of the business consumer while also being a good steward and efficient user of enterprise resources.

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