by Debarati Roy

From the CIO Governing Board: Users On the Center Stage

Mar 14, 20122 mins
BusinessEnergy IndustryFinancial Services Industry

One of the reasons users move up the IT maturity scale slowly is because systems aren’t built—enough—with them in mind.

One reason why users move up the IT maturity scale slowly is because systems aren’t built enough with them in mind.

When businesses put customers at the center of their operations, they do so because they believe that meeting customer desires will delight them, thereby ensuring the success of the business.

But for our internal IT systems, do we ensure that we put end users—who are our customers—center stage? Do we do that during design, implementation and operation? The truth is despite the fact that standard processes of demand creation, requirement gathering, prototyping, and so on, have been around for decades, we are still only on the fringes of user satisfaction. We meet requirements, but fall short of delight and excitement. 

That leads to users saying: “I want a system that is as easy to use as Google!” Or “Make it as user-friendly as a banking site or travel portal.” The systems employees use in their personal lives seem so much better than the ones they use inside the enterprise. 

This is especially visible when we study the use of internal IT systems to obtaining meaningful information or analysis. There appears to be varying levels of IT maturity, which I classified into five levels:

Level 1: A user’s assistant gathers information and presents it in PowerPoint or excel. The user is not concerned where and how the information is gotten.

Level 2: An assistant provides information that is gathered from enterprise systems without having to message it or convert it into PowerPoint. 

Level 3: The user herself sees the information from enterprise systems and is able to trigger actions to appropriate people with ease.

Level 4: The user receives alerts from enterprise systems based on pre-defined events (or certain threshold being reached). She looks at enterprise systems not just when she desires information, but also when the situation demands it.

Level 5: A user who has seen the benefits of level 3 and 4 begins participating actively in creating IT solutions, often generating demand even without being prompted by IT. 

The reason why few users haven’t matured beyond level 2 or 3 is not because of user attitudes alone. The truth is that when users attempt to evolve to higher levels of maturity, they find that systems aren’t designed to support their desires. And that brings us back to our first question: Have we put our customers center stage?