by Chris Potts

Does the IT Department Have Customers?

Jan 08, 20082 mins
IT Leadership

An IT department can treat their colleagues as ‘customers’ if they want, but this weakens the company’s position as a customer of true IT suppliers.

Kumud Kalia’s article “End Users Are Not Your Customers” ( December 20th, 2007) challenges us to consider one of the most important questions of a corporate strategy for IT: how can our in-house IT people make the most telling contribution?

The orthodoxy over the past few years has been for those people to envisage everyone else in the company as their ‘customers’. As a result, the IT people are saying that they can make the best contribution as quasi-suppliers – so that’s how their colleagues in other departments treat them. So far so good, if everyone’s happpy, until the IT people need – or want – to have more of a say in the company’s strategies and business decisions than a supplier will be allowed.

Also, focusing on the relationship between the IT people in an organisation and everyone can mask another, more critical strategic question. The company as a whole, IT department included, is a true customer of bona-fide – and powerful – external suppliers of IT. Whether or not the IT department wants to be treated as a quasi-supplier to ‘internal customers’, where do they see themselves in terms of the company’s dealings with external IT suppliers? In principle, they are 100 percent members of the customer team. But in practice if they are acting as a quasi-supplier themselves then confusion will reign and their influence will be diluted.

The bottom line? If the internal IT people see their colleagues as ‘customers’ then this weakens the company’s strategy as a customer of true IT suppliers.