Digital transformation designed for the customer

Part business process redesign, part agile development, the new re-engineering is endless — just like customer demands. Here's how smart companies are learning to please customers one at a time, all of the time.

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Victo Ngai

In his three years at Valdosta State University, CIO Brian Haugabrook has made a habit of walking around the Georgia campus and stopping now and then to chat with students and faculty. But his intent is by no means purely casual. Rather, Haugabrook is conducting primary research for how to continually re-engineer IT to make the school more "customer-friendly."

On his earliest walks, Haugabrook noticed open workstations in the school's on-campus computer labs. He also noticed that students were moving into the dorms with as many as five personal electronic devices — phones, tablets, e-readers and more. "It got me to thinking whether we needed all these computers [in the labs]," Haugabrook says. It also got him to thinking that IT was out of touch with its primary customers — Valdosta State's 11,000 students.

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Brian Haugabrook, Valdosta State University

"IT was very internally focused, setting its own strategic plan every year. It wasn't involved at all in campus culture," he says.

Fast-forward to today. Some of the computer labs have been redesigned and repurposed. The campus wireless network has been upgraded extensively to include 1,600 access points, with coverage in student residences, auditoriums, classrooms and dining areas, as well as the pedestrian mall and the front lawn. Advanced caching capabilities allow local delivery of Internet content in the highest bit rate available, which means super-fast software updates and high-definition media streaming. Think Netflix and YouTube.

What's more, IT staffers regularly attend faculty and staff council meetings and gatherings of the student senate. IT also staffs an after-hours support service that makes on-site calls to student residence halls.

"Now, we are always thinking about the student experience and how to improve it," says Haugabrook, who still regularly strolls the university's 69-acre campus.

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