What’s “Being Relevant” in IT?

Staying relevant in IT

“Being relevant” is showing a tangible benefit to the value your organization delivers. And the value you deliver is why your customers buy from you. However, many IT organizations fail their business colleagues by forgetting why they (the IT organization) are there.

So how should IT organizations focus on and demonstrate the business value they deliver?

Let’s start with a great example.

Demonstrating IT’s value at Dominos

An interesting example is the head of technology at Dominos, who was once asked for his key objectives for the next few years in IT. He started with “To help us sell more Pizzas.” How many CIOs/CTOs have this clear an alignment with the core business goal(s)?

Then how far down the organizational structure does this stay consistent as the mindset for IT service delivery (and IT service management (ITSM))? That everything rolls up to a headline objective.

Understanding the value of IT

IT isn’t about adding in new technology or automating processes with the latest gadgets and gizmos or buzzword solutions. It’s about facilitating more business value, helping to make (external) customer-facing products/services more convenient and of a higher quality.

If you’ve had thoughts about closing the “IT-to-business gap” or are trying to measure how your technology is improving things, then this article is for you and I welcome your thoughts in the comments below.

How others manage this challenge

Organizations that want to grow and be competitive have to transform their people, processes, and technology. And, in doing so, take more holistic view of what they deliver. It might seem clichéd, but IT needs to think outside of the technology box and IT leaders need to drive a culture change.

A great way to do this is to invest more in your people and upskill them, to let them expand beyond their current role. And understanding that innovation comes from first knowing what the right problems to solve are and then finding new ways to solve them.

If you look at the culture in modern, high-growth businesses, they promote learning and remove organizational silos. They find out where they need to focus effort and then do it. The technology just enables the work.

A good example is Chess ICT who use what they call “the blueprint” to help create and guide workplace culture.  It provides governance and just enough control. It empowers employees to make decisions based on the knowledge of what’s expected and the culture of the business. It’s a great example and well done to them for topping the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list.

However, this is not the norm

But sadly, too few follow this path. I recently read that 74% of workers feel that they are not meeting their full potential (although I then found that it was a relatively old statistic). This potential-meeting issue is why I ended up starting my own business.

Employee engagement rates are rock bottom on a global scale according to Forbes and if this isn’t worrying you, then I don’t know what will. This leads to your people looking elsewhere for employment, and while keeping top talent is a must today, so is attracting them.

The anatomy of a successful business

Successful businesses focus on the quality of what they deliver, and on outcomes instead of outputs. For instance, creating a report is an output, enabling the business to focus effort correctly (thanks to a fit-for-purpose report) is an outcome.

In successful businesses, leaders engage their people in an environment that makes them better. It gives them a sense of fulfillment and purpose.

But these are only two parts of the puzzle. A more holistic view is needed – to effectively plan improvement, you need to know where you are now. Then collaborate to agree on where to improve for the best outcomes and know how get started.

Why your organization needs to transform

Many of us have been watching what’s happening in retail right now – Toys R Us, New Look, and other big-name retail chains are failing to change fast enough. They struggle to retain talent and make better use of technology to sustain a competitive edge.

From an external perspective – they are no longer convenient (to customers), they are perceived not to provide value, and there’s potentially the perception of a low-quality experience.

I’m sure you can think of other businesses with great products that suffer because they couldn’t adapt to change. But have you also seen great businesses not knowing where to focus and failing to realize that “tried and tested” isn’t what it used to be? Perhaps “tired and testing” is nearer the mark?

The IT “command and control” mentality needs to go

I read a great blog recently that said just enough control is what to aim for and this struck a chord with me. Too many leaders resort to command and control, or micromanagement, because they think of it as a safety blanket. It worked for them when they were being managed, so why wouldn’t it work today?

In reality, command and control management styles reduce innovation, slow down progress, and create an unhealthy culture that lowers the overall quality of outcomes.

It’s a coping mechanism. One that many of us have triggered when we don’t know what to do now (or next) – resort to what worked before.

Better meeting customer expectations

If consumers are willing to pay 11% more for each layer of convenience provided by online services, then this is a clear indication of where customer service and support are going. It’s not just retail, banks are also finding themselves under fire from new challengers.

These new banks offer the same guarantee of safety on your hard-earned cash but also bring value incentives such as better rates, free use abroad, and layer upon layer of convenience – for instance, 24/7 contact capabilities and having “a branch in your pocket” to make your life easier. Thus RBS, Santander, and Barclays are all undergoing massive change to help keep pace and steer their ships to safety.

Many big names, across all sectors, are feeling enormous pressure from digital – or is it customer experience – disruption. This is your company’s future too and it’s time to adapt to the world that expects better, easier, and faster services than ever before.

3 simple words that will change IT forever

There are three key words that need to be front and center of everything your organization does:

  1. Quality – “The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.”
  2. Value – “The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.”
  3. Convenience – “The quality of being useful, easy, or suitable for someone.”

Let these sink in for a second. Quality, value, and convenience.

Remember these three outcomes because they are ultimately your customer’s experience of what your organization does. Focusing on them will change the way you work, help to remove silos, and get IT and the business back together.

How focusing on quality, value, and convenience changes things for IT

They will shift your focus from outputs to the quality, value, and convenience of what your organization delivers from the customer’s view. If you focus on delivering quality that’s measurable against the value your organization provides, then you cannot fail.

However, we don’t often see quality frameworks that do more than provide yes/no answers to compliance or a solid unit of measure beyond 1-5 maturity scales. And how often do you compare the value you deliver to other similar organizations?

Hopefully the following will help.

An easy way to build in quality, value, and convenience

There’s already an IT quality framework available that urges organizations to:

  • Use comparison to measure against other similar environments.
  • Take a more holistic view and provide an actual unit of measure.
  • Collaborate and assess what you deliver in 360 degrees.
  • Agree on an acceptable standard and measurable progress.
  • Create a visual understanding of where to focus effort to get the best gains.
  • Base your plans on delivering outcomes instead of outputs.
  • Revisit the framework approach to assess improvements over time.
  • Remember someone needs to own it, create the responsibility, and keep it going.

A good framework necessitates collaboration with other business functions to agree and define how to improve and what’s achievable. The result is quite simple but also powerful.

To find out more about how holistic IT quality management can help your organization succeed, including with ITSM tools, please visit the website. There’s also a series of related courses, for different needs, that can be found here: http://www.itqualityindex.com/courses/

Jonathan Boyd Photo
Jonathan Boyd
Consultant at Self-employed

Having worked within the IT industry for 20 years plus, much of this as a senior consultant covering ITSM practices and complex software solutions, Jonathan has a unique mix of IT and business understanding.  Working across the UK, Europe and Central America, Jonathan has built up an impressive level of expertise, delivering successful transformation programs across multiple sectors including, Retail & Commerce, Local Government, Legal & FinTech.

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One Response

  1. Not sure where you come from, but 25 years ago these words were already part of the vocabulary when I started working in IT. Perhaps there is difference between technical IT people and those who come from a retail background. But where ever I worked these were part of the agreements and measured constantly. So what’s the difference between then and now?

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