About five months ago, I “broke up” with T-Mobile in favor of AT&T. I was a T-Mobile customer for six years on a very competitive service plan. But none of that mattered; I wanted an iPhone, and T-Mobile couldn’t give it to me. It was a clean but cruel breakup: AT&T cancelled my T-Mobile contract on my behalf, the equivalent of getting dumped by your girlfriend’s new boyfriend.
I bring this up because it reminds me of the saying: “If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.” This is particularly important to remember in “The Age Of The Customer” where technology-led disruption is eroding traditional competitive barriers across all industries. Empowered buyers have information at their fingertips to check a price, read a product review, or ask for advice from a friend right from the screen of their smartphone.
This is affecting your IT just as much as your business: As an indicator, Forrester finds that 48% of information workers already buy whatever smartphone they want and use it for work purposes. In the new era, it is easier than ever for empowered employees and App Developers to circumvent traditional IT procurement and provisioning to take advantage of new desktop, mobile, and tablet devices as well as cloud-based software and infrastructure you don’t support. They’re “cheating” on you to get their jobs done better, faster, and cheaper.
To become more desirable to your customer – be it your Application Developers, workforce, or end buyers – IT Infrastructure and Operations leaders must become more customer-obsessed, which I talk about in this video:
Earlier this week, I attended the Hornbill User Group (or "HUG" as it is affectionately known) to listen to Malcolm Fry, IT service management (ITSM) legend and author of "ITIL Lite," talk about ITSM metrics in the context of ITIL 2011.
There is no doubt that metrics have long been a topic of interest, concern, and debate for ITSM practitioners (I wrote a piece a few years ago that is still the most popular item on my old blog site by a huge margin), and IMO I&O organizations struggle with the area due to a number of reasons:
I&O is not entirely sure what it is doing (in terms of metrics) and why.
We often measure what is easy to measure rather than what we should measure.
I&O can easily fall into the trap of focusing on IT metrics rather than business-focused metrics.
I&O organizations often have too many metrics as opposed to a select few (often led by the abundance of reports and metrics provided by the ITSM tool or tools of choice).
There is no structure or context between metrics (these can be stuck in silos rather than being “end-to-end”).
Metrics are commonly viewed as an output in their own right rather than as an input into business conversations about services or improvement activity.
The IT Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) community has long been awash with management buzzwords and phrases such as "think outside the box," “bare metal,” “IT-to-business alignment,” “ivory tower,” “NextGen,” “people, process, and technology,” “innovation,” "what does good look like?" and “resonate.” More recently we have had to endure such gems as “cloudwashing,” “hash tag abuse,” “virtual sprawl,” and “cloudenomics” (please take a deep breath, don’t let them wind you up).
Another longstanding “buzzphrase” (no, I didn’t make this word up) is that I&O organizations need to “run IT as a business.” I imagine that most of us have used it (I plead “guilty” milord), at least in conversation, but do we really know what it means or what we need to do for I&O to achieve a business-like state?
Firstly, the “run IT as a business” mantra is wrong – well, partially. I&O organizations must indeed adopt practices to run as a business function, but not necessarily as a full business in itself.
One of the most prevalent areas in need of attention is that of the ITIL-espoused discipline of IT financial management. In that business-success not only stems from having a great product (or service) coupled with great customer service, there also needs to be an understanding of the cost of provision, the cost drivers, and the margins involved. Not having this understanding can only expose I&O’s lack of business acumen and capabilities, and make it difficult to compete in the new IT delivery landscape.