Is IT Infrastructure & Operations Still Relevant In “The Age Of The Customer”?

Yes, but you must adapt by demonstrating your ability to drive business growth and differentiation, not just cost savings and uptime. Here’s a personal example of a much broader trend as to why this is so important to your business and your role as an I&O professional:

It’s a cool Autumn day, which reminds me I need a new jacket. I walk into Patagonia. I evaluate several models and then buy one – but not from Patagonia. It turns out a competitor located two miles away is offering the jacket at a discount. How did I know this? I scanned the product's bar code using the RedLaser app on my iPhone, which displayed several local retailers with lower prices. If I had been willing to wait three days for shipping, I could have purchased that same jacket while standing in Patagonia from an online retailer with an even better deal. [Truth be told: I actually bought the jacket from Patagonia's store after validating no better deals existed… but The Home Depot wasn’t so lucky this summer when I bought the same, but cheaper air conditioner from Amazon while standing in aisle 4.] 

This is a prime example of what Forrester calls the “The Age Of The Customer” where 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 type of technology-led disruption is eroding traditional competitive barriers across all industries; manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery can't save you.

At the same time, these same technologies are eroding the traditional IT procurement, provisioning, and support functions within your organization: It is easier than ever for  empowered employees and App Developers to circumvent I&O. They can, are already, or plan to take advantage of new desktop, mobile, and tablet devices as well as cloud-based software and infrastructure that you don't support. Why? To get their jobs done better, faster, and cheaper.

To succeed in this new era, your business and your I&O must become customer-obsessed — or to focus your strategic decisions first and foremost on customer knowledge and retention. Here’s how I&O professionals can get started:

  • Expand your definition of the "customer": The scope of I&O's customers has grown far beyond internal peers in IT, such as the App Development group, to employees across the organization and now an ecosystem of buyers, suppliers, and partners.
  • Adjust I&O plans, priorities and budgets: To become customer-obsessed, your organization will be invest in the following four areas which I&O must support or even lead: 1) Real-time customer intelligence; 2) customer experience and customer service; 3) sales channels that deliver customer intelligence; and 4) useful content and interactive marketing.
  • “Reboot” your data center, end user computing, and operations environments:Continue to optimize, but plan for transformation (now!). In the data center, converged infrastructure along with private and public cloud will accelerate speed-to-market and agility. In the end user computing environment, “bring-your-own-device” programs and unified communications will make employees more productive and satisfied. And IT service management and automation will industrialize your operations to increase the quality of service for all customers.

If you’re an IT Infrastructure & Operations professional wanting to adapt and thrive in “The Age Of The Customer”, I encourage you to join us at the upcoming Forrester Infrastructure & Operations Forum"Build The Extended Enterprise: Differentiate With Customer-Centric I&O" on November 9-10 in Miami, Florida.