People In IT Love Stats But They Probably Won’t Love These

I’ve written a number of blogs about IT service management (ITSM) and IT service delivery many of which have expressed opinions based on observations and conversations rather than “facts.” A new Forrester report by my colleague Eveline Oehrlich has some facts to substantiate what we already knew even if we chose to ignore it.

These facts reinforce a figure that I use in most presentation to show that without exception IT professionals think that they do a better job than their business colleagues think they do. So we have this perceptions gap or perhaps we should call it a “perceptions gulf.”

The IT perceptions gulf

This is one of those pictures that really is worth a thousand words. In fact all three of these figures make it easy for me to cut short the commentary.

It’s interesting to see the geographical differences but, despite these, we still see a consistent gap or gulf between “How IT thinks it is doing” and “How customers think IT is doing.” Funny how our metrics aren’t a sea of red – in fact our metrics dashboard is often a sea of green.

“But that’s just perceptions” I hear you cry, “We still do a fantastic job in enabling business activities with cutting-edge IT.” But could we do better? Please read on …

Could we improve business productivity?

Ah, I could cut and paste these report figures all day – how are we impeding our business colleagues’ ability to do their jobs?

The figure says it all, I'll shush.

IT is often called a cost center – but let’s look at some scary costs

It’s a complicated figure, so if you’re like me it might be best to just look at the financials.

Now these are super-scary. Not the sort of figures that you want C-level executives to be pointing at and making IT investment decisions on. It sort of pushes all of the gripes around corporate “hard-to-use-ware” and IT’s unresponsiveness to changing business needs to one side. Bad IT can hurt businesses, bad IT can cost – and judging by this figure it really does.

Final thoughts

I appreciate that other surveys will offer up different stats but it doesn’t look good does it? Not in the context of outsourcing, managed services, cloud, and BYOD. I, like many, have learnt the hard way that “the grass isn’t always greener” but if we are really an aligned part of the parent organization we need to be doing whatever we can to support business success (and appreciate that we can’t talk of IT success without referencing business success). These stats are an indication that we aren’t doing enough or maybe that we are doing the wrong things; a wake-up call (yes, another one) that we need to change.

So my question to you is: Whilst you might not love these stats you need to embrace them – so what are you going to do differently if anything at all?

If I still had a real job in IT I’d certainly be seeking out the root causes of these symptoms rather than continuing to pretend that all is rosy in IT-land. As I am often heard saying: we need to measure our success at the point of IT consumption not at the point of IT creation.

If you want to read the full report it is available to download via BMC Software’s website (registration is required).

As always your thoughts and comments are encouraged.

Comments

Needs or wants?

While I think the premise here is valid, I just want to extend a word of caution. I'm a bit intrigued by the statements "How IT thinks it is doing" and "How customers think IT is doing". The key word being "think".

The IT folks are not necessarily the only ones who can miss the point on what is actually needed compared to what is actually delivered. Just because the customer has a want, or an expectation, doesn't make it reasonable or justified.

"The customer is always right" is one of the biggest eye-rolling triggers for anyone in a service role.

I'll point to just one stat you mention in your summary, Stephen. "86% of users reported losing 18 hours a month due to IT". The inference being that this automatically generates lost productivity and therefore waste. I cannot believe that when someone is presented with an IT interruption of one kind or another that they are now completely incapacitated from working. Even if you spend the whole day at a keyboard and you're unable to access anything, surely you have other tasks? Anyway, I don't want to give the impression I disagree with the stats overall, or that I am against customers :)

I believe there's without doubt a prevailing attitude in IT of "we know what the business needs" without actually doing much to validate those assumptions.

Totally understand your response ...

... I am always cautious when picking up stats created by others and why I finished as I did.

The main reason for the blog was to try to get people thinking beyond what they do and thinking about what they do or don't achieve through what they do.

Perception is real close to reality...

Common sense says that there will always be some sort of gap. The old SERVQUAL model had as 'gap 1' the difference between what the customer perceived as good/required/delivered service and what the provider's MANAGEMENT (not staff) perceived as the same.

As has been said - we live in a service (experiential) economy and age of the customer, where the purse follows perception. It matters not what IT thinks its doing - its an indicator of inside-out thinking. In the context of this blog it provides an important insight into how accurate or 'aligned' the IT perspective is with that of its customers - not.

IT must try and view the fruits of their labor from the customer perspective first. This outside-in approach will help target internal work effort of note, and offer the chance to improve matters where it has most effect. I think the ITSM community lacks the fundamental skills and appetite to do that properly, often leaving much of the customer contact to the good old support organization.

Having said that, its my experience IT management in general is in tune with how to approach this, and perhaps this helps expose traditional ITSM thinking as dated and rather stale...

Hitting enter before that last thought finishes...

And as I wanted to say before the phone rang and interrupted my thoughts, causing me to hit enter mid-thought... the telling statement in Stephen's blog is the "we need to measure our success at the point of IT consumption not at the point of IT creation" closer.

Exactly. My point, badly made perhaps, is that I am not sure IT knows how to measure and view customer sentiment and perception.... its these skills we need to rapidly embed in ITSM training and if those thinking ITSM actually separate the It from the SM for a moment and researched the original SM, they would find buried treasure...

BRIDGING THE GAP

I can't help but agree with all your comments above, the one common theme amongst all is that IT should measure success against the delivery not the intent. It is easy to understand why there is such a disparity between user and IT perceptions as our approach to the challenge of increased performance are in some cases polar opposites. The business is made up of specialists in their respective fields and while they have an appreciation of what IT does they lack the in depth knowledge to support it. Conversely, IT departments are also made up of a number of people with specialised knowledge in their own field and in order for them to remain at the top of their game need to be focussed on the next gen of tech and sometimes lack the business acumen of those supported.

Bridging the gap is easier said than done but one thing is for sure and that it requires collaboration of both parties to understand what the business requirement is. No use trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Quite simply, if the IT department don't understand what the business requirement is then how can support it effectively. Sameover for the business in having an appreciation of the limitations and risks associated with their IT.

In my experience we become so focussed on what we are trying to achieve that we forget about the overall picture resulting in statistics outlined in the original article. As far as the customer always being right, again, in my experience this is rarely the case but the more I look into it the more I realise they have some extremely valid points that are worth listening to and discussing to find a mutually agreeable positions on.

Neither business or IT need to be experts in the others field but we can all benefit from understanding each others position.