A few weeks ago, I was honoured to be a keynote speaker at a Y2X event that took place on the HMS Belfast.  It is a fantastic ship and (currently a floating museum) on the Thames.  It was a beautiful summer night and we seemed to have all of London at our feet!

In the course of speaking to attendees who are currently working in cybersecurity, as well as the many veterans who were interested in pursuing cybersecurity as a career choice, a bunch of different topic threads came about.  Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about them.  I’m really heartened and excited about the next few years in IT and cybersecurity.

The Good Guys and The Bad Guys

It’s challenging to explain to regular folks the immense scale of today’s cyber threat, to illustrate what’s truly at stake with cybersecurity right now without sounding overly alarmist.  In the past two years, as I’ve sunk my teeth into cyber, I have come to understand this threat to be far greater than the protection of data, information or assets.  It’s much bigger than intellectual capital or intellectual property.

I like to use the analogy of a game of cricket.  We, the good guys, living in a democracy and in countries ruled by law, working in business, legally operating under government and supranational structures … we are playing a gentleman‘s game.  There are rules, we agree to them and we abide by them.  If you don’t abide, there are regulations which impose fines or threaten incarceration.

But in the world of the dark web, in the hacker industrial complex, with state-sponsored agents and organised crime (the bad guys) – there are no rules.  It’s not a gentleman‘s game.  There is no honour amongst thieves.

I am sometimes disheartened in this great mission.  The pesky hackers always finding new ways to abuse, steal, devalue and destroy.  Equally razing companies, innocent people’s lives, entire livelihoods.  But I am heartened from my conversations on the HMS Belfast, knowing that there is an amazing pool of talent waiting to be tapped and a desperate need in the veterans’ community for better career options.  These men and women are truly talented.

The Cyber Skills Gap

There is a gaping hole in cyber skills today with demand far outstripping supply at all levels.  From the highly technical to the general average workers digital skills.  I believe becoming cyber aware and developing cyber skills in both areas, to the scale needed to defend ourselves, will require more than a certification or two (for the techs) or simply knowing about phishing, passwords and malware (for the average worker).  To protect our organisations and communities, we need to tap into something deeper to educate, motivate and enact behavioural change.  We need to tap into culture, values, mission and purpose in our employees, families, friends and co-workers.  The “thing” we are now fighting for may just be our way of life, the love of the game (ie business and free markets) and our ability to stay free, safe and whole.

One of the positions I am most proud to hold is that of non-executive director for Y2X, a company dedicated to helping veterans transition into second careers within the IT industry.  IT (and cybersecurity) is a great career fit for our ex-servicemen and women because of the ethos, culture and transferable skills they have honed throughout their military careers.  These myriad intangibles translate incredibly well into critical areas of a modern IT environment – such as project management, agile practices, data and information management, and cybersecurity.

Bringing these two needs together is a natural fit.  Many veterans lose their way when transitioning, falling away from the community, feeling unskilled and lacking in purpose.  Y2X is only just starting a journey to give them the community and current IT skills needed – and based on the conversations I have had with these veterans over the past year I’ve been a NED, I am heartened to know that the need to protect and defend our organisations, communities and values can be that higher purpose they will readily rally to.

If you would like more information on Y2X or if you are in cybersecurity and would be interested in hiring a veteran or taking on a recent service leaver as an intern, please reach out to info@y2x.uk.  We’d love to hear from you.

 

A few recent stats and reports around IT spending, and wherein an organisation it originated, confirms our suspicions that the IT Convergence Gap isn’t shrinking fast enough.  As Enterprise IT evolves in the digital era, the value we provide and the function we perform as part of a business organisation has to be elevated for our teams to remain relevant.  Bottom line: we’re not evolving fast enough to meet the needs of the business.  More to come on why we aren’t moving (Head in the sand?  Denial?  Don’t know where to start?) but let’s start with the state of affairs.

  • Gartner predicts that through 2017, 38% of technology purchases will be managed, defined and controlled by business leaders.
  • In IDC’s research, overall LoB spending will reach US$609 billion in 2017, a 5.9% growth over 2016.
  • The Spending Guide, which quantifies the purchasing power of LoB technology buyers by examining the source of funding for a variety of IT purchases, also projects LoB spending to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9% between 2015-2020. In contrast, technology spending by IT buyers is projected to equal a five-year CAGR of 2.3%.
  • Due to the rapid adoption of third-platform technology, LoBs are relying far less on enterprise IT to fund their technology purchases. In fact, LoB buyers will spend more than twice as much on software applications in 2017 (US$150.7 billion) than IT buyers (US$64.7 billion).

A particular line in the Spending Guide could be the canary in the coal mine.  They state that by 2020, shadow IT (from the Business unit’s directly) will be almost equal to the spending of the internal IT department, and the skew on the shadow spend is towards the highest end of the technology stack.

So here are two ways to view Shadow IT within your organisation with a Relationship-First, IT Convergence mindset.

Risk: CyberThreat

What is the risk of not engaging with the business (in a way they find valuable)?  There are many.  The one that should keep everyone in your company up at night is the biggest monster in the closet, CyberSecurity. Gartner estimates that by 2020, a third of successful attacks experienced by enterprises will be on their shadow IT resources.

So what are we doing?  What we’ve always done – throw more tools and technology at the problem. Gaining visibility and moving toward more active methods of monitoring is all well and good, but if it is not partnered with or the slave of a relationship-driven IT Convergence strategy, it will be a flimsy levy against the oncoming flood.  Next-generation firewalls, web gateways, Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB’s) can all help but they are only bandages.  They’re not going to heal the underlying issue.

Opportunity: IT as Broker Operating Model

We know it’s there. McAfee’s research suggests that overall, only 1% of organisations are not monitoring shadow IT usage, down from 5% last year.  Through technology monitoring and passive investigation (usually through a financial and licensing audit), we should know what we are up against in our organisation.

Here’s a new way to think about Shadow IT.

Scope Your Risk & Plan for Influence

Your Business and your IT risk.  What are the consequences, what are the costs? How can you tell this as a story to your business in a way that compels them to action?  What are your key messages?  Who do you need to convince?  What is a beneficial outcome that you can negotiate on?  Who on your team should ‘own’ this challenge – could be your BRM’s, EA’s or the CIO.

Extend the Olive Branch

Come bearing gifts, offer peace, try to build trust with the business organisation using shadow IT.  We don’t threaten to take the system offline or revert back to the ‘department of NO’ (because everyone in the business just loves working with us when we do that!!).

Evolve Your Governance and Operating Model

“IT as a Broker” is a highly effective Operating Model (or one value stream in your operating model) for the new digital era.  The traditional railroad tracks of technology access (we’re the only ones you can get it from) and Governance/Policy are no longer fit for purpose in many IT organisations.

 

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Having recently worked on a large agile transformation with a team (I focused on the soft skills and cultural barriers to change – more on this soon!) here are some of the common things you need to consider before going agile!

Semi/pseudo agile practices or ‘phased adoption’

In order to control risk, some organisations attempt to adopt aspects of agile processes with the intention of adopting the remaining aspects later.  For example, projects might still be conducted with complete requirements signed off up front, with subsequent sprint-based development.

Failure to structure and train the product owner role and requirements elicitation resources adequately

Since the requirements gathering and backlog construction/grooming are crucial to the success of Scrum, this is one area in which agile is at serious risk of failure if not managed correctly.

Failure to train scrum masters or development team members adequately

The scrum master role is one of the agile expert and mentor in the early sprints of a team new to the agile practice.

External interference/over-ruling of the approach

For example, senior project management insisting work is dropped into sprint directly, bypassing the sprint planning process.

Team structure challenges

People are assigned to multiple projects simultaneously and jump from team to team based on which project they are working on at a particular time of the day.

Geographical and time zone challenges

Teams are sometimes structured so that the team itself is distributed across offices, national boundaries and time zones. Given the method relies heavily for its success on face to face communication with rapid feedback, geographical distribution is a serious challenge.

Benefits might not happen straight away

Contrary to belief, benefits might not arrive instantly and it’s important to manage expectations.  Leaders and execs need to be supportive and engaged but also be realistic about any outcome and what will come to fruition.

 

Two recent experiences that I had with companies that I use reminded me like the preferable bucket of ice cold water in the face of the importance of customer relationships.  What should I say, a customer service ethos or culture or set of values that everyone can live with?

Most B2B and B2C have jumped on the tools and tricks on the web front end to make it super easy to be contacted – which will probably soon crest into the ridiculous as everyone will then have multiple options – buttons, chatbots, phone, text, you name it.

But if you are not responsive at the other end, then you have probably almost set yourself a bigger problem of expectation from the customer service standpoint?  If I push the button, I expect to hear from you.  Also, add to the fact that in this new business paradigm, if I’m a customer then I expect you to care about me.  Maybe 10 years ago that was too much to ask but it is increasingly the relationship customers (both B2B and B2C) want and expect to have with suppliers.

My two most recent experiences seem to suggest there is still a significant gap out there between customer expectation and the level of service that is actually given.

Take my first example – Recently, I sent an email to a salesperson with a supplier I use which bounced without a forwarding address at the company, they had no other contact information. So I sent a form through the platform that went nowhere. In desperation, I put in a help desk ticket to get someone at the company to talk to me about actually using more of their services and developing larger things on their platform. I’m not a huge company yet but shouldn’t all of your customers get the same level of responsiveness and respect? I finally had to find the sales manager on LinkedIn and send him an Inmail.  Oh, the irony.

My second experience was with a much larger Company, delivering solutions at scale. I was trying to purchase their cloud-based services online after a trial – and the upgrade screen kept hanging, the purchase wouldn’t go through. Now with current cybersecurity fears and other financial concerns, the payment screen is not where your users want to experience a problem!

As this was on a weekend (I am start up and work seven days a week right now!) I didn’t expect to hear back till Monday but had I heard on the weekend you would have had me at ‘hello’. Anyway, Monday came and went, Tuesday came and went and I heard nada back.  So by Wednesday I was frustrated and decided just to try the payment screen again and miraculously it worked.

Thursday morning I finally hear back from the company – 4 business days and 2 non-business days later – saying that it looks like I have upgraded and is there anything else they can help with? I had to laugh.

There was no acknowledgement of the pain that they might have caused a startup by not being able to access their services for three or four days, no acknowledgement if there was a technical issue that had been fixed, and the most important psychological factor that you want to develop with your customers is trust right?  They didn’t bother to even thank me for my business.

My experiences made me think long and hard.

I have a personal philosophy that I have brought with me throughout my career and all my businesses including my most recent Company startup venture, the Cybermaniacs – that the relationship and customer value is always way more important than the short-term gain.  This is something that I have always stayed true to even when it was at times to the detriment of my career or any financial outcomes.

At Cybermaniacs, we are already spending (probably too much!) time on putting a culture in place NOW only 3 months off the ground and still in Beta, to be: personal, responsive, innovative, creative, warm, engaging and caring of the customer relationships that we have. I don’t think you can ever be so big as a Company that it’s OK to let things slip through the cracks (hello telephone providers and retailers and insurance companies I’m looking at you…)

A company who takes any customer for granted today does so at their own peril.

Good customer relationships should be important to us in IT and Cyber as we help solve externally facing technical challenges – knowing how and helping your Company increase customer intimacy, trust, spend is huge. But it also should be a lesson for all of us within enterprise IT and how we look at customer management and customer relationships – whether that’s through BRM or a helpdesk, a project manager, agile team, etc.  The channels by which our users and customers can contact us are important.  But equally so is our responsiveness and personal touch or empathy, our understanding of the frustrations and challenges that come with using complex technology in multiple settings, on top of a rapid pace of modern life and lots of business change.

Not just hiring for but scaling up your teams in emotional intelligence, customer service, great written and oral communications is key to building successful business relationships and successful customer relationships. How do you think design teams can invent, innovate and accelerate around solving the same exact communication challenges you may be having with your external customers if we can’t first fix it for ourselves internally?

 

 

Would be interested to hear your thoughts on customer relationships, what experiences you have had and what customer relationships are like in your organisation?  Please drop me a line.

IT spent 30 years building an Iron tower of servers, systems, data centres, cables, wires and blinking lights. Stable. Sturdy. Built to last. With governance and risk mitigation and security. Cost-effective, efficient, cheap. Deep technical domain expertise. Layers of Infrastructure, layers of apps, layers of governance and process. Frameworks to be adhered to. Certifications upon Certifications.  And now we have to tear the whole thing down. Welcome to digital transformation.

We built IT for a static age.

It wasn’t wrong. I’m no therapist but where we are now isn’t anyone’s fault, per se. We did what was asked of us at the time, with the tools available. We were asked to make it last forever – so we favoured stability. We were asked to make it strong, we favoured security. We favoured re-use, endurance, getting max ROI. We sweated our assets, we bled them dry. We created governance and frameworks to contain the increasingly complicated nature of our systems. We created a service based orientation to mask the complexity and show some external value to our new ‘customers’ in the business. And we locked it down and sweated it out because that’s what we were supposed to do. We did what we were asked. What was needed at the time.

The Next Era.

And here we are on the brink of something. Maybe the 4th Industrial Revolution. Maybe a new way of working as mankind. It will still take time to get there, but the question of ‘if’ I think has been settled.  

In the past few years, what was a bit of a sideshow, some distracting ruckus in the corner about agile and innovation, bimodal multi-modal, cloud, Paas, and what not has gone to centre stage.  In a way, the three ring circus just went to one ring. And it’s not Barnum/Bailey, it’s Cirque du Soleil. The amuse bouche turned into the main course. It’s not that we didn’t want this new and different world of IT, much of it is super cool and fun and amazing and I want to play with it. It just happened so fast. On the whole, as a team, as a function, we weren’t ready.

In many ways, much of IT still isn’t ready. Operationally, structurally, technologically, culturally and psychologically. Very much not ready.

So, for the 80% of IT organisations who aren’t in the ‘Digital Vanguard’ – what’s stopping us?

Digital transformation denial comes in a few forms.

It’s Only a Dream

Dreamers are holding out that this rapid pace of continual upheaval will burn out, go away or really not be as much of dust-up as all these consultants and vendors say. I mean, they’re lying, right? Look at Y2K!

While dreamers are not entirely wrong about the overuse of hype to drive sales (that’s nothing new in the world of business, from travelling salesmen and snake oil right through the current GDPR hullaballoo), fundamentally it’s not going away and eventually you’ll have to turn the lights on to look at the monster in your closet.

Kick the Can

Kickers are hoping to hold out for a few more years with current companies and will do the bare minimum to keep things ticking over, but know that retirement or a new gig at a slower paced company is only a year or two away. Why do the heavy lifting now? Maybe the business isn’t ready. It’s too hard to convince them anyway. Kickers are doing a disservice to the organisation by not summoning up the courage to lead the team on to the field and embrace digital transformation.

In Name Only

Deceptors are putting ‘cloud’ on the strategy and using the language of transformation, but when you pull back the covers on a budget, spend, projects and value – it’s all the same. Eventually, they will be found out, but will it be too late for their businesses to recover? Or will businesses have moved on from shadow IT to full on LOB control of all IT services?

Just the Toes

Putting a toe in the water was great 5 years ago, but those who have committed less than 20% of IT resources to planning and executing this change are going to be run over by business who have committed to full-fledged digital, asked themselves the tough questions, committed and got on with it. Spending studies for 2018 (Gartner, Deloitte, CISR) that show quite a large chunk of IT organisations at 80% spending for ‘maintaining’ what they have and 20% on Enhancements and Application projects will find themselves up the creek in 2019. Those in the lead have reduced maintenance to 50%, Enhancement to 20% and are ploughing 30% into transform, innovate, teamwork and culture-led change strategies.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain 

Those who live in the land of ideas and put forth amazing slide decks about what will happen, what should happen when we all go ‘platform’, yet still struggle to run a basic IT shop (or who haven’t devolved the right services into the external service stack) are, just like the Wizard of Oz, going to have a sticky end.

Tech will Solve the Problem

When you have a big hammer, everything looks like a nail. If your digital transformation strategy is 100% technology and 0% people, you’re not playing the right game. This typically happens for many reasons, one is we know the tech stuff so well it’s our home turf and our safe space. It’s worked every single time in the past, we put in the tech and it’s all good, well mostly good. Well good enough. Logically you could look back and think going forwards that what we need is more tech, just faster. But you’d be wrong.

Like they say in every investment advertisement – past results are not an indicator of future performance. Digital Transformation is here and we (as IT, as businesses) will be transforming for many years to come, changing our colours and shapes and sizes to find what fits to survive and thrive in the post-information age. This change will take IT way outside its comfort zone. It requires people, culture, mindset shift, changes in process and practice, new measures, new ways of working with teams, vendors, partners and peers.

We think this new way of working is Relationship-First IT. Send us an email for a free cup of coffee and a chat, we’ll show you what we do and how we do it. Therapy optional. 🙂

What is a happy customer worth?  What is the value of a loyal customer?  As any salesperson or broker will tell you a happy, loyal, motivated customer is worth its weight in gold. So why haven’t IT departments decided that this is the same for our relationships with the rest of the business?  As we continue to march down the path of digital transformation, IT departments everywhere are striving to become flexible brokers for IT services and products. Shouldn’t we also re-define our IT strategy and operating models to prioritise our key relationships? Yes, we really should. It’s time for IT departments to look at the relationships they have with key staff from the rest of the business and treating these Business Relationships as IT Assets.

Defining Relationship Value

As marketing thinking evolves, organisations are beginning to quantify the value of their relationships and place development and maintenance of these relationships at the core of their customer interaction strategies.  Businesses are spending big money on researching and analysing the psychological roots of customer behaviours. They are starting to put relationships on the balance sheet, quantifying them for corporate stock valuations and estimates of product strength in the marketplace.

Internal IT leadership should sit up and take notice. After all, we are constantly being asked to demonstrate our value and the value of our initiatives. Our customers are our colleagues, budget holders and managers who ultimately have to support what we do through the provision of resources. But somehow we seem to discount the value of developing relationships with these customers and instead believe that our value will be best demonstrated by a good relationship between our customers and their interaction with the technology we provide.

Although that may have been truer in the past. Today, and ever more so moving into the future, that view is proving to be fatal. The digital ecosystem is characterised by the interaction of many individuals at different levels with a complex network of behaviour as it relates to other people.  Therefore the full scope of information related to technical requirements, customer satisfaction, unsatisfied needs, and so on, is dispersed throughout the organisation and has always proven elusive to traditional requirements gathering scope and methods.

Relationships have always been critical, but two trends are making them increasingly so in the new digital era:

  • Commoditisation and Consumerisation of IT are diminishing the value of ‘internal IT’; we are not the single source of technology in our organisations.  In order to provide a true ‘service’ with differentiation as a competitive edge, it’s all about the ‘experience’ you provide; the extent to which people enjoy the experience of dealing with you is becoming a major differentiator in our customers’ decision-making process.  This goes from the Service Desk on up to Strategic Demand Management, how we identify opportunities in the business and initiate projects based on those visions.
  • Technology is reducing the opportunity and need for people to interact personally.  So when interaction happens – it is critical that it be effective and contribute to the ‘IT experience’.  We remotely fix desktops, troubleshoot over the phone, push updates seamlessly into the environment.  Most of ‘IT’ is now behind the scenes – so what kind of IT does your customer interact with personally?  In my view, this consolidates and intensifies the interactions your key stakeholders have with IT at the strategic level.  Planning with EA, working with the PMO, negotiating risk with the CISO, working with the board and the CIO – these are the interactions and relationships which need to be the most most MOST effective, provide the most value, in the new age of IT.

And this complexity, dispersion and increasing criticality are why IT needs to sit up and pay attention to how it views and values the internal and external relationships in the Digital Ecosystem.

Looking at Relationships as an Intangible Asset of IT

Intangible assets differ from tangible assets not just because they lack physical materialisation, but also because they are not identifiable to the balance sheet such that contracts can be written against them for delivery.  Nevertheless, intangible assets and intellectual capital are key sources of value and the levers for superior business performance in today’s modern economic environment.  They are the sources of competitive advantage and above normal financial returns for countless brands.  In fact, with these intangible assets, it appears some of the basic economic rules seem to be breaking down.  Here’s how they apply to IT:

  1. Relationships follow the laws of increasing returns.  If you look at the law of decreasing returns, the more you use machines or buildings the smaller is the marginal return.  For intangibles such as knowledge, brands or relationships, this does not apply in the same way. It is often argued to be the opposite, the more we use our knowledge the higher the return.
  2. Relationships are a Multi-Use Asset.  Unlike physical assets that can only be used for one activity at one point in time, intangible assets can be used simultaneously for multiple uses at different places in the value chain.  Like the knowledge to produce a specific drug, or the programming of software codes delivering an application, a brand or even the corporate culture.
  3. Pareto’s law doesn’t apply to IT – i.e., customers with the highest volume of transactions are the most profitable customers.  In addition, Stahl et al. (2003) maintain that in many cases, low-maintenance customers subsidise those with high service demands, and this is precisely the principle of Activity Based Costing (ABC) which provides a fairly accurate means of measuring costs related to customer relationships.  However, I know many IT organisations where typically the highest volume customers also make use of the greatest bargaining power, thus enjoying a better, faster or more effective service from IT.  So there is no relationship-to-profit law that can measure intangible assets, yet.

Many commentators in the financial world, especially around startups and the online marketplace, view the omission of “intangible assets” from balance sheets as a glaring deficiency.  They ask: How can accountants produce a financial statement that omits assets like brands, distribution and supply chains, knowledge, human capital, and organisation capital, particularly when value and competitive differentiation in modern firms comes more from these assets than from the tangible assets on the balance sheet?  

Finance requires tools and techniques to manage, measure and report key value drivers and most traditional management and accounting systems were designed for the era of tangible assets.  The knowledge economy overall is therefore in the need of new management methods and techniques to identify the assets delivering the most value, to visualising how these resources drive performance and tools to measure and value the dynamic interactions of these assets.  In IT, we will have to wait for these tools and methods to be more fully defined and developed before we are able to include relationships as an intangible asset on our own IT balance sheet – but there are still places to start in measuring, monitoring and improving the relationship orientation of your entire IT organisation.

In the new flip-it-on-it’s-head model of IT (where relationships, service, customer experience, flexibility, sourcing, cross-systems thinking and soft skills are king), we should take the same approach and look at the quality of our relationships with our customers as an asset because assets have value.

How to Measure the Value of  IT Customer and Partner Relationships?

A few key measures will start to paint the picture of the quality of your relationship map:

  1. Relationship Scope – the number of people in the Business or Partner organisation with whom the IT organisation wants to have a relationship (i.e. the desired position).
  2. Spread – the number of Business or Partner Stakeholders with whom at least one of a defined key IT Leadership Team has a relationship (i.e. the actual position).
  3. Depth – the number of IT Leadership people with whom each Business or Partner person has a relationship (i.e. total number of touchpoints).
  4. Strength – The type of relationship (Ad Hoc, Technical, Social, Order Taker, Partner, Peer) and level of Partnership (1-100) of each person-to-person relationship.
  5. Power – A score based on an individual’s position or role and its relevance to your organisation.
  6. Influence – This relates to an individual’s personal influence,  independent of any role or position (e.g. force of personality).
  7. Customer Loyalty  – The degree to which customers experience positive feelings for and engage in positive behaviours toward a company/brand.
  8. Customer Satisfaction – The degree of emotional satisfaction and perception in the quality of the IT services you provide.

Successful organisations monitor their customers’ attitudes and perceptions of the products and services they deliver, benchmarking performance against the competition.  This information proves a valuable competitive tool to guide operational improvements; recognise and leverage strategic advantages; anticipate customer requirements; as well as identify potential issues and weaknesses. Compare this to most IT functions which benchmark, if at all, on spend/cost, process efficiency and staffing levels.

Benefits to IT Include:

  • Great Relationships create IT Operational Efficiencies.

Good relationships smooth the way, clear up misunderstandings, decrease poorly defined projects from getting underway.  What does that mean to your bottom line? The higher the quality of the relationship with the business overall, the greater the efficiency and effectiveness of the IT delivery engine.

  • Organisations with higher levels of customer loyalty experience faster business growth and studies also show that customers often value their relationships with an organisation more than the product or service.

Extrapolate to IT – and it’s not about the project, the application or a specific IT function.  CIO’s must break down internal conflict between BRM, PM, BA, EA and CISOs to work as a unified IT Team for your customers.

  • Great Partner relationships increase IT/supplier alignment and can drive innovation in your organisation.
  • Great business relationships provide better information to shape/steer demand.  As you increase trust, you increase the depth, type and quality of information obtained.
  • Understanding loyalty and customer relationship quality allow us to obtain more accurate estimates of the Return on Investment (ROI) of improvements, enhancements and innovation initiatives.

What’s Next

Relational intelligence must pervade every aspect of IT that touches customers and, of increasing importance, our partners.  IT’s continuing obtuseness about relationships represents a glaring failure of will. We have a clear competitive advantage over vendors which is customer intimacy – based on Treacy/Wiersema strategic differentiators.  While many current IT Customers or users of internal IT are captive or even hostage to our governance, policy and legacy (see Technology debt), and simply have to use what we have provided – it doesn’t have to be this way.

Relationship-Oriented IT goes beyond marketing on the front end or customer service training for the Service Desk.  To gain customer satisfaction, loyalty and hence future value, we have to go beyond reliable service.  Reorganising processes around relationships can be a far-reaching undertaking. Learning how to identify your most valuable customers and developing and implementing customer-centric strategies to maximise strategic value is the first step.  Follow by working to develop a rich culture where your team can act in the customer’s best interest, to build the capabilities and skills of excellent relationship management and work to align demand-side processes to customer value. Each IT opportunity challenge starts with “Now what do our customers want in this situation, what is best for him or her?”  IT Finance may take the short-term view of asking what all this upfront discovery and design is costing – but this is IT Demand Management at the top maturity level, where you spend the time and money needed to fully understand what your users want, what they value, who they are, what their future needs are – before you design the solution.

There is huge potential for IT organisations in flipping a technology-first model on its head.  In treating your IT relationships as assets, you can increase your base potential; the range of opportunity worked on.  Through quality partnerships, your networking potential and the referrals and recommendations from trusted advisors will add value to your team.  What you will learn, your learning potential, will grow through the ability to tap excellent sources for quality information, insight and wisdom. And finally, the keys to the IT kingdom, your Growth Potential, the ability for IT to affect the bottom line of the organisation will also increase.  What’s better than that?