I have been reading a lot recently about the changing role of IT. With commoditisation and consumerisation of technology products and services, IT will no longer be a manufacturer of products and services but will take on the role of retailer. See Charles Araujo’s book ‘The Quantum Age of IT – Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change’.
When products and services are increasingly available from the cloud IT will only exist either to innovate unique business services that differentiate the organisation from its competitors or to source products and services from other service providers who can do it faster and cheaper whilst retaining quality.
For sure, current IT will exist for a while to maintain the legacy systems but unless these are unique differentiators, these soon will be replaced with commoditised services.
In a recent blog, Robert Stroud refers to the new IT as ‘service brokers’ and describes well the new role of IT as one:
“who sources services, either internally or externally, based on whatever best meets the requirements and specifications. The functions will vary as the role evolves but will include researching of alternatives, planning the solution, recommendations for procurement, sourcing, negotiation, integration, transition and even the ongoing management”.
Whilst it may be semantics, Charles Araujo would argue that:
“A broker provides no value-added context to a transaction except for one – the facilitation of a connection between a supplier and someone in need of whatever the supplier supplies. Nothing more.
Retailers provide the aggregation that a broker might, but they provide a significant amount of value during the transaction…… retailers provide their customers with a simple way to review the options available and select the best fit.”
I would agree with Charles in that dealing with a broker I would have to have the knowledge and experience to tell the broker exactly what I want whereas with a retailer I am looking at someone who understands the value I seek and can deliver it.
So let’s agree for the sake of this post that IT will become a retailer. If that is the case – why would the business shop with us? Anyone in the business, armed with a credit card and an Internet connection can source products and services! It is already happening – it’s an aspect of what we now call ‘shadow IT’.
How is IT going to become the retailer of choice? It is my belief that one of the biggest challenges IT faces is gaining the trust of the business. In most organisations, the business doesn’t trust IT.
We have failed to deliver. In a 2012 McKinsey & Company research study they found that
- 17 percent of large IT projects go so badly that they can threaten the very existence of the company
- On average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted
We don’t talk the language of the business. We are renowned for saying ‘no’.
Starting now, IT needs to open a store where its customers want to shop.
We need to really engage with our customers and understand the business and the challenges facing the organisation. Start talking to the CFO, CMO, COO etc. and ask them what they need. Be transparent in conversations and acknowledge past failures to deliver. These conversations may be difficult at first due to the lack of trust but persevere.
Many of the emerging business requirements may not be strategic but operational and tactical. Start delivering on these and demonstrate that IT can add value. Look for the small improvements that deliver value, reduce costs etc.
Start listening to the calls at the Service Desk and determine what is hurting your customers. What can you fix? Send IT staff out into the business to listen and learn.
Provide the customer with options. Too often IT provides the customer with ‘one’ solution and the customer feels they have nowhere to turn. Provide options and allow the customer to make the decision. Act as a retailer would.
Gaining the trust of the business is going to take time. It will not happen overnight. But it has to be your No. 1 goal. If we deliver on promises made today, establishing that trust tomorrow will be much easier. What really gains trust is track record and that is established day by day. So IT needs to be consistent in its delivery.
When we cant deliver for some reason, be open and honest with the business. Offer alternatives. What would a good retailer do? They would call you. ‘We are sorry to have to let you know that the blue jumper you ordered is out of stock but we have a red one in the same size or a blue one in a size larger. The one you ordered will be in the store within 5 days and we will call you as soon as it is here’.
In summary IT needs to:
- Understand the business and if another service provider can provide a better solution, let them know it.
- Acknowledge that you need the business to trust you and ask them how you can do that.
- Deliver as expected – on time
- If there is a problem, acknowledge it early and fix it fast
It’s not going to be easy but if we don’t establish that trust, IT will cease to exist. This is a shift that has to happen now. The business now has more choice than ever. I don’t shop where I don’t believe I am getting the right advice and value for money.