Information technology used to be a specialized collection of services that in many organizations were almost considered separate and apart from the business as a whole.
Today, however, IT is at the heart of business capabilities and assets, because it’s pretty much impossible to run a modern business without the skills and services that IT delivers.
Whereas IT used to be more of a reactive resource that dealt with problems as they arose, now it’s evolving into a strategic business asset with goals that align with the overall goals of the business. When IT is run like a customer-focused business, it definitely delivers value.
How MediFit Shifted the Focus to Customer Service
A few years ago MediFit, designer of corporate, community, and residential fitness centers, struggled with IT services that were not aligned with business needs and that were perceived negatively by end-users. Shvonne Williams, MediFit’s Director of IT, took a hard look at how IT was perceived, got feedback from end-users, and decided that the time had come for IT to be run like a business, with a focus on the customers (in this case, the end-users).
IT asset management in particular was a pain point, having been run primarily with spreadsheets, emails, and collective memory. End-users basically did what they could to avoid interacting with IT if at all possible. Williams knew things had to change.
Reactive IT vs. IT That Adds Business Value
In many organizations, IT primarily functions by waiting for problems to happen, then conducting triage and fixing things. But this reactive position makes it nearly impossible for IT to add business value, and this is how things were at MediFit. By contrast, the business-driven IT organization proactively identifies business processes on which IT has an impact. This requires the hard work of asking questions, not shying away from the answers, collecting end-user feedback, and working in partnership with other departments. Most importantly, IT that adds business value rests on great communication and an IT service management solution that lets IT work proactively rather than reactively.
Expect Resistance at First
If you’re taking your IT department from a being a reactive “black box” to being a strategic business partner, expect push-back, both within IT and among end-users. Even when people know that something needs to change, the effort can seem overwhelming, and people don’t want to change how they go about their daily tasks, even if present conditions are not ideal.
Expect push-back when you take IT from back-office mystery department to strategic business partner.
You have to be clear about goals, roles, and the level of commitment required, as Williams realized as she helped transform IT at MediFit into a strategic business partner. IT has to learn to speak the same language as everyone else, and this requires that the IT team make changes to their internal culture. It’s hard, but the results can be immensely successful and rewarding.
Practical Steps to Customer-Focused IT
Williams’ team needed to consolidate IT infrastructure to improve efficiency. By providing IT services through a cobbled-together system, IT was inefficient, and end-users avoided interacting with them. In general, consolidating IT services infrastructure and removing redundancies saves time, effort, and money.
Providing the IT team with mobility is another practical step toward customer-focused IT. As mobile as employees are, so should the IT team be. If an IT team member works with an end-user in another facility and must remote into a VPN to check something, time is wasted and end-users are frustrated. IT solutions that are only accessed through an onsite console simply aren’t sufficient for providing customer focused service.
The days of IT being sequestered from everyone else are nearing an end. Today’s IT team has to interact with the organization at all levels to learn end-user pain points, gain a broader business perspective, and share effective solutions. But interacting isn’t enough. IT needs to track performance. Knowing what works well and what doesn’t is essential to having customer-focused IT service delivery and helps the business make informed decisions that positively affect productivity and profits.
Because of the major influence IT services have throughout today’s businesses, the old way of running IT is outdated. Today’s IT team has to align its goals with business goals and work with the organization at all levels to deliver on those goals. Samanage has always promoted customer-focused IT services, providing unified IT service management and IT asset management that’s run in the cloud, mobile, and adaptable for unique business needs.
Shvonne Williams was even able to extend Samanage beyond IT, bringing increased efficiency to departments like HR and payroll. Customer-focused IT is good for IT services, good for end-users, and great for the organization as a whole. If you’d like to know more about how MediFit used Samanage to transform IT into a strategic business partner, you can view this webinar for details.