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Do You Know Your Customer?

Who are you actually working for?

I find it disappointing that there is still a tendency for IT professionals to disconnect themselves from the business they work in and concentrate purely on the technology rather than business outcomes.

Understanding your company’s business and its needs, wants and drivers, makes an easier path for assessing your priorities. When you are faced with multiple issues that are impacting the business, how can you decide which one to tackle first if you do not understand the impact each one has on the business.

IT workers need to remember that they do not work in IT or on systems; they work in healthcare, banking, hospitality. What drives the business must drive you. If you are working in a hospital, you are there to ensure positive outcomes for patients. If you work for a bank, you need to maintain the security of the assets that are placed with the bank for care and protection. If you work at a university, the bottom line for you is that students are able to learn and succeed.

A common purpose

Everybody who works in the organization, whether they are in HR, building maintenance or administration is there to support the bottom line for the business. The days when the IT team was tucked away in the basement next to the server room, just keeping the lights on, are long gone. IT needs to prove its value as a strategic business enabler; but unless you know and understand your customer, this is not going to happen.

People who work in technology love shiny new toys; nothing is going to change that. But just because something has lots of bells and whistles and can perform amazing feats, does not mean that the business actually needs it. It is all too easy to be seduced by the latest and greatest of gadgets. It is important to step back and ask yourself, “What will this do for my customers? What benefit does this offer to the business? Do my customers actually want this?”

The world of IT has changed

The way people access and consume IT services is different from what it was five or even two years ago. Virtualisation and cloud computing have added challenges and risks that the modern IT department has to navigate.

If today’s IT professionals do not work to understand their customers and provide the technology they need or want to do their jobs, then their customers will go out and source what they need from a third party supplier. This is a concept that has become known as ‘shadow IT’. Shadow IT flourishes in an environment where the internal IT organisation has become disconnected from the business.

Today’s workers have more familiarity and confidence with technology than in the past. They are not prepared to take no for an answer, at least not without a good explanation. IT has lost its mystery; people know what they want and understand what is possible.

How to make a difference

Where does this leave today’s technology worker? With much of technology demystified, the aura of mystery that surrounded the IT department has mostly dissipated. It is now time to prove that you know what is important to the organization. Show that you understand the pain points experienced by your customers in relation to the technology services they consume.

Another needed change is better communication within IT teams. IT information silos are counterproductive and should be broken down or at least bridged, so that IT can provide cohesive and comprehensive service to its customers.

By really understanding your customers, you can step back and ask, “What can I do with the technology that is available to us, to make a positive impact on our customers and on the bottom line of the business?”

When you understand your customers and have a good working knowledge of how your organization operates, IT is never relegated to the basement. You can prove yourself as a strategic innovator who creates value and plays an important, well-integrated role within the organization.

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