The customer has breached the castle. In a world overtaken by customer demand that businesses enable technology in ways that answer their unique needs, service-oriented-IT of yesteryear no longer works. In turn, the business needs IT to deliver or, for the sake of the customer (and the livelihood of the company), the business will find another way around the IT walls. We are living in a new time; the digital era is here.
Looking back to the early ‘90s when technology was a behind-the-gates conglomerate, IT’s purpose was to create and deliver systems that expedited process and help the business owners do their jobs easier. As the keeper of productivity enhancing systems we (IT) were significant in that we provided the means for improvement – and we were the only ones that understood how these grand systems worked. We were smart. We were in control. We were indispensable. But, I wasn’t buying it.
What was striking to me from the start was that the business people were being told they needed technology, but the technology gurus were not skilled at explaining why. Most technologists couldn’t understand why a business person had such difficulty making use of the tools in the first place.
My sense, at the time, was that most technologists were secretly happy that no one else could understand what they did anyway. The IT team was the hero for crunching data quickly and they could save the day in a way that the mortal business person couldn’t. Add the physical separation of the locked doors of the computer room and you had a powerful Wizard of Oz effect. None of this felt terribly empowering to the business people. And so they resisted using the Wizard’s technology. They felt pressured, uncomfortable, uninterested. Paper memos abounded.
It must have been about 1995 and I remember vividly sitting with the senior executives around an enormous cherry board room table having a deep discussion on this new thing called, “the Internet.” There were a slim few in the room that were looking into the future and realized that we needed to represent ourselves with a website. There were also many in the room that felt quite differently. The question was why anyone in our universe needed a website? It seemed like a no-win risk to many. The answer seems so obvious now, doesn’t it? These individuals were smart, full of integrity, and the best intentions. But game changing innovations are not often obvious. We’ve all been guilty one time or another, of missing the import of some new trend, some new tool, and some new valuable movement in our industry.
Fast forward to 2007 when we were staring squarely in the face of what we now realize is one of the most significant leaps in our digital history. The introduction of the iPhone ushered in the age of the smartphone, opening the door of a power shift from IT to the consumer. Today we are smack in the middle of a customer-focused transformation that is slapping at us from many sides – and slapping hard. Characterized as “digital transformation” technology leaders are working to understand, massage, and take ownership within our own businesses to capitalize on it.
Provocatively, The Guardian has this to say about digital transformation: “Businesses go through transformation when they have failed to evolve.”
How many of us want to say we have failed to evolve our business? But that is actually what our collective industry is pushing; the customer is the focus and we had better change our attitude, processes, and most importantly our vision of what is important if we want to continue to deliver successfully and grow. We find ourselves needing to transform fast because we didn’t incrementally evolve our organizations with the “customer first thinking” along the way. We have failed to some degree or another.
The Guardian goes on to note that there are three factors that make up the need for transformation:
- Changing customer demand
- Changing technology
- Changing competition
Being in tune and addressing these factors before they become front and center will avert failure in missing transformative business growth. But these clues are not often clear.
Think back to when we were the keepers of the kingdom and how we built walls between technology and our customers. We liked our castle. We didn’t truly listen to those we served. We didn’t evolve at the right time. We hung on to what we always had known to be true, whether it was how to manage data, write custom applications, or secure all of these things in our private data centers. But these traditional methods didn’t allow for interactive access and interactive access is exactly what the customer wanted and what consumerization made possible. We struggled to prepare and secure our environments for these new market trends at the speed our business colleagues and customers wanted and so, they found ways to scale the walls and claim the kingdom.
The digital era calls for IT to understand the business impact of market changes ahead of customer demand and for IT to be equipped to quickly pivot. With so much demand that IT be innovative and dynamic from the board, business leaders, and customers, how do you see into the future and make strategic bets that win? For service-oriented IT with a strong history of reliability but little exposure to business innovation, how do you turn your IT army into the headwind and get traction in the digital era?
In Part 2 of this series we’ll explore how to leave the Wizard culture behind. We’ll look at ways to re-focus your processes and most importantly, your team, so that the castle gates fly open with IT leading the charge and a transformed organization rises; one that truly is the customer’s hero.
About the Author:
With over 20 years of experience in leadership roles in the technology industry, Ms. Carroll is recognized as an executive who develops and articulates vision and solutions from both technical and business perspectives. She has an established history of building a culture of collaboration, trust, and respect among IT and the business. A speaker on the topics of digital transformation, cloud computing, IT utility adoption, and team culture, she has been published in CIOInsight and BizTech magazine, and was named a 2010 Computer World Premier 100 IT Leader. She is committed to sharing, listening, challenging, and shaping the discussion around transformational business success.
Currently Ms. Carroll serves as the VP, Customer Success & Lifecycle at TenFour, a NJ headquartered IT Infrastructure Utility Provider. In this role, she leverages her industry expertise to provide insight and guidance to enterprise business executives to facilitate digital transformation and business value realization. She is responsible for creating a differentiated customer experience across the breadth of TenFour’s client portfolio, focused on the customer’s business priorities and outstanding service delivery. Prior to joining TenFour, Ms. Carroll had a noteworthy tenure in a variety of senior IT Leadership positions at the United States Golf Association, most recently as the Managing Director for Information Technology where she led the infrastructure, business resilience, security, operations, and development disciplines.