Whose Fault? Yours. June 19, 2009Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
Tags: Communication, Customer Service, Users
As CIOs, we lead a service organization. Although there is much talk of late about turning IT into a profit center, the reality is that most companies rely on IT to get something else done. Just as finance, legal, and HR provide crucial support to help a company succeed, IT provides important services that allow the other employees to accomplish their jobs and serve the external customers.
By definition, service organizations exist to serve their customers. This may seem a bit obvious, but there are many IT shops that have lost sight of this core principle. Our job is not to find cool new tools, or nifty phones, or the sleekest laptops. Our job is to help people get their jobs done as quickly and efficiently as possible, using technology where appropriate.
When people fail to get their jobs done as quickly and efficiently as possible, it’s our fault. Period. It doesn’t matter why they failed; we still own the problem. That’s a hard concept for some people in IT to grasp and accept.
Anyone who has worked in IT for any length of time has seen this happen. We listen to our users and determine there is a need we can fulfill. We diligently collect requirements and build a potential solution. With the users’ approval and assistance, we develop some new tool. We provide training and support. After scrupulous testing, we release the tool to its intended audience.
A smashing success? Not always. Users get confused. They make mistakes. They didn’t attend all the training, or misunderstood the documentation. They forgot to tell us everything during the requirements meetings, or didn’t provide a complete testing regimen.
Whose fault? Ours. We should have asked more questions. We should have asked for more testing. We should have rethought usage scenarios. We should have anticipated certain mistakes and found alternatives. No matter what goes wrong, we are at fault. Figure out why, fix it, and file away the lessons learned for next time.
IT folks at every level fall into an easy trap when they start complaining and fussing about the end users. It’s easy to push blame onto the unsuspecting customers when a system is used incorrectly or mistakes are made. After all our hard work, how could they still get it wrong?
Easy: because we obviously did not work hard enough. We build this stuff; we must ensure people can use it effectively. If they can’t, we dropped the ball somewhere. Railing about the users does not fix the problem. It only annoys the users, makes us look petty, and reduces our ability to serve them.
This concept, that we are always at fault, is at the core of our ability to serve and satisfy customers. The burden sits with us to make it right, do it better, and meet our customer’s needs. If you are in IT, and you cannot accept this or live up to it, you have chosen the wrong career. Get out now, before you make the rest of us look bad.