Stereotypes, ignorance, and misinformation. They're all still conspiring to create the impression that IT departments are more of an obstruction than an asset to businesses.
As information technology professionals, we all know that IT can be a source of innovation and competitive advantage. We also need the business world to see IT through this lens, but currently there are too many myths skewing public perception of IT. My goal here is to address these myths and try to convey the right way IT should be perceived.
The single biggest myth is that IT is about providing technology. It's not. IT is about providing people with the capabilities they need to do their jobs. Or, externally, it's about enabling people to buy and use your company's products and services. Companies don't have computer problems -- they have business problems.
[Do you relate to these real-life digital business problems? Read 3 Meltdown Moments In Digital Strategy]
If we want to convince the wider business world that IT is actually indispensable to a business, we need to defuse these three myths:
1. BYOD is a mess created by employees
This is false. The bring-your-own-device movement was created by IT. When internal IT departments failed to meet employees' demands for mobile devices and services, they began looking for outside providers. In fact, IT has been dragging this problem around for at least 10 years, when people began bringing BlackBerry phones into the office. From the get-go, employees tried to circumvent IT departments because that seemed faster than waiting for IT to provide mobile services.
We cannot blame employees for IT issues like BYOD, and we cannot be perceived as blaming them. Our job is to stay ahead of technological trends and address their impact on data security and business processes long before they cascade into a problem. BYOD is a problem because IT failed to provide mobile capabilities soon enough.
2. Service catalogues demonstrate good service
No, service catalogues do not guarantee good service, nor do they compensate for years of poor service. When IT departments create service catalogues, they forget that a service "launch" requires some PR. Your end users, whom I prefer to call customers, often have no idea what's in the catalogue, and they don't want to waste time perusing it. Some departments don't understand why they get emails requesting password resets when their users can just go into the catalogue and do it. Sadly, their customers don't know about the option because IT failed to communicate it.
IT is responsible for marketing and selling its own services. As tech companies have discovered, you can't release features and expect adoption -- you have to let everyone know about the capabilities and business value first.
3. Good service metrics = good service
It's a myth that first-contact resolution and high incidence volumes are signs of exceptional service. They can mean just the opposite. First-contact resolution doesn't necessarily mean that the customer was happy with the service or that the solution was effective. But because that metric is often put on a pedestal, IT departments feel pressured to fix a complaint while they have the customer on the phone or IM. Often, that just wastes the person's time. At some departments, IT admins rush customers off the phone to close the ticket within the first call resolution target window. In many cases, IT people need to forget first contact resolution and pass the problem to a specialist (second contact), who can potentially diagnose and solve it in half the time.
Similarly, a high or low number of incidents can indicate problems. Are the same problems repeating themselves? Is service so bad that employees ignore the service desk? Stop creating myths about success and failure out of individual metrics. Look at sets of metrics to form narratives about your service. Maybe even ask your customers what they think about the service desk.
Some people believe that corporate IT organizations are as powerful as they were in the 1990s. They're not.
Many have moved from technology innovators to infrastructure administrators. In my opinion, we can reverse that trend by demolishing these IT myths and reminding businesses -- and IT professionals -- that IT provides capabilities, not technology. We are in an age of simplification, best illustrated by the consumerization of business software. People want IT to automate, streamline, or eliminate tedious processes. They want more time to do their jobs. Shadow IT and unmanaged BYOD merely reflect IT's failure to honor these needs.
IT isn't a standalone part of any organization. It's as much a part of the business as marketing or accounting. You provide a service, which means you must research, market, sell, and communicate that service internally. I don't believe IT will go extinct, but we need to overcome our own myths and improve outside perceptions to continue playing a vital role in businesses.
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