A Proposal For IT: Set Just One Goal For 2013 - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Government // Mobile & Wireless
05:05 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
Connect Directly

A Proposal For IT: Set Just One Goal For 2013

Be measurably more relevant to your customers.

If I've set a really good goal for myself, and I stop to think about what it'll take to get there, it creates a physical reaction. A long exhale. A few sleepless hours. A queasy feeling in the gut.

It's a physical reaction to what my brain is saying about the goal. Can I really do it? Can I change the actions I take every day, that I've been doing for years, in all the ways needed to accomplish this new goal? Will the toil and expense pay off? Is it even the right goal?

'Tis the season for setting goals and priorities for the year ahead. This time, rather than creating a short list of priorities, IT leaders might consider setting just one goal. And if it's only one, that goal should be one that makes you at least a little uncomfortable to think about.

So here's what I propose for 2013: Make IT measurably more relevant to your customers. I'm talking about end customers, the people or companies that buy our stuff -- not IT's internal customers, a.k.a. employees. Following are three avenues to do that.

Understanding customers: Companies always have craved information about their customers. What's different today is the potential to predict consumer behavior with greater accuracy. Better analytics and the ability to more affordably crunch huge amounts of data create this opportunity.

This "understanding customers" category might sound like the safest, easiest way for IT to get closer to customers -- just watching and analyzing. But it doesn't stop there. Yes, customer data helps you run the business internally, but would big data analysis help the customer even more if you gave it away? This is the classic FedEx breakthrough -- package tracking was an essential internal tool, but sharing package status transformed customer relationships in the industry.

Sharing your analysis with customers can get uncomfortable. I talked with a CIO whose company shared usage data with one customer, only to have that company conclude it should buy less. The customer was underutilizing what it had. Not only might customers not thank you for the data, they might ask why you sold them that last unit and how long you've had these insights. It's a moment that tests what "partner" and "long-term relationship" really mean.

In consumer products, predicting behavior based on social media sentiment is a new opportunity. Can social media predict success of a new product launch, and even help steer production levels and reduce stockouts? Can social media analysis spot new product ideas or get customers involved in product development? 2013 will be a year of experiments, embarrassing failures and early successes in social media analysis.

Promotions for customers: Once IT has created a better understanding of customers, the next step could be improving promotions. A big reason marketing is increasing spending on technology is to make promotions more data-driven and efficient. But there's a long way to go in customizing them.

Global CIO
Global CIOs: A Site Just For You
Visit InformationWeek's Global CIO -- our online community and information resource for CIOs operating in the global economy.

Data-driven customization is fraught with risk. Just because people sign up for a loyalty card doesn't mean they want a stream of promotions. I love my bike and skis and wouldn't mind hearing more from the companies that make them, but I never need to hear from my coffee company. Does your data make those distinctions?

Sears is an innovator in using Hadoop to mine big data for customer insights, and it's in the early stages of applying that to promotions. Big-box retailers need to test more customized, real-time promotions to compete with online stores. But when I wrote about Sears' efforts, this note from a reader warned of the risks: "I think that retailers may have forgotten that the customer is a person that does not always make logical decisions, but will hold grudges."

Products for customers: The ultimate customer-facing role is to help drive technology that the customer actually uses. From Ford to Nike to Royal Caribbean, companies across industries increasingly embed tech in products and services to differentiate them. Building customer-facing products often takes higher quality and faster development than IT is used to for internal projects, so don't underestimate the cultural change required. Mobile apps have accelerated this trend, giving companies a new way to interact with customers. Those apps also create a new data source, which brings us full circle to understanding customers.

We're living through a historic shift that makes technology more important -- in fact, indispensable -- to building close customer ties. IT leaders can seize the moment by ruthlessly focusing 2013's goals on the customer who buys their products.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Ninja
1/10/2013 | 10:02:01 AM
re: A Proposal For IT: Set Just One Goal For 2013
1: At the core of IT's failure, is the failure of the Executive to grasp the basic objects, components, and devices that make up their IT Infrastructure, thus they possess the finesse of a 5 year old with a welding torch when figuring out how to leverage them. Literally, how many systems have a manager-authored design document? As in someone writes down what they want, in sufficient detail to do it? If IT ever performs this task for management, it becomes an expectation, and one that carries no additional reward.

Your "A Proposal For IT: Set Just One Goal For 2013." article sounds EXACTLY like a managerial tirade.

"Please, I want you to both build a analytics system and perform the business analysis and tell me interesting things about my customers that make me money."

This is the exact equivalent of a manager walking into your cubicle, writing "analytics" on your "action item white board" and expecting a stack of neat $100 bills the next day.

2: There is a real, and very severe, skills shortage in IT right now. Fundamentally, Managers clammour for H1B, FLSA OT exemptions, and other cuts to IT benefits and Salaries as a cost savings measure.

Question; Your job has an average salary of 55k/year, 2500+hrs of work per year, no overtime, 24/7/365 on-call. When asking for raises, management will threaten you with replacement by H1B. Management expects ideas from you, claims success when they work, blame you for failure when they don't. If you come to management with a great idea, it means more work for you, no additional reward. You will never be trained and are expected to maintain your education on your own time which can a 500+hr/year job; if you do this, you are guaranteed no additional pay as nobody else does so, but EVERYONE wants to hire you. You can expect your career to last, at most, 25 years on average; after that, if you don't prove you've reinvented yourself, you're SOL.

Say you do hire a Network or MIS engineer, or even just a lowly helpdesk guy. Given the above, why would they self-educate? You have maintained a CCNP for 15 years and have a MCSE on NT4, 2k, XP, and Server 2008, you will be paid the same as an entry level candidate because "Well that's nice you have a real history with wintel and cisco but we need you to know X companies proprietary and rarely deployed system too and we feel this younger person with the same recent skills is more suited to that task". Why do SO MANY of these people have just a degree and no certifications, or certifications that are out of date?

Why was I getting interviewed for Sr Admin positions after having 6 months Jr sysadmin experience?

Go read an Official Cisco or Microsoft IT book, pick a topic, why is it so poorly presented? Why are there so many questions left after reading? Because the person presenting it simply does not know how that system works wholistically, and that's because nobody knows.

Can you blame intelligent people for avoiding IT and going into something they perceive to be more stable?

3: Can you prove, without a doubt, breeches do not occur that you don't know about?

Are you willing to spend the money to monitor every packet and every systems access to know when it does occur?

If a manager is incapable of classifying the enterprises information into basic levels of security, how do they comply with regulations? IT people are not managers; they do not know what is, and is not important thus if you leave risk vs reward to them on security, they will choose no risk which means no reward.

New systems are inherently insecure, and know that by forcing implementation, especially considering most IT people are not well educated and are trying to do that work with minimal effort, you can be destroying your enterprise.
COVID-19: Using Data to Map Infections, Hospital Beds, and More
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/25/2020
Enterprise Guide to Robotic Process Automation
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  3/23/2020
How Startup Innovation Can Help Enterprises Face COVID-19
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  3/24/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
IT Careers: Tech Drives Constant Change
Advances in information technology and management concepts mean that IT professionals must update their skill sets, even their career goals on an almost yearly basis. In this IT Trend Report, experts share advice on how IT pros can keep up with this every-changing job market. Read it today!
Flash Poll