When You Don't Have Top Management SupportBy Tim Seiter IT within many companies is often viewed as a necessary evil or the group that simply fixes problems when they arise and in many small and mid-size organizations although some strategic direction may be sought after the top IT person is not typically found in the executive management meetings.
IT within many companies is often viewed as a necessary evil or the group that simply fixes problems when they arise. Other departments rarely see or understand the business enabling initiatives that IT supports. Technology is not viewed as an afterthought, but the maintenance and upkeep of the technology typically is.
If this sounds like your organization you may notice makeshift processes are created to address individual issues, and there are many times where individual departments created great processes to manage the flow of information and issues within their realm. Unfortunately, it is the rare occasion when an overall view is taken to create global processes that touch all areas of the IT department.
Why Implement a New Initiative
So, in an environment where there is little support for IT outside of the technology projects and firefighting, how does one try to improve customer service?
The first question to address is WHY someone would want to go through the uphill battles, pains of change, etc. to implement best service practices. My answer to that is simple - it will either enhance your standing and credibility with your current employer, or it will enhance your resume for your next employer.
As a former IT guy who did everything from running cables through ceilings, to programming, to network administration, to management up to, and including, a CIO, I have been exposed to a variety of professionals.
The people who advanced and earned the respect of their peers and C-level executives were the ones who spent more time following processes and recommending pertinent improvements to their customers instead of firefighting and following the "hero for a da" mantra. The latter may give you short term respect and admiration, but over the long haul, your customer just wants to do their own jobs, make sure their own world is trouble free, and not have to worry about their tools breaking down all the time.
Let's use an analogy to provide some clarification on the why. During my daily shower I expect certain things to just work. When I turn on the faucet, I expect water to come out, and I adjust it based on how hot I prefer it. When I switch over to the shower mode, I expect the water to come out from the shower head after first getting blasted with the cold water leftovers and cursing at myself for never remembering this undocumented feature.
If the hot water does not come out, the last thing I want to do is call someone, wait on hold for 5 - 10 minutes, only to be told to turn my faucet off and on again because I must have touched the faucet the wrong way. I don't care that the particular hot water knob I have, which THE PLUMBER RECOMMENDED, is not completely compatible with the cold water knob made by the same company but just an older model (uh..version issues).
Nor do I want to hear that the dish washer is taking all my hot water away from me during the time I need to take shower (uh.. bandwidth issues). I DO NOT CARE that there are 20 other people also having trouble with the same thing, but the Chairman of the Board in my house, also known as my wife, will not let me spend the $150 to fix the issue for good. Nor will she let me spend $800 for the greatest tool in the world to fix this, and 999 other issues.
I DO NOT CARE that the person I call just got that cool new wrench that will do 999 things, but they do not yet know how to use it to fix my 1 problem. I DO NOT CARE that my 8 month old shoved his toys down the drain, which is causing all sorts of havoc (uh..virus issue).
All I know is - I cannot get any hot water right now. My entire day is now shot. Either I need to go on with my day smelling like baby formula because my 8 month old decided that 3 am was playtime instead of bottle feeding time, or things will not get done because I have to wait for someone to fix something that I do not understand.
The WHY will help you identify workarounds until the permanent solution can be implemented, identify a permanent solution to eliminate the problem from ever happening again, identify the overall value of the permanent solution (in case money or resources need to be spent), implement best practices to minimize the disruption, identify any compatibility issues before that hot water handle is replaced, etc. I think you get the picture.