IT professionals do not typically focus on delivering value to customers and that’s because service providers in general don’t understand what value is – it’s not quantifiable, it’s not tangible, it’s not definable, it’s not measureable and so it can frighten them.
Management leader Peter Drucker famously said: “Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for.”
To define and understand value we need to look to the customer to know what they want from the end service or product. The customer knows what they need it to do – it’s not a case of just creating a website if the website doesn’t facilitate all of the customer’s needs.
IT professionals and service providers need to start working closely with customers and end users to define the value and build long-lasting relationships, something seldom seen in IT. Understanding where the customer sees value needs to come from the top down; value is co-created and co-defined by both service provider and customer to decide the necessary activities and processes. If the value is known by the senior business managers in the IT/service provider organization it will be reflected in the services produced by IT professionals.
Value from the customer perspective
This is not to say IT professionals choose not to add value; IT professionals believe what they do is of value but the problem is it’s from their perspective and not the customer’s.
All organizations and senior business managers should be focused on what Jan Carlzon calls “Moments of Truth” – every single point of contact with a customer. We need to focus less on improving targets, measures and processes and more on trying to delight our customers at each Moment of Truth. It’s been said before but I’ll say it again: IT professionals are driven more by the technical side of what they do and less by the end-to-end service and this is something that needs to change.
Service catalogues tell us which services are providing our customers with the most value and which are redundant and yet you’ll rarely come across an organization with an accurate service catalogue. It’s no good focusing on processes unless you have an understanding of how to create value for the customer and to do that we need the customer to tell us where the value comes from. The relative value of each service can then be recorded in the service catalogue and can then be used to prioritize improvements, tasks and activities.
The services IT provides to customers can provide value in a number of ways, dependent on the industry. Services can support the production and manufacturing of products, they can underpin financial services in the banking industry, they can ensure compliance and safety in the drug and airline industries and they can provide a corporate image and generate brand and shareholder value with public facing websites. Knowing your customer, knowing their industry and understanding where they find value in the services you provide is how you can increase the value you deliver.
It’s so simple and yet we aren’t doing it. Why? Face-to-face interaction has given way to technology. Too often we send an email instead of picking up a phone. We take fifteen minutes to word an email and wait hours, sometimes days, for a reply when the issue could have been resolved over the phone within minutes. The only way we can know exactly what a customer defines as value is to ask them and not via email; not everything they want comes across in an email. It really needs to be a face-to-face discussion with customers, wherever possible. A steering group should be established that allows senior customer and IT managers to take a step back, take a corporate view and decide what is needed and prioritize the activities of those creating and providing the services.
A corporate view from the top with collaboration from the customer, IT and the business is the answer. Once you’ve got that, all processes and activities can be driven based on service importance and value.
There’s room for development in best practice when looking at soft skills and the more practical, less technical side of IT. ITIL® touches on service strategy and there is mention of it in project management best practice too, but there’s not enough there yet to really drive a change.
Focusing on the value stream
IT practitioners need to begin to focus more on the value stream following the Moment of Truth – that’s how you manage the point of contact and deliver value to the customer.
There are five types of value stream/Moments of Truth in IT:
- Customers get in touch when things go wrong. This could be a failed service or something that isn’t performing right on a laptop or PC – anything that needs IT involvement. Think about what route the customer has to follow in your organization when an issue occurs, who they have to go through and the amount of time it takes for the issue to be resolved. Is it an efficient service?
- A standard request – for example, a new employee needs a computer and phone, etc. How quickly can that be fulfilled?
- The business has a new requirement – how easy and effective is it for our business and customers to register their needs and how accurately are they captured and delivered?
- A change in strategy or a change in service, possibly even a new service. How can and should we respond?
- Operational service – every time someone logs on to a service it needs to be simple. They should be able to find exactly what they are looking for quickly. For example, a retailer’s website would be pointless if customers couldn’t find where to pay for their items.
Does the customer walk away from their interaction feeling unsatisfied, not listened to or confused? If the answer is yes then you’re not delivering value to them. We should be making this process as simple as possible for the customer, not us and that’s where value comes from – effective and efficient services that actually deliver something to the customer, or to their customer.
For more information about IT Service Management, see our ITIL® section.
How do you or your organization make ensure value is delivered to your customers through your IT services? Do the steps Colin Rudd outlines above apply to your ITSM? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.
Read Colin Rudd's previous AXELOS Blog Post, ITIL® - Why Adopt and Adapt is the Only Way to Go.