How to Create a Value-Centric IT Organization

In my last column, How to Make User Experience Count, I wrote about user experience management (UEM), and how I believed it was a continuum of customer experience management and business impact. The reason why is that all IT services are ultimately consumed by flesh-and-blood mammals (most often of the homo sapiens genus), and how those mammals behave while interacting with an IT service not only determines its effectiveness, but its impact on business outcomes — from revenue to business process.

Most outcomes are not automated

Very few business outcomes are in fact purely automated affairs (machine-to-machine) once they’re taken down to their roots, and those that are like automated trading too often resemble Disney’s interpretation of Dukas’ “Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” (I may be old-fashioned, but I like to believe that algorithms are to serve people rather than the other way around.) As such I viewed the continuum of UEM/customer experience and business impact as the vanguard in extroverting and “humanizing IT.”

Since writing the last column, the data is in and it would seem to give a strong endorsement to this very idea. When asking about business impact, performance, usage, productivity and design, and Dev/Ops, it was clear winner in terms of both pervasiveness and value, was business impact (with application performance coming in a close second). But user productivity, usage and portfolio planning, and Dev/Ops or application design all had strong votes, as well.

These are votes from the same constituencies in IT and the lines of business that are using a mix of largely the same or related solutions. The fact that these solutions still remain cut up into segregate markets by most analysts reflects two things in my opinion: the fact that most markets are largely fiction, and the fact that most technologists (including analysts) are fundamentally scared of defining their value in human rather than abstract terms.

By centering your future in the flesh-and-blood consumer of your services you may be threatening the introverted, academic culture that has so far dominated and largely defined IT.

Refocusing around the consumer

I would argue that refocusing your organization around your consumers is the only way you can show value for you and your organization going forward. And it really isn’t so hard once you make the quiet inward assumption that IT is about human beings, after all.

Let’s start off with the “who” gets involved here.

Our new data says, above all, it’s you. C-level and VP level executives were three times more likely to be the prime drivers for UEM deployments as the next top level of the organization, which just happened to be a dedicated User Experience or Customer Experience management team. At number three was a cross-domain service management team.

Applications Support came in a dismal twelfth, well after applications development — so much for the straw dog that UEM is purely a subset of Performance Management.

Getting UEM initiatives to show value

So now that you know UEM initiatives are significantly more likely to succeed when you’re the driving factor how do you leverage your UEM investments to show value?

I recently had a discussion with someone who felt that it was impossible to define value for IT and IT services. Cost yes, value no. And of course, that’s the premise with which many IT organizations have functioned, happily or not, for years. But taken at face value, it limits any discussion of business alignment to cutting budgets and trimming delays between application releases.

In short, it puts you and your organization on a treadmill that can only increase in velocity; with virtually no insights into why you’re actually running in the first place.

Now, I would admit that UEM/Customer Experience and business impact management cannot absolutely provide all the answers you need. Cost is once again a more convenient metric when it comes to obvious, quantitative outlays. But you can certainly begin to make a meaningful transition to a value-centric versus a cost-centric organization through a UEM initiative.