The end of my customer’s customer?


We work in an arena that is, perhaps more than any other, renowned for being dynamic. Barely a day will pass when changes to hardware, systems, networks or customer expectations demand attention.

So amongst this turmoil it seems strange that IT professionals and their organisations rely on decades old notions of the way they work: that at least is an observation drawn from a recent pan-European survey that Colt commissioned.

In the research significant differences emerged when IT professionals discussed their view of personal/career risk against business risk. These differences reflect a degree of misalignment with enterprise missions and lead to IT departments seeing themselves as ‘stand-alone’ organisations and unfortunately, this also encourages other parts of the business to view them in the same way.

This not so surprising – old habits die hard – and when talking to enterprise leaders, oil tankers often emerge as the favourite metaphor when trying to explain turning around organisations. But to mix metaphors – if you want to turn round your tanker in bite size chunks – received wisdom says change has to start with yourself.

So where to start? One of the legacies of process driven, ITIL fixated working methods has been the concept of the internal customer. This notion of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ is a really good place to start. The reason – does it answer these questions?

Q: What does it take for our people to work together and collaborate?
A: Certainly not the creation of unwarranted internal business border controls.

Q: Who are our customers?
A: The people who pay in real (their own) money rather than with internal corporate beans.

Q. Does it make us go faster?
A. No – but this is being addressed by the Go-Faster Board and our internal SLA team.

It’s easy to understand how these ‘internal markets’ arose at a time when accountability data was not much evident. It’s easy to understand that in the days when IT stuff was standing (expensively) in the corner that it was ring-fenced.

Nowadays almost everyone in the enterprise is impacted by the extent and quality of digital resources. Telecoms managers became Communication managers joining forces with IT managers to become Information managers and CIOs – along with the massive convergence that is digitisation and demands for speedier responses to real business issues.

But internal market culture still survives – and with it a notion of a business within the business that reinforces the idea that IT professionals are not entirely in tune – not always singing from the same corporate hymnbook.

Chapter 1 in Realignment with Customers 101 is a brief essay ‘The Customer is the Customer .’ This is a start, and for some a fundamental shift from “the way we do things here”. However, Enterprise leaders who have to lead the drive for innovation across the business must also find more ways to ‘knock heads together’ – but that, as they say, is another story.

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