Campfire wisdom

Internal customers aren't. Customers make buying decisions. Those who use your products and services are 'consumers' or 'end-users'.

Management Speak: I propose a series of "discussion meetings" to resolve this issue you have raised.

Translation: By avoiding an agenda, the actual issue at hand will likely be lost in vagaries and territorial squabbles during the meeting. My secret political agenda will continue unabated.

-- IS Survivalist Patrick Amato's agenda is to explain meeting dynamics.

Internal customers aren't. Customers make buying decisions. Those who use your products and services are "consumers" or "end-users". The distinction matters, and in my consulting practice, I advise clients to reject the term internal customer, which turns IT into a separate service provider, in favour of a more integral, strategic relationship.

This is way too abstract to be useful.

Relationships must be designed. To help clients design their relationship with the rest of the company, I've been using a nifty technique with the expensive-sounding moniker "scenario-based design". Once a client agrees, however, I switch to its other name, "tales by the campfire".

The idea: examples communicate better than abstractions and generalities. Telling tales by the campfire means using specific examples to explain what you want the relationship to look like in action. It's an excellent starting point for redesigning a relationship.

It only takes a few hours. Ask each member of your team to describe a specific interaction between IT and the rest of the business -- both how it happens now (a scary campfire story) and how it should happen (a heartwarming tale of courage and wisdom). Here's one example.

How it happens now: "June Summers in accounting called LAN support because a new employee was starting the next day and would need a PC. Jack Frost in LAN support asked June for the exact specifications and explained that the standard delivery time for new PCs is three weeks. June got mad because her new employee was starting the next day; Jack got mad right back because June was being unrealistic. The whole thing became a giant mess."

How it should happen: "When June first notified HR that she was going to hire the new employee, HR immediately emailed LAN support with the details. Based on the email, Jack Frost contacted June to verify that the standard configuration for that position would work for the new employee, got the new PC on order and then configured it, tested it and installed it on the new employee's desk before the new employee started."

The telling of one anecdote is just the start of the process, of course. Tune in next week for another exciting episode of "Redesigning IT's relationship with the rest of the business."

Send your campfire tale to Bob Lewis. Lewis is president of IT Catalysts, an independent consultancy specialising in IT effectiveness and strategic alignment.

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