17 January 2009

Serving your customers

"Don't buy into this crap that IT is a business within a business serving internal customers. There are no internal customers... Everyone within the enterprise is a part of a team that should be working together to satisfy customers and stay in business."

So says David Wright, author of "Cascade; Better practices for effective delivery of information systems in a multi project environment."

David, on the one hand, I take your point. On the other, as I manage my personal career, I think I have to consider the people who pay my bills, who refer me new work and who recommend me to otehrs as my customers before the enterprise's actual end-user customers.

For two reasons;

The first is that my career has and will continue to span multiple businesses and multiple industries. I am an itinerant professional. Once my job is done, I move along to a new problem at a new company. And I act as a ub-contractor, so I have some responsibility to deliver to the brief, regardless of whether that is what I belive the customer really wants. (I do tend to share my opinion though.)

And these days we pretty much all expect to change companies every few years. And why not? We can do a better job and get better rewards if we come with more breadth of experience. So we move around. ANd so hiring managers are our customers.

Secondly, unless you are in charge, you can only usually chip away at the problems enterprises have with their custoemrs. And when you are in charge you are steering from a long way above sea level, so you can only influence outcomes via your management team. As a project person, your potential scope to make radical change is limited to specific areas at a time. And usually you are operating on one of the senior leadership's initiaitevs, which should be a major cutsomer/performance related issue, but isn't always.


Photo cc at flickr


  1. Anonymous1:59 am

    I agree. If you are a consultant working for a short period at a company, it is very difficult to influence the work that you are doing.

    But it is not always an "either-or" situation. You can make some difference, as long as you understand the situation properly, think of all the stakeholders and learn to convince people tactfully.

  2. Anonymous2:53 pm

    Hey, nice quote...

    I can see how the perspective is different for contractors/consultants. Since I am now working for a consulting company myself, more on that might come in the second edition of the book.

    But in this case, I was speaking to IT as a department or function within a typical enterprise, primarily made up of permanent employees. Is a company's legal department or Human Resources function required to treat the rest of a company as their customers? No, they work as needed with the rest of the business when their expertise is required. I don't see why IT is any different.

    The internal customer model really breaks down when some of those 'customers' decide they don't want to 'buy' from internal IT anymore, they want to use outside sources. That's a recipe for disaster, unless IT is carved out as a separate company who can service other companies as well.

    There are a lot of business models out there , of course, I just happen to really hate this one...