5 home truths about corporate IT

I never cease to be amazed by how little corporate IT departments fail to understand their users.

Note: This also applies to Government IT as well.

5 home truths for corporate IT people to remember about their users:

  1. They don’t want to use your services, they have to use them. So make them as efficient as you can. Focus on simplifying common actions, remove all unnecessary steps and respect the users time.
  2. They don’t care about your new portal. Users do not want to spend time finding what they want and wading through navigation windows. Fix search instead.
  3. They hate internal corporate apps. Make it accessible via a browser. No installs, no upgrades, no java runtime junk, no horrible machine instability and incompatibility. Work on what devices they want to use [meaning no flash].
  4. They don’t care about open source. You might, they don’t. Just get the services working. They don’t care about what it runs on. Don’t waste time telling them about your technology. No one cares what Google, Facebook, Pinterest or Amazon run on. They just use the services.
  5. They see you as a burden. To most users, you add little value, cost too much, take too long, are outdated make their life more complex. User satisfaction will be highest if they never contact you, never see you and never hear from you. Stopping someone working (and possibly risking their job) will destroy your credibility for ever. If you launch something, make sure it works. TEST, TEST and TEST again.

Too many IT departments see themselves as a core part of the business; a vital pillar, essential to organisational survival …

Reality check: Whilst this may be true [to a point] users see you as akin to a garbage collection service – a necessary part of the business, a function that they know is needed, but have no desire to interact with. They want it to happen, but the less interaction the better.

The good news is that you can have poor and excellent garbage collection services. You should be aiming to be the best, but even when you are, don’t expect anyone to care.

So how can this understanding help corporate IT departments?

If you accept that the list is even partially accurate, then before your plan, propose, budget for any investment in technology, you should have a very clear answer to the following question:

How does this improve life for our users?

If the answer to this is not at the top of your proposal, then start again.

This does not negate the need for corporate governance investment, but these can still be expressed in user centric terms: as security failures lose customer credibility, attract regulatory fines and ultimately cost jobs …

The core principle remains though.

Any investment should be ultimately defined in terms of user benefits.

A simple check list for any investment:

  1. Do users understand this?
  2. Do users agree that this is worth spending money on?
  3. Given the investment cash, is this what they would spend it on?

If you don’t get three ticks, then fix the proposal, or scrap it and do what users want you to fix.



4 thoughts on “5 home truths about corporate IT

  1. JG

    I generally agree with your 5 points. I think many IT departments fail to appreciate that they are now competing with consumer products that are equal to or better than corporate alternatives, and often at little to no cost.

    On the other hand, I think likening IT to garbage collection is a bit harsh. Corporate accounting seems a little more similar, because it does require technical knowledge as well as professionalism.And while it might not define your business, ignoring it may mean you’re out of business.

    1. Gary Burt Post author

      to clarify:

      1) Consumerisation of IT – absolutely. I have written a lot on this as has the rest of the world, but few departments are really reinventing themselves to take advantage of this. Most are making minor concessions by allowing iPads rather than embracing this trend to make major changes to benefit those that they provide services to.

      2) The analogy to corporate accounting would have been more respectful, but let explain. The reason for mentioning garbage was that this is an often overlooked and undervalued service that is essential for any organism to effectively manage – whether a household, a building, an organisation or a city. Garbage collection though, as a service (whether to your house or to your office) has undergone a revolution in recent years, from simply ‘collecting and dumping’ to being part of a recycling ecosystem that in many cases incorporates global logistics. Service quality and customer satisfaction have both risen and the core service still stays invisible. There have been some user impact, but when done well [and critically explained well] this is embraced by users and they support it (less printing, more recycling, less waste. I don’t see corporate IT as achieving the same increase in service quality over this period. If anything it is the opposite as users increasingly battle over their own devices, remote working and balancing personal and professional personas.

  2. BD

    How about this for an idea: stop calling them “users”? I was once working with a client that was government agency that assisted people with drug and alcohol dependencies. I referred to the people IT supported as “users” and they let me know that that word had a very different meaning there.

    When I last ran an IT department we had a fine for anyone who called someone a user. We called them, clients, customers, people, anything but “users”.

    1. Gary Burt Post author

      Great point. When writing this I was searching for an alternative word. Drafts included other words including those that you mention, but these simply made the article less clear in terms of what I wanted to convey. I don’t really like the word ‘users’ – but it is understood. The problem as you correctly point out is that whilst they ‘use’ the solution, they are not passive users; they are customers/clients which the service exists for.


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