Giving customers a place to discuss their ideas for IT innovation can give real business advantage

Bring Your Own IT Innovation

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DevOps and ITSM - A Conversation with Gene Kim

It was David Cannon, in his excellent opening keynote at the Dutch Service Manager Day in March 2016, who triggered the idea for this post on IT innovation. David spoke about users who have a hunch that their current information systems could be used differently to achieve better results, but struggle to discover how.

The call of last resort

Let’s be frank, calling the IT service desk is probably the last thing that users want to do. They feel their blood pressure rising at just the thought of having to choose between #1 an incident, #2 a change, #3 a service request, #4 an escalation, #5 a complaint or #9 listen to this menu again, you idiot! Let alone the prospect of actually having to interact with the geek on the other end of the line.

This is where you need somebody with both IT knowledge and understanding of the business context, plus the ability to communicate with normal human beings. You just want to sit down with somebody for a while and bounce some ideas around. David mentioned Apple’s Genius Bar as an example of how this has been approached in a consumer setting.

We desperately need something similar for enterprises. Somewhere where users, whether internal or external, are part of product innovation and, possibly just as important, product application innovation. Increasingly, competitive advantage is gained not by what you have (technology is readily available to all), but how you use it.

Co-creation of value

So if this is not an incident, a change, or a service request, what do we call it? I was playing around with the term ‘value request’, but although the word ‘request’ is still a bit clunky, I can’t think of anything better at the moment. Of course service requests also generate value, but the value is usually about restoring business as usual, rather than improving the status quo. When the interaction between business and IT is about co-creation of value that impacts the quality of the product that customers experience, then it’s clear that we’re in a different ballpark.

I mentioned the “interaction between business and IT”. Do you visualize groups of business people and groups of IT people that are organizationally and physically separated, interacting in an environment that clearly belongs to one of the groups, making the other group feel like an outsider? Or is it more like a team in which various roles interact in what they all regard to be the same environment? While the segregated approach might work well for production purposes, when it’s about product development, a more collaborative setting is effective. Co-located. Not only physically, but also mentally, as David pointed out.

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Mark Smalley, also known as The IT Paradigmologist, thinks, writes and speaks extensively about IT 'paradigms' – in other words our changing perspectives on IT. His current interests are the digital enterprise, IT operating models, value of IT, business-IT relationships, co-creation of value, multidisciplinary collaboration, working with complexity, and as the overarching theme, management of information systems in general. Mark is an IT Management Consultant at Smalley.IT and Ambassador at the ASL BiSL Foundation. Mark has spoken at 100+ events in 20+ countries.