Do Internal Departments Delight Their Internal Customers?

May 22, 2011 Michael James

At the Seattle Scrum Gathering I heard Steve Denning say that companies who don’t delight their customers won’t survive the decade. There’s no longer only three TV channels to choose from; the “You Take What We Make” era is over and now the customer is the boss.

I’m wondering whether/when the same principle will start applying within organizations. On Slashdot someone posted the topic of employees who would like to use their own devices (iPads and stuff I guess) for work. The tone of the responses, presumably from techs and admins in IT departments, suggests to me these guys will also need to change their attitude or find themselves unemployed in ten years.

In the 1980’s I got sucked into a corporate IT department because I knew how to operate our VAX minicomputer (which was for Engineering’s use, but IT decided they should have it). The essence of our mandate was to prevent people from doing their jobs the way they wanted. Instead we’d pressure them to use tools from previous decades, including (and I’m not exaggerating) the department’s UNIVAC 1100 mainframe. It’s a textbook localized (sub)optimization. Most people, even within IT departments, actually want to help, and find these IT policies contrary to the larger business’s goals. The IT department head was the worst boss I’ve had in my career, and the person *he* worked for was even worse. They actually renamed the department to IS&C — the C stood for “Control”! I do remember one day he came back from vacation in Hawaii and announced an attitude change, that we should focus on providing service, rather than trying to control. That lasted one week.

I still see some of this attitude in IT departments today, though largely defanged because tech-savy users have found ways around them. Still, it makes me sad.


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