Industry Insight

Want to run IT like a Business? Focus on your Customer!

Choong Keng Leong By Choong Keng Leong July 15, 2013

Recently, EMC and VMware have commissioned IDG to conduct a survey on ITaaS in order to understand IT and the business perception on ITaaS and how it has helped meet their organizational objectives. Chuck Hollis has provided a detailed interpretation of the survey results on his blog, and I would like to add my own views.

The survey was given to 238 IT and 128 Lines of Business (LOB) senior executives and was made up of 20 questions. I am particularly interested in one question and its responses, which I think is an important one to an IT organization planning for ITaaS:

Business Perception of IT

Various businesses and IT were asked to rate their capabilities in several areas in this question. In order to run IT as a business and offering IT services, it is important to understand how customers (the Business/LOBs) perceive IT and their services, and take actions to address them. CIOs should be focusing on the middle columns in the chart below – IT requiring some or significant improvements. As you can see, well over 60% of the Businesses ratings fall here, which means IT still got some way to go.

Biggest Differences in Opinions

Let’s just focus on the highlighted section below – areas which Business perceives that IT requires significant improvements.
1st KL pic

The top areas with the largest deviation between Business and IT’s percentages represent the largest gaps or misalignment between IT and Business’ perceived capability or performance. These are IT’s ability to:

  • Demonstrate an accurate understanding of the services the business needs/wants
  • Communicate a clear vision for future services
  • Support end-user mobility and BYOD strategies
  • Articulate business value
  • Effectively price IT services for business consumption
  • Gain the trust of business stakeholders

Develop & Maintain A Service Portfolio

To run IT as a business, IT organizations should survey their business and end-users for their requirements to develop their IT services strategy and to establish and maintain their IT service portfolio and catalog. The service portfolio and catalog need to be reviewed regularly to ensure that the services offered remain relevant to the business. If possible, set up a formal Service Level Agreement. IT organizations can learn a lot from their Business counterparts, for example how they develop and package their service offerings to their end customers.

Business Relationship Management

Many IT organizations I have worked with have started to appoint Business hand shakeRelationship Managers (BRMs). The BRM plays an important role in managing the relationship with the LOBs and establishing protocols for regular communication, reporting, and performance reviews. Acting as a conduit between IT and the business, the BRM gathers new business requirements, enhancement requests, and evangelizes IT’s vision and roadmap to support the business. Through the BRMs, IT organizations can significantly improve communication with their businesses, which will elevate the value of IT and gain the trust of business stakeholders.  This is something that a technical solution will not be able to help you with.

Mobility and BYOD

IT consumerization has forced many individuals in IT to evaluate their mobile computing and BYOD strategies. There is no running away from it. I have written 2 related blogs on this topic:  End User Computing Transformation and Why IT Should Start Planning for Storage-As-A-Service and Backup-As-A-Service .

KL Picture 2

The Business/ LOBs are doing a better and faster job in taking advantage of the mobility trend.  They push out innovative products and services to retain and attract customers, but many IT organizations are still grappling how to best support mobile devices and roll out BYOD to their internal users.  It is possible this is another area where IT organizations can learn from their Business counterparts.


images (3)There are many IT organizations that do not practice chargeback and continue to operate as a cost center. While some IT organizations do implement chargeback, it is usually a simple cost model. For example: charge on a per project basis for the costs incurred by each project. This is sometimes unfair and results in cross-subsidizing. A fairer model would be to charge based on a pay-as-you-use model, which is harder to implement because IT would need to account for all costs, define the units used for charging for each service,  develop unit charge rates, and implement a system to measure number of service units consumed and for invoicing and billing the Business.

Packaging IT Services

Businesses wants IT organizations to package their services better and make them easier to provision. I interpret this as analogous to how mobile phone operators design their mobile service plans and make it easy for consumers to subscribe, customize and change their plans. It may not be possible for IT to reach the same level as a mobile phone operator, but it is a target model – IT needs to be flexible and service oriented.

Areas where the Biggest Improvements are Required

The areas which Businesses rated IT as requiring the most improvements are:

  • Communicating a clear vision for future services
  • Making IT services easy to package and deliver
  • Support end-user mobility and BYOD strategies
  • Demonstrate an accurate understanding of the services the business needs/wants
  • Gain the trust of business stakeholders
  • Articulate business value

All of these areas above have one central important theme:

communication with the Business.

In summary, transforming towards ITaaS and running IT as a business requires significant change within IT, such as focusing on communication and business relationship management, and offering and packaging services that Businesses need.

Choong Keng Leong

About Choong Keng Leong

Keng Leong has spent over 18 years dealing with large IT infrastructure projects in banks, government agencies, large telcos, and other organizations. He recognized the importance of IT as a Service early on, and has successfully helped many organizations move down that path.

Keng Leong has many professional certifications, including EMC Cloud Architect Expert (EMCCAe), Data Science Associate (EMCDSA) and ITIL v3 Expert, but his most important certification remains his sincere passion for IT as a Service and his strong belief in the future of IT being very cloud-centric.

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