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CIO Imperative: Master Customer Experience to Remain Relevant

Begin a New Life as an Innovation Services Team and Deliver the Experience Your Customers Feel Entitled To

Heman Smithcustomer experienceBy Heman Smith

What is meant by customer experience – for those whom IT serves?

Today’s customers are used to immediate access to an app, typically via a mobile device, immediate ability to execute a task, and immediate results.  This delivers satisfaction and a positive customer experience.  Every industry is experiencing this, with nearly any transaction type you can imagine: banking, healthcare, retail, hospitality, travel and more. Surprisingly, this perceived expectation of immediacy is also spreading rapidly to sectors commonly considered slow to change and respond to change: public sector, utilities, military, etc.

Perception is reality – because people make decisions based on what they perceive to be true. Customers (internal and external) will now often choose the path to easiest results and lowest cost, with less loyalty and commitment than ever before.

What must be done for IT to regain its “preferred provider” status?

Whether we like it or not, IT is not always seen as the business’ preferred provider.  In-house IT is no longer seen as a “must-have”.  Alternatives not only exist, but are expanding and becoming equivalently mature and capable (SaaS, cloud-native apps in the public cloud, etc.). What must IT do now to develop and provide new value to replace its old role and charter?

Optimize Core Services

Immediately and aggressively optimize the core services IT offers that support easy application development, deployment, access and consumption:

  • IaaS, PaaS, Environment as a service, etc.
  • Open and flexible application access
  • Support any app/any device/anytime/anywhere (ie: EUC via solutions such as VMware’s Workspace ONE)
  • Application-focused security based on modern, multi/hybrid cloud-data center network models (VMware’s Airwatch, NSX, etc.)
  • IT-as-a-Business practices: show-back, charge-back, etc.

Embrace the Innovation Services Brand and Mindset

Move away from the legacy name and identity of IT (Information Technology), and adopt a new stance or brand as “Innovation Services”, leading the charge to provide capabilities-as-services needed by the business, using a best resource model as appropriate (developed, or brokered). Much of this change is leadership and culture driven, with process re-design and technology choices supporting the decisions made.

This approach requires the practice of teams counseling together to create an ideal process for delivering more ideal outcomes; both (1) internal to the teams themselves, making their lives easier, and (2) external to the end customer, making their lives easier.  This delivers better customer experience to each party!

Because of this shift in stance, the choice of technologies made by the team(s) is determined by the needed outcome, and how well a technology can rapidly, easily and cost effectively enable that outcome.

Will that cause a lot of technology loyalty shift? Yes.

Must vendors respond by being on-point to support that speed and adaptability in order for their IT customers to deliver better experience and outcomes? Absolutely!

The applications people use, coupled with ubiquitous mobility – are driving the pace of business and IT. DevOps is a response to that opportunity and pressure.

Develop Your DevOps Model… Now

IT must leap into supporting and accelerating the successful adoption of an appropriate-fit DevOps model in order to be of real value to the business. If Infrastructure Services teams don’t clearly understand this mandate, and rapidly take the stance of championing DevOps, then the application development side of the house will find other resources. This change is not optional; it is already underway, and will occur rapidly in the near future whether or not traditional IT teams want it.

If IT doesn’t rapidly respond to this need and change, its chance to be the business’ preferred provider will disappear because some new, successful, out-sourced or internally-stood-up alternative will be entrenched, and change will be seen as too difficult, or unnecessary.

What does this mean for me as an IT leader, and what can I do today?

Delivering exceptional customer experience must be the new mantra and reality for any effective IT leader, and thus for their IT organization. Becoming an “Innovation Services” team, instead of old-fashioned technology maintenance team is the key.

Focus on reducing friction in how any “consumer” (internal / external) accesses and consumes the new services (EUC, IaaS, PaaS, DevOps, etc.). The very mindset of IT staff must shift from habitually operating from a “keep it up and running” mentality – operations first, and adopt a new framework.

Innovation Services now focuses on:

  • How can we make “this” (whatever service “this” may refer to) easier to do, access, support, etc.?
  • How can we make consumption more appealing, more cost effective, more transparent?
  • How can we make us and our services as invisible as possible?
  • And, as I often hear during consulting conversations with frustrated IT leaders: “How can we function more like, so we can compete with, Amazon?”
  1. Mindset is a critical first step: Words have power. So take a stand, make a commitment, and step up to a different future. Craft a vision of opportunity, and invite each member of IT to step into becoming part of the new Innovation Services organization.
  2. Thinking through, and adopting a proven model for change as an Innovation Services provider is the second step. VMware has leading practices and services that assist with this.
  3. Re-organize based on service delivery function, not technology silos.
  4. Stick with it through the challenges of change. Partner with those who know and can coach you to success.

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Heman Smith is a Strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in Utah.