The importance of shifting the culture- not just the conversation

I just listened to Robert Shaich, the CEO of Panera Bread on MSNBC ,and his answer to why their company stock has been doing so well delighted me. He did not talk about cost management, or revenue. He said the reason they were doing well was because they focused on making the guest experience excellent. They listened to their customers and provided the products and experiences that made them happy- the rest followed.

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Today, there is a lot of discussion on the importance of shifting the conversation from the “Cost of IT” to the “Value of IT”. We first started talking to our clients and other folks in the domain about managing the customer experience over two years ago. One of those early presentations is still online. To work well, this is not just a change in reports and the language IT uses when talking to their business counterparts. This really means a culture change- like Panera, focusing on what the business needs and wants and then successfully providing it.

The first step in understanding the Value of IT is understanding the business. As the second quarter of the year launches, if you have not yet scheduled a quarterly review of business needs and changes -now is the time. During these conversations, don’t focus on being an order taker- this is not the time to find out that the business wants 500 more tablets or 3 new applications. This is the time to find out what the current and near future business challenges are. If they insist on using this time to “put in orders”, use your ‘5 Whys’ skills to get to the root cause and figure out if those new applications are the best solution to their problem. This should also be a discussion where they get to give you unrestrained feedback on what is not working. Now is when you must be in an active listening mode- receptive and not defensive. You are not doing these meetings so they hate you less at the end of the meeting, you are actually trying to get better at serving the business.

There should be no naivete here- any business has to manage costs, inventory and delivery. Modeling and understanding the cost of services is a business basic. No one should be making internal service decisions without data to back it up- cost, quality, and risk are the basics you need to start with and are the reason why platforms and tools to manage the complexities of IT data are thriving right now. They are useful and they impact the bottom line. This is not trivial

But if you want to highlight your value to the business, and be a full partner in business success, you have to start with understanding what the business really needs and wants.

Time to book your next ( or first) quarterly meeting of the minds.

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