The Digital Transformation is here. It effects all aspects of our lives – not only our private, but also our business lives. IT departments in big and globalized companies change their way of working. Analyzing the challenges by their customers and embracing the changes results in a simple product: user centric IT. This is an excerpt of a talk at the Virtual Workplace Evolution 2016, held on 25th April 2016 by Vera Geier and Christophorus Laube (watch the interview at the VWE 2016 in German here).
Information Management in the past 200 years
Creative work has always been a question of managing thoughts and ideas most effectively. When we look back in time creative people like writers had their personal spot where they loved to work and the ideas could flow:
- Jane Austen (1775 – 1815, “Pride and Prejudice”) had a small table, a chair, one piece of paper, an inkpot and an ink pen made of a goose feather.
- Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941, “A Room of One’s Own”) wrote her books still without technical helpers, although typewriters were already invented. On her writing desk stood an oil lamp, her glasses, pencils and some binders to keep documents and news articles.
- William Buckley (1925 – 2008, “The Fall of the Berlin Wall”) started with a typewriter and switched to a personal computer in his writing career. His room was filled with books, newspapers, scrap papers and notes.
- Will Self (*1961, “Umbrella”) is famous for his fantastic and satirical stories. He uses his laptop very often and his walls are covered with sticky notes.
Pictures of their work places show that the amount of information being processed in a creative process has risen enormously. In the last decades, we have seen our private and professional lives growing together. In our private lives, we adapted to a consumerization that today also effects our work lives. Both happen digitally – and the amount of information processed by us all is huge. We make decisions in seconds, multiple times a day. That’s why we need to have all information “at our fingertips”.
Challenges to IT Services Organizations
Corporate IT organizations deliver their services to all users of a company. They enable them to process information, be creative, communicate, and collaborate. Today, IT is not only recommended to act as a service unit. Furthermore, we see a strong change and with it, new challenges:
- Big Data and its opportunities: while the business units see Big Data as a promising investment, IT is challenged by the recommendations for high bandwidth, the network design, the design of the storage or availability.
- IT as a Service Unit vs. IT as an Innovation Enabler: for a long time, Corporate IT acted as a service unit offering a value proposition to the lines of business. Today, IT is needed as enabler for innovation. Moreover, IT often is even more in charge as driver of innovation.
- Multi-Channel Communication: A ticketing system is not anymore the sole communication platform for IT staff. The users want to approach IT in multiple ways: by walk-ins, instant messaging, mobile devices or social networks. IT staff is expected to react on all these channels, ideally in parallel. The users desire to report problems from any device they use. Serviceability is expected and appreciated. In fact, a personal contact still is as important for customers as a good service quality. Beyond that, collaborating in multi-disciplinary teams from IT and business is highly appreciated.
- No “One for All” Solution: One solution for everyone fitting all purposes is not possible – it was never. Neither from a user nor from an IT perspective. Tools and solutions need to aim at the users’ needs – and the majority of their aspects. Although IT solutions are not designed for a special target group they need to address the interests and behaviors of key user groups. They also must meet the majority’s needs.
- Open Interfaces: Avoiding proprietary solutions and complying to standards is important and recommended by customers and users. Today, this means choosing web based technologies running on publicly available frameworks. This enables Multi-Channel Communication.
- Diversification of Landscapes: The variety of devices and systems used in the consumer as well as in the business world is constantly growing. As of now, SAP IT Services currently support 6 platforms and the respectively certified hardware. This implies a much broader knowledge that IT staff needs to be educated in than ever before.
- Costs: Cost awareness and cost reduction is essential to all business units. So is it for IT. Solutions are not only aiming at a better user experience and new functionality, they also need to be cost efficient.
- A Changing Skillset to IT Staff: This results in the need of more and better training in knowledge and communication skills. IT staff is expected to deliver expert knowledge, act as managed service provider, escalation manager, support specialist, consultant, they must be trained in agile methods, etc. They must be keen on newest technology as well as further education. IT as innovation enabler and moreover, IT as innovation engine is the key.
Consumerization is taking over in the employees’ business behavior. Looking at these aspects means adjusting the service model of IT. This dramatic change takes place instantaneously, fast and permanent (see SAP’s view on the Digital Transformation here). The user is moved into the center of IT’s solutions: the user centric IT is born.
What do you think about user centric IT? What are your experiences with it? How does your workplace look like?