Listen To Your Users
We in IT love our technology. We love to wait for hours in line to acquire the newest iPhone or iPad. We love to entertain ourselves with it and brandish it off to our friends. There is no harm in doing so outside of the office and in our own spare time. However, while engaged as leaders at our organizations, our desires and emotions need to be kept in check.
In running their organization's e-mail division, a large goverment agency's IT department acknowledged e-mail as one of their top three most important applications. There was a team of people making sure there are no hiccups. Everything ran smoothly, although there were a few issues that were reported but were consider minor.
Some users complained that out-of-office notifications that are usually set up by employees when they are out of office for a couple of days, or on vacation, arrive to their mailbox late. Instead of prompt delivery, they often arrive in bulk at the end of the day. This behavior creates a problem: without an immediate notification that a person who is needed is not accessible, work gets delayed. By the time it becomes known, generally through investigation, that the person is out of the office, it is often too late and e-mail notification is no longer needed.
Some users also noticed that, when they forward an e-mail to their personal e-mail account outside of the organization, it arrives hours late. Since most users only do such actions in an emergency - they are unable to access their corporate e-mail, or need to send an urgent reminder to their spouse - they depend on forwarded e-mail arriving quickly.
Contrastingly, when they forward e-mail from their personal account to their corporate account, sometimes their e-mail returns back to them with an error stating it could not be delivered. In such cases, people will just forward their e-mail again, and most likely this time it will go through. However, for someone in charge of the e-mail division, this should raise a red flag for immediate investigation, because it could signify that random incoming e-mails are not getting through, which could have disastrous consequences should a client's crucial e-mail be refused and returned as undeliverable.
We are all engrossed with our every-day tasks, observing our work environment from inside out, and as such we may be more inclined to dismiss such user complaints as wrong. We instead focus on upgrading our systems and applications to the latest versions so that we can report to our executive management how we are in line with the industry.
To be able to take advantage of all the helpful people who report their experiences to us, we need to remember our priorities:
Our clients are our colleagues. Although they may not be computer savvy, their work ultimately contributes to the organization. We need to treat them as sincerely as we would treat the external client. If someone reports a problem or an issue - and especially if more than one person reports the same complaint - it is our duty and in the best interest of the organization to investigate.
Ask around, informally, about the services you provide. People will often disclose what is bothering them if you are willing to listen. They may also have valid suggestions to improve the service. Such conversations can be invaluable to the merit your group brings to the organization.
Send out formal surveys about a service to enable people to rate it. Be open-minded. Remember, you have to see your service from your customers' point of view. Insisting on enabling features which your users do not see as valuable only makes the services more complex. Instead, look for common patterns in users. demands. Help them be more productive, and you will bring enormous value to your organization.
Know Your Priorities
Do not focus on technology for the technology's sake. While it is important to be abreast with software and applications, technology itself is not the be-all and end-all of an organization. There should be a balance among having the latest technology, making sure that what is in place now works well and helping employees do their job by leveraging technology. Always look at your services from the client's perspective. It will give you incomparably powerful insights.
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