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Serving in an IT department of a non-IT company, I learned over the years one or two things about our business partners, who are our best friend and patrons, at the same time our ultimate source of headaches.

Bittersweet Partnership

After all, my job is to help them to be successful in their fields, in Sales, Marketing, Finance or Service. In a sense, IT department exists only because our business partners need us. And we need them too, to define the requirements and specs, to decide about the business logics, to promote the products we developed, to sponsor our projects, to give us feedbacks for improvements, etc. So, it’s truly a partnership.

However, we constantly fight with our business partners. They want too much from us within unrealistic short time. We insist on an absolutely necessary infrastructure change they don’t understand and consider too risky. We are furious that they keep changing their mind about the requirements in the last minute. They are bitter about the delay of the new release. This list can go on and on.

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Most of the days, we wake up in the morning, brush our teeth, wash face, have a brief breakfast and rush out to work. But, there are some special mornings. When we open our eyes, we start to see the world differently. This morning is one of such for me.

Maybe I have stayed in the development department in a big organization for too long. I was so used to the layback, slow-moving, stable, orderly working style. So, when I had the opportunity to go through a demo session of a competitor’s application yesterday, I was completely shocked, not only by the application, but also by the attitude they treat their work.

We developed our application in a typical “elegant” way of big organization. And they developed their application like a “startup” company.The differences are in sharp contrast. I listed some here:

  • We wait for the requirements being given to us by other departments like Sales or Marketing vs. They go out to talk to frontline Sale people and to customers directly, for example in the trade show, to figure out the requirements firsthand.
  • We are proud of the technologies we used and focus on latest and advanced technologies vs. They are proud of the product itself and focus on how it can satisfy customer needs.
  • We focus on internal architecture design and build for last vs. They focus user interfaces and usability and build to sell.
  • We live with the legacy system and spend a lot of time integrating with it vs. They completely write all the logics in contemporary technologies.
  • We value stability vs. They value innovation
  • We limit our releases per year vs. They release much more frequently
  • We only serve one customer, our business vs. They look for opportunities inside and outside the organization
  • We have never been worried about “selling” our product. We assume the business would take care of it and Sales people will sell it vs. They constantly promot their idea and product to the business. They made the business realize how great their product was by doing the demo, comparing the features and showing the statistics numbers.

It’s a typical example of “fast vs. slow”. In current business environment, the one who can sense the changes ahead of others and quickly adjust itself for the changes will survive.We witness more and more triumphs of the “internal marketing” or “project marketing”. Although we ARE the internal development department, we have to realize the business has choices nowadays. We cannot assume that we are the sole service providers available to the business and they will eat whatever we feed them. Those old golden days for IT are gone!

Business is business. If you would like to survive, you have to go out there and compete. You must build the best product in the market, and constantly market your service to the business leaders. If you don’t do that, the competitors from any corner of the world can come and replace you. So, wake up you old development! Time to act like a young startup now!

Recently, the Quality of the IT services were frequently talked about. Users were yelling about how bad the services are. Crisis showed up everyday. People were running around with the same word in their mouth, “Quality”. A magic word. But how to get it? Let’s take a look at the ITIL way.

What’s Quality?

“Quality is the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils requirements”  – From ISO 9000

“Service Quality is about ensuring customers get what they want” – From Managing Service Quality

We tend to think quality is just the number of defects and production issues. That’s a misleading thinking because it didn’t take in consideration the “customer” factor.

Actually, “Quality” is an interactive term. It’s all about satisfying and exceeding Customer Expectations. Customer is in the center of the Quality Universe.

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The original article was published in Chinese on “IT Times”, a famous magazine in IT field in China. I think there are a lot of merits in it and translated the key points into English.

While we are still discussing the success of eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, and Google in the textbooks in our universities, those Internet Giants actually failed badly in China. On the contrary, their Chinese competitors achieved great successes by going the completely opposite way.Those American Internet websites failed mainly because of their ways of thinking. Even if they have the best people, the biggest capital, the most advanced technologies, they will continue to fail if they don’t change their ways of thinking and their ways of doing things in China. What contribute to their failures then?

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ITIL(Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is the international standard for IT Service Management.  

ITIL Introduction is a presentation I prepared for the managers of my department after I passed the test for ITIL Foundation Certification. I didn’t cover the details of ITIL. In stead, I would like to point out the concepts, like Service, Quality, Measurement, etc., that are deeply rooted in ITIL materials and things that really impressed me and changed my minds.

It was presented in front of a group of mid-level managers. It generated some interests in ITIL, especially the idea of “measurement”. However, since the presentation was too high level and conceptual, it didn’t eventually take off the wide-spread ITIL implementation in my organization.

The lesson learned, you have to follow through your initiative rentlessly!

October 2019
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