Tag Archives: Service Management

Future-Proofing Higher Education With Employee Experience

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Higher education is facing many obstacles. The entire industry has shifted over the last few years and many higher education institutions are having to adjust how they operate to meet those changes. This article will explore how employee experience and good service management can help higher education institutions overcome those obstacles.

The Changes in Higher Education

One of the biggest changes in higher education is the shifting student demographic. Just a few years ago, student populations were made up of 18-22-year-olds, who lived on campus, went to school full-time, and were working toward a 4-year degree. Today, many students are adult learners, part-time students or taking classes completely online. Many individuals are questioning whether a traditional higher education degree is worth the financial burden and are opting out of traditional higher education altogether.

Additionally, students on campus are dealing with different struggles than past students. Many students are forced to balance multiple jobs while in school to make ends meet. This has resulted in students struggling with increased financial pressure and higher education has become plagued with mental health problems.

And on top of all of those changes, higher education is struggling with decreased funding, increased competition, and budget cuts. Higher education institutions must find innovative and cost-effective ways to engage current, prospective, and past students. The best, easiest and smartest way to do that is by engaging their employees.

The Need for Engaged Employees

Perhaps most worrisome among higher education institutions is that they are struggling with employee engagement. Simply stated – many higher education faculty and staff members are not engaged. Gallup performed a detailed study on employee engagement across several industries. After performing 258 million interviews including 75,000 with faculty and staff members, Gallup found that just 34% of faculty and staff within higher education are engaged at work. This engagement score is lower than most of the industries that Gallup measures.

Unengaged employees could be costing institutions at the bottom line. The faculty are often the institution’s frontline for their students. An engaged faculty can provide students with tools they need to overcome the obstacles they’re facing, which will not only help students stay at the institution, but can help create a dedicated and successful alumni network.

Also, engaged employees are more likely to stay at the institution. Studies have shown that focusing on employee engagement can result in better retention rates and cost savings over time. In fact, according to the American Council on Education, Iowa State University estimates an average savings of more than $83,000 per faculty member retained when engagement practices are applied. Employee turnover can be costly – so imagine how much that adds up over time when good faculty members are retained!

The Institution’s Role in Employee Experience

The question is what can the institution do to support employee experience? Mike Bollinger, global AVP of thought leadership and advisory services for Cornerstone OnDemand notes, “Faculty and staff members help create the student experience, and it’s up to the institution to provide their employees with the learning curriculum, professional development opportunities and recognition they deserve to help both higher education employees and their students succeed.”

Higher education institutions can leverage technology and services to create a better employee experience that includes professional development, learning opportunities, and better operational management.

Digital is an obvious choice for most of these experiences. Higher institutions are already successfully implementing digital-first experiences like digital workflows, online onboarding, training programs, and online learning management systems.

But future-proofing higher education with employee experience requires more than creating digital-first experiences. Technology alone won’t guarantee an exceptional employee experience. Good service management is necessary. The service management I’m referring to is not just IT service management. I’m referring to the holistic approach of delivering value through the use of services, based on the use of technology. Some refer to this as Enterprise Service Management. Whether you call it Enterprise Service Management, service management, or IT service management, one thing needs to remain the same: you must focus on how organizations can co-create value and then deliver that value using technology.

What can higher education leaders do to create exceptional employee experiences?

Institutions must acknowledge the silos that exist among their faculty and staff before they can begin to consider the technological needs. Silos are culturally embedded in higher education institutions. There are silos between faculty and staff. There are silos among adjuncts, full-time professors and tenured professors, as well as, silos among departments. Working to create open lines of communication and to empower the entire institution to collaborate to run higher education as a business. It’s important that both faculty and staff adapt their thinking and actions in terms of value and outcomes instead of activities and things.

This is where IT can take the lead within an institution. Higher education CIOs can work with the rest of the institution to understand the overall goals and determine how technology can help the institution meet those goals.

There are two steps a CIO can take to begin this process.

Identify, map, and manage value streams
When a CIO maps value streams across the institution and identifies where technology is used to support those value streams, they can begin to identify and eliminate redundant spending and waste. They can also begin to find process improvements that can support better employee experience.

Establish an experience center
An experience center is a little like an expanded IT service desk. It is a single point of contact for reporting and managing service issues. Successful experience centers have well-defined processes supporting defined value streams. The experience center can benefit both the student and the faculty and staff as it supports the entire engagement lifecycle of both the students and the faculty. It reduces any frustrations or problems using technology so they can be quickly solved.

Higher education is evolving and the evolution isn’t going to slow down any time soon. While there are many questions about the future of higher education, one thing that remains certain is that the time is now to engage employees and strengthen the brand, operations and bottom line of an institution. This approach of addressing and improving the employee experience of faculty and staff on the front line can create a ripple effect that will leave the end-users, the students, feeling satisfied, cared for and supported by their institutions.

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AI: The Key To a Human Employee Experience

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Employees expect a personalized experience in their use of technology at work. This is due to the proliferation of technology in our personal lives.

Think about how employees interact with technology at home. When they wake up, they ask Alexa about the weather. They use their smartwatch to track their activity and heart rate throughout the day. They program their lamps to turn on automatically every evening and save their most frequented destinations into Siri for easy navigation.

Since employees know the capabilities of technology, they expect to be able to use technology at work in similar ways. In other words, the employee experience has become “consumerized.” Every process must be digitized and personalized.

While most organizations prefer to focus on customer experience, employee experience is just as important, especially in today’s market. It costs organizations to frequently replace team members, both in productivity and cash. Employee Benefit News reports that it costs 33% of an employee’s salary to replace them. Replacing departing employees rarely happens within a 2 week time period and remaining team members are often overloaded with work in the interim, causing them stress and costing the organization productivity.

Additionally, employees are more likely to leave after shorter tenures with a company. Workers are now job-hopping more often, typically staying at a company for less than 2 years. 64% of all adults in the workforce favor job hopping, which is a 22% increase from four years ago according to a survey by Robert Half.

If organizations want to attract high-level candidates and retain their best workers, they have to prioritize employee experience. Luckily, technology, especially AI, can help provide a better employee experience and perhaps, even a more human one.

It sounds counterintuitive – the idea that machines and robots can create a more human, interconnected employee experience. But it’s true. I’ll examine a few ways that AI can create a more human experience for employees.

Let’s start with one of the simplest but most important parts of the employee experience.

Listening to employees is one of the most effective ways leaders can provide a quality employee experience. In fact, according to a 2016 study by the Center for Generational Kinetics, managers can improve employee retention 75% just by listening to and addressing employee concerns. In small organizations, it’s not too difficult to do this. You can gather everyone into the same room and have a conversation about needs and wants. However, for larger organizations, it’s difficult to listen at scale to what employees want without the help of AI.

Standardized employee surveys are helpful for understanding how your organization compares to others in your industry but they rarely provide insight into the individual employee experience. However, AI-enabled surveys can help managers understand the unique needs of each employee. AI-enabled surveys can present qualitative, open-ended questions and can provide deeper learnings by utilizing sentiment analysis. If an employee answers negatively to a specific question, AI can trigger a follow-up question that will provide deeper insight into why that person responded negatively. This gives the manager an opportunity to act on the feedback and follow up with all of the details.

There are several AI-enabled communication analysis tools such as ADP Compass and Humu that can do this on a regular basis. These tools review anonymized emails and Slack conversations and will analyze keywords and word patterns to give managers insights on employee morale.

Other tools can track job performance and employee surveys and create suggestions for managers on when to provide positive recognition.

Another area where employees can use a human element to their employee experience is training and professional development. According to Gallup, professional career growth is a top job priority of 87% of millennials and it’s just as important to 69% of non-millennials.

But employees need more than online courses or quarterly workshops. Everyone learns differently and organizations can provide personalized learning experiences with the help of AI and machine learning.

Machine learning can determine how every individual employee learns and can suggest specific learning methods to managers so the manager can create a personalized training. AI can also be used to gamify learning opportunities that can engage employees. AI will provide managers with results and insights into the performance of their teams and help with planning for future training opportunities.

We’re just at the beginning of an AI-enabled workplace, but leaders should be looking now into how they can tap into the data that AI/ML can provide about their employees. The use of AI provides management with continual opportunities to engage on a personal level in response to continual employee feedback.

Before you start deploying these tools though, HR, the C-suite, and IT must collaborate to learn how best to manage these tools. The introduction of AI may cause some concern among employees and can take on a “big brother” quality if it’s not managed properly.

Enterprise service management best practices such as identifying and mapping value streams, creating collaborative, inter-departmental processes, and determining the proper metrics for success will ensure that your employee engagement technology will deliver the outcomes you want to achieve.

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What Should Your Customer Experience Look Like & How Do You Get There?

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Recently, I’ve been sharing about customer expectations and while understanding those expectations is important, you also have to have a plan for how to meet those expectations.

I am referring to the customer experience, of course. The customer experience includes every touchpoint a customer has as they interact with a brand. Customer experience has always been important. But as the world grows increasingly digital, brands are tasked with understanding and mapping the multi-channel experience that customers go through with brands.

And there’s a reason companies spend time, money and effort on mapping and optimizing these experiences. In short: they matter. Forrester found that from 2011 to 2015, revenues for companies that scored near the top of the Forrester CX Index™ outgrew the group of companies that scored poorly by more than 5 to 1.

As brands become focused on the customer experience, they are turning to a new ally, who previously has not been involved in customer experience: the CIO.

The CIO & The Customer Experience

Historically, the CIO has had little to do with the customer experience. The business leaders like sales, marketing and business development would meet to map out the experience and then, they’d ask IT to build what they needed to create that experience. But times have changed.

In a recent KPMG Survey, more than half of the CIOs surveyed reported that enhancing the customer experience is the most important business issue that boards want IT to work on.

The fact is, the CIO needs to be involved with the customer experience these days. CIOs understand the technical limitations of new technologies as well as understand current in-house capabilities. Instead of the business guessing what is possible, IT needs to work with them to create solutions that are achievable.

What A Quality Customer Experience Looks Like?

The question is, of course, what does a quality customer experience look like? If we refer back to the emerging customer expectations that I discussed in this article, a few things become clear.

The first is that customers want a “contextual, intuitive and experiential engagement.” Another way to phrase this is to design a low-effort experience.

What’s a low effort experience? To answer that, let’s first look at a high effort experience.

A customer calls a customer service line. They have the option to wait on hold for an undetermined amount of time or to have the company call them back when it’s their turn. The customer chooses to wait on hold. They wait on hold for 17 minutes when a representative finally gets on the line, asking for the person’s information. The customer then waits another minute while the representative pulls up their information and asks what the problem is. The customer explains their issue. The representative provides a textbook response that doesn’t meet the customer’s needs. The customer asks for another resolution. The representative tells them they have to transfer them to a manager. The customer then waits another few minutes on hold. Once transferred, the manager again asks for the customer’s information and the customer again waits while the manager pulls up their file. The manager tries to provide the same answer the representative does but the customer asks for another resolution. After a few minutes of back and forth, the manager tells them they will try to find another solution and that they’ll email them with a solution within a few days after they have spoken to the appropriate department.

This may sound convoluted but it happens all of the time! I’m sure many of us have encountered similar experiences when dealing with customer service problems. Consider what the customer has to endure during this exchange: multiple wait times, hearing the same information repeated, resolution to be delivered in a different format than the initial exchange. In other words, it’s a high-effort experience for the customers. According to Gartner, 96% of customers who encounter this type of interaction will become disloyal to a company.

The trick to creating low-effort experiences is to lead with the benefits or solutions to customers’ problems over the technology.

For example, if your customers want faster issue resolution, then your organization should turn to real-time text or voice chatbot that is readily accessible for customers at scale.

If customers need more information prior to purchase, consider enhancing your mobile experience or incorporating augmented reality tools so customers can visualize products in their offices or homes.

If your customers want a more personalized experience, focusing on consumer data collection and organization will be your best priority.

There is no one size fits all to delivering exceptional customer experience. It’s about listening to your consumers, paying attention to their needs and then, creating services, incorporating technology and designing processes to fit those needs.

How To Get There?

To point you in the right direction of how to create exceptional customer experiences, I am going to end this article with a question:

How do you think employee experience shapes the customer experience?

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Are You Prepared to Meet Customer Expectations in 2020?

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In November 2018, I examined a few ways customer expectations have changed due to technology and what organizations, especially IT, need to know to stay competitive. Today, we reflect on how those expectations have changed in a short amount of time.

Customers, technology, new expectations. Let’s start off talking about a company that failed to pay attention to any of those things.

Long before we could access almost any TV show and movie from the simple click of a remote, Blockbuster reigned supreme. Anyone born before the mid-1990s probably has memories of heading down to the video store in hopes of finding a new release or a beloved classic. Of course, you never knew what would be checked out so you had to hope for the best. After you picked out and paid for your movies, you’d head home and watch it almost immediately. Because you had to return the thing a few days later to avoid those late fees!

But then in 1997, Netflix came along. And remember, before you could instantly stream thousands of movies to your TV, you could request certain DVDs online and Netflix would send them to you. And then you could send them back whenever you wanted. No late fees! This was revolutionary and it upended the video rental industry.

But Blockbuster failed to catch on. They failed to innovate. They failed to use the technology that was becoming available to them and they failed to meet the expectations their customers now had for their products.

Today, Netflix is booming and Blockbuster is long gone.

It’s easy to look back in retrospect and point out where Blockbuster failed. It’s easy to wonder how they failed to pay attention to the writing on the wall. But, of course, we enjoy the benefit of knowing how the future unfolded. Blockbuster didn’t recognize the impact of technology and, when I think about it, I can actually understand how they failed. At its peak in the mid-90s, Blockbuster had 65 million registered customers and was valued as a $3 billion company. They probably thought that they had happy customers, millions of them, in fact. They might have assumed that if they could just keep most of those millions of customers happy the same way they had been for over a decade, then they could endure some flashy competition.

The problem was not the competition, though. It was their customer’s expectations and their failure was marked because they refused to pay attention to the changing expectations of the marketplace.

While every industry is different, there are several overarching customer expectations that every organization should know.

Instant Response & Seamless Communication

Consumers don’t contact brands like they used to. They won’t call a hotline or sit on hold for hours. Now, they interact with brands just as they would interact with friends or family, through texting, social media, email or messenger. And no matter how they communicate, customers want an instant response. 40% of consumers expect a customer service response within an hour. (And yes, this means on the weekend too!)

Organizations must have the technology for instant response and seamless communication with their customers. Whether it’s incorporating chatbots, creating auto-response tools or using AI, you can’t afford to keep your customers waiting.

Easy Access to All Their Data

A decade ago, consumers understood if they had to be put on hold while you transferred them to another department or waited while you found their file in the filing cabinet.

But things have changed. Fitness trackers provide consumers with a wealth of data about their bodies just by glancing at their watch. Customers can open up Google, type in a word or two and have answers in seconds. Consumers have almost instant access to data these days. They expect your organization to do the same. They simply don’t have the patience for you to transfer them to the right department, dig for their info or wait for access from a superior to their data. Furthermore, you can’t afford to be relying on manual methods of data entry or note-taking inside a customer’s file. Every interaction needs to be automatically tracked. Your organization must have the ability to easily, securely and quickly access every customer data.

Delivery Times

Amazon changed expectations regarding delivery times. In 2015, 63% of consumers surveyed felt that 3-4 day shipping was fast. In 2018, that number dropped to 25%. And while many small businesses would love to gripe that it’s hard to compete with the biggest retailer in the world, griping will do very little to change the situation. Customers don’t care if they are ordering from a billion-dollar company or from a small shop made up of 10 employees. They expect faster delivery time.

This means organizations have to improve efficiency for every piece of the process that leads up to the actual delivery. From processing the order to packaging, organizations need to improve their process, optimize their technology and push themselves to be as fast and efficient as possible to meet demand.

Device-hopping

Consumers go from browsing on their phones to their tablets to their computers and back again. The experience with your brand needs to be consistent no matter what device someone is on. This means a mobile-friendly website, ordering system and contact forms. Everything you publish and promote needs to be accessible and easy to understand from any screen size.

These expectations are not easy to meet. The pressure is intense for every organization but I encourage organizations to look at more than the expectation but the need behind the trend to stay ahead.

Netflix didn’t succeed because they used technology to mail out DVDs. They succeeded because they understood their customers wanted convenience. Customer expectations are born because organizations pay attention to what customers want and need. Whether its speed, convenience, comfort, customer service or quality, there is a need or a want behind every new customer expectations.

Organizations, especially the IT department, should be listening to their consumers and identifying their underlying needs. If they can do this, then they can identify the best services, create better processes and find the right technology to deliver those services, meeting not only these customer expectations but any expectations that might arise in the future.

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Focusing on Technology May Kill Your Business

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I know the technology wishlists of many CEOs. They want newer technology, faster technology and the shiniest, most fully-featured tools. While technology is not a bad thing to have on any wishlist, it shouldn’t be at the top of it and it absolutely shouldn’t be the only thing on that wishlist.

It’s 2020 and there’s no need to explain why organizations need technology. But I think organizations should be cautioned about the hyperfocus of technology that exists today.

I hear a familiar story time and time again when I work with clients. They poured all of their money and effort into a tool hoping it would solve their problems, only to find, months later, that they still have all of their problems…only now they have less money and, now, an expensive tool.

Technology can’t solve all of our problems. If you’re focusing too much on your technology, you just might be killing your business.

My Thoughts on Technology

Before you head to the comment section to tell me I’m wrong, I want to make clear that technology can be a huge asset to an organization. Technology can make an organization more efficient and streamlined. It can decrease overhead costs and enable increased revenue. It can shorten production times, improve customer and employee communication and, in general, help a business run better.

However, that’s only if the technology is managed properly. Technology is a tool. You absolutely need it to grow and scale a business. But if you’re not managing it properly, then it’s going to cause more headaches than ease.

I like to use the simplistic analogy of building a house. If you start hammering the nails into your house using the head (or top) of the hammer, instead of correctly hammering using the face (or front) of the hammer, then you’ll still be using the tool and you still will be building a house. But it’s going to take you longer and it will require more effort to actually complete the process. And it won’t help if you buy a new, fancier, shinier hammer because you’re not managing the hammer the way it should be managed.

The same can be said for the technology in a business. If you have a shiny new tool but you or your team is not using it to its full capacity, you’re still going to struggle with the same problems you had before that shiny new tool.

Instead, CIOs and CEOs need to look at a few other factors before the technology.

Business Strategy

Before you invest any money into technology, you need to ask yourself: what is this technology supposed to do for the business? What is the strategy behind the deployment of this technology? Can you link the impact of this technology to the bottom line of the business?

IT must be a strategic partner with the other members of the C-suite and be invested in how every initiative depending on technology delivers on the bottom line. With this clear view of what’s happening within the organization and how different efforts are contributing to the growth of the business, IT will be in a better position to create a business strategy for the uses of technology.

The People

Technology may help manage a business but it’s people who manage the technology and people often need management themselves. Working in IT can feel like a thankless job and it comes with a large amount of pressure and stress. IT practitioners can become burnt out, jaded and indifferent to their work without proper management.

One of the best things a CIO can do for their IT team is to ensure they are in the right mindset to manage technology. Practitioners should have a solid understanding of why the technology is needed, the contribution of technology to the business, and how it’s benefiting the business as a whole.

In the past, many IT practitioners have simply acted as gatekeepers, saying “no” to requests, and staying firmly in their lane of working only with technology and avoiding any “business.” IT can no longer operate under these old ways.

IT practitioners now must understand the business of the business. It will help them to better manage the technology and make good decisions about technology that will have a better impact on the business.

The Service & Delivery

Finally, the last question you should ask yourself before turning to the technology is how that technology is managed and delivered. Are the processes in place for managing the technology? Is there documentation for the process? Has your team properly identified and defined the services that are delivered based on the use of technology?

When these important questions go unaddressed, your technology will fail to deliver the (unspoken but) expected outcomes. Technology needs to be properly managed with guidelines, defined processes and measurable and repeatable deliverables. With these things in place, your IT organization will be able to communicate and demonstrate to key stakeholders how the technology is delivering on its promise. Without it, everyone will be left wondering what exactly happened to that IT investment.

Your organization will always require technology. It’s a smart business move to evaluate the best and most fully functioning technology on the market to ensure your business is using the best technology that meets the business need. However, it’s important to remember that technology can’t manage itself. Even the most fully featured AI-enabled technology can’t manage itself. If you focus on how to manage the technology more than the technology itself, then you’ll avoid wasted investments and you can keep your business growing.

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Where Is IT On Your Customer Journey Map?

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In today’s digital world, it’s imperative that organizations create and deliver world-class customer experiences. The Amazons and Zappos of the world have changed how customers want and expect to interact with organizations, especially online. Customers expect continual updates, easy to use self-service options, and streamlined processes, from start to finish.

This means organizations must research, understand and optimize every part of their customer’s journey. This process of documenting a customer’s journey was once thought to be a job for externally-facing departments, such as marketing or customer service.

But this siloed style of operations won’t work today. Today the modern C-suite must work together to create customer journey maps and, most importantly, IT must include themselves on those maps. The good news is that the door is wide open for CIOs to grab this opportunity.

What are Customer Journey Maps?

Before IT can make sure they’re properly included on customer journey maps, let’s address what we are referring to when we discuss these maps.

Customer journey maps are documents that help organizations visualize and understand how they attract and retain customers, and how customers interact with the organization. These documents depict each touchpoint a prospective customer may have with an organization. Touchpoints include interactions like a customer visiting their website, placing an order, contacting customer support, and leaving a review. Customer journey mapping provides a 360-degree view of a customer’s wants and needs.

Why are Customer Journey Maps important?

As I pointed out earlier, customers expect world-class experiences from every organization they interact with, no matter how large or small. According to Oracle’s Customer Experience Impact Report, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a better experience with a brand. They expect a seamless purchase experience and if they don’t find it with your organization, they will quickly go find it somewhere else. The internet has limitless options for today’s consumers, so the best way to win is to provide a flawless experience.

Additionally, we live in an interconnected world, and a bad customer experience often doesn’t stop as soon as the person hits “cancel order.” Many customers will take to social media and review sites to broadcast about the experience, which could negatively impact future sales with other potential customers. According to Temkin, 30% of consumers tell the company after a bad experience. But 50% of those consumers tell their friends, and 15% of those consumers provide feedback online. It’s easy to see how a single bad customer experience doesn’t just impact one customer.

A customer journey map can also reduce the number of assumptions that your organization is likely making about your customers. It’s natural for certain biases to exist when it comes to how your audience interacts with your organization. It’s important to look at the data instead of trusting the beliefs or views of internal teams.

Why does IT need to play a role?

Perhaps a decade ago, it was unlikely that IT would have been a part of these customer journey mapping experiences. But today, IT has to be a part of the exercise because technology is a key component in delivering a seamless customer experience.

For example, one of the leading trends in customer experience is personalization. 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that offer a personalized experience. To create a personalized experience, like offering relevant product suggestions or targeted ads, requires the use of technology to track and store data about a consumer’s behavior. Even though this may sound like a marketing task, it will be IT that will be implementing the technology and managing the data. Therefore, IT must understand why this technology is necessary and have a role in how it should be implemented and leveraged.

What Should IT Do to Be Involved?

Creating a customer journey map is a collaborative project. The best first step any CIO can take to be a part of this project is to break down any silos or any competing goals that may exist with other departments. No single department can “own” the customer journey map. Either everyone is on board and in consensus or you have a flawed map.

The actual creation of the map requires both quantitative and qualitative data. Since CIOs and IT rarely directly interacts with consumers, they won’t have much qualitative data. However, they will have quantitative data found within the systems of engagement and systems of record. The CIO should deliver whatever data they may have about the customer experience, whether that is customer analytics or website data.

Finally, it’s important to remember the overall goal of this experience: it’s to delight the customer in every phase of their journey with you. IT can often hold preconceived notions of what’s the best technology or tool or they can have doubts over whether technology is necessary. These beliefs will only put up roadblocks in the process. Let the needs of the customer drive this process. As Steve Jobs once said back in 1995, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology — not the other way around.” For CIOs to succeed they must open their eyes to the journey the customer is on and then work to support it.

Customer journey mapping is an important exercise that every organization should do and IT shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to help shape the experience for the customer. By bringing the right data, clarifying the needs and understanding the wants, IT can deliver the technology that will enable fantastic customer experiences and support the company in their business goals.

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Is “Busy” Becoming The New Death of IT?

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The word “busy” has become ubiquitous in the business world. It is equal parts an explanation, an apology, and a defense. For IT, it has long been a go-to phrase.

I am worried about the overuse of the word “busy”. “Busy” seems to have become the standard response for any inquiry about IT. I don’t doubt that IT organizations aren’t busy, but if IT is always busy, I worry about what it means for the future of IT.  Unless something changes, IT will be so busy that it will find itself with nothing to do.  The organization will not wait for IT to become less busy – the organization will move ahead without IT.

Anyone who has worked with an IT department will recognize the look of a frazzled, stressed out CIO. She is constantly running in and out of meetings, putting out fires and desperately trying to “catch up.” Some busy CIOs often find that they spend most of their time in “reaction mode”.

The problem with being in a constant state of reaction is that the CIO never seems to have the time to strategize or innovate or think big. Being in a constant state of reaction means that CIOs are always solving yesterday’s problems. You can’t be a leader if you can’t get ahead and you can’t get ahead if your focus is on yesterday.

You may be thinking that IT professionals will be able to leverage technology to avoid busyness and, to a certain degree, I agree. But with newer technology, higher customer expectations, and an ever-increasing reliance on data, IT is trying to balance more work than ever. And technology by itself is not the answer for having balance.

But there is a difference between having a heavy workload and being so busy that you can’t get ahead. “Busy” becomes a death knell for IT when it becomes an excuse. And this excuse is not always intentional. The workload for IT can become all-encompassing and it’s easy to be unable to see through it. 

This is where a great IT leader can emerge. Great leaders can see the future, despite the demands of day to day work. Great leaders choose to focus on solving future problems and does the things today that lead to solving those future problems. The difference between an IT leader who struggles and an IT leader who thrives is the ability to see past the day to day fires and into the greater needs of the organization.

So how can IT leaders create the space they need to be proactive, innovative, and future-focused?

First, a leader must be willing to create this space. It is very easy to fall into the trap of “busy” and assume that you’ll have the opportunity to plan, strategize, and innovate next month or next quarter or next year. Things will not change without making the conscious decision that something must change.

It’s not as simple as just adding additional resources, bringing in partners, or outsourcing parts of the IT organization. These actions will only serve to put a band-aid on the issue. Taking these actions will only create the illusion that IT suddenly has the additional capacity or that the issues that caused IT to be “too busy” have been addressed. 

So, what is the answer?  Rather than manage the IT “supply”, manage the IT demand.  The organization must understand the demand it is placing on IT. It may even mean reducing the demand on IT to enable IT to improve on time-to-value targets that it simply cannot meet due to excessive demand.

Running IT must change from a supply and demand approach to a demand and supply approach.  Rather than continue to try to match the supply of IT to demand, the approach must change to match demand for IT to supply.  In other words, rather than trying to force demand for IT into a limited supply, the demand for IT drives supply.  This may look like a subtle difference, but it represents a significant shift in the way many organizations interact with their IT departments. Demand for IT must drive capacity – not expose the capacity limitations of IT. And if the organization does not want to increase capacity, then it must limit demand.

Yes, DevOps and Scrum are demand-driven approaches. But unless the entire organization adopts an agile approach, it is only a local optimization – IT is optimizing only what IT does – and local optimizations are not sustainable.  I would even argue that such an approach will likely increase the demand on already-constrained resources.  DevOps and Scrum only help IT react to demand – it does little to influence or control that demand.

What will it take to shift to a demand-driven approach to IT?

First, IT must be elevated from being viewed as a technical support function to a strategic business partner.  This will require a mind shift – both from the executive perspective as well as the IT perspectives –. With technology now such an integral part of every part of every business, IT has to be involved and directly present in the strategic planning of the organization.

If IT isn’t already doing so, IT must develop and maintain its service portfolio.  Just like the enterprise is maintaining a product and services portfolio to facilitate good decision-making, the IT portfolio depicts how investments in IT relate to business outcomes and value co-creation.  Additionally, the IT portfolio also illustrates on-going operational costs, or the cost of the “care and feeding” of existing solutions that are often overlooked when organizations take on new initiatives The IT portfolio is a crucial tool in helping the organization understand current demand as well as the impact of new or potential demand.

Lastly, organizations must commit to the effective governance of IT to ensure that the organization achieves its desired outcomes. In 2013, Cognizant stated that more than 50% of IT investments are wasted or failed to deliver expected returns to the organization. Effective IT governance results in improved organizational risk management and alignment of IT investments with organizational objectives. When it comes to demand, effective IT governance balances resources, ensuring adequate IT support is available for current and future IT demand.

This shift will require commitment from the C-suite, especially from the CEO and the CFO. Executives may not understand why managing IT demand will help them move faster into the future. In order to explain this, CIOs need to understand the business priorities, outcomes and how technology impacts them. This means meeting demand with the appropriate capacity and capability, IT wants to help the organization succeed, but in order to do that and not miss out on market opportunities, the demand for IT must be met with the appropriate capacity and capability. Simply scaling up demand cannot be the way forward.

This idea of managing demand may sound unrealistic, but it actually is the best path toward the future. The other option, of course, is for IT organizations to continue being “too busy”. Taking this route means that IT will end up staying busy until the C-suite gets fed up that IT can’t take on more work. While “busy is good”, if IT is too busy, IT will end up busying itself out of relevance in the organization.

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What CIOs Can Learn From CMOs

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The CIO-CMO relationship has had a rocky history. The two are often at odds with what they need to accomplish and historically, they’ve never spoken the same language.

But there has been a shift in recent years. As marketing became more digitized, more marketing departments became focused on technology and data while IT departments face increasing pressure to deliver tangible business outcomes.

As digital transformation becomes more widespread across organizations, CIOs and CMOs must play on the same team. CIOs and CMOs are perfectly positioned to become a couple of all-star players within organizations – if they learn to work together.

How can CIOs and CMOs successfully work together to lead their organizations into the digital future? It starts with mutual respect, appreciation, and understanding of what each can learn from the other.

What can CIOs learn from CMOs? Here are four important lessons.

 

Customer Experience

Marketers must know their customers. They are deep in customer data, on top of consumer feedback and they keep a pulse on what the consumer expects from the industry. In short, CMOs are experts in the customers and IT can learn from that.

Customers are looking for more personalized support and solutions and self-service options. Technology can give customers all of those things but only if that technology has the right data. Marketing has the data that IT needs to create technology that will improve the overall experience.

Analytics and Testing

There are no silver bullets in marketing – just like there are no silver bullets in IT. So CMOs and their teams must hypothesize, measure, test, iterate and measure some more. CMOs know they have to have fluidity in their testing and launch phases. They also must adjust their analytics depending on a specific marketing campaign and its goals.

IT teams often get stuck in strict processes that leave no room for experimentation or testing. This usually leads to reduced productivity and IT teams end up feeling stuck performing processes that are inefficient. CIOs can take note as to how CMOs choose their KPIs, identify analytics, and use data to quickly adjust marketing campaigns – and apply these learnings c to IT initiatives.

Agility

IT has had a reputation for being slow to respond or quickly deliver new solutions. Marketing can’t afford to be slow or unresponsive to changes in the marketspace, especially in the digital age where things can (and do) change at lightning speeds. IT needs to take note because, in this age, both IT and marketing are expected to be able to react quickly to meet changing business expectations. Success is always a moving target and both teams must be agile and forward-thinking to keep pace with changing demands.

CIOs can learn how their CMO counterparts adapt to quickly changing markets and expectations. Understanding how CMOs prioritize projects, allocate budgets and resources, and lead their teams to hit their goals, even when the strategy or tactics change, can provide CIOs with great learnings in what it means to be agile.

The Language of the Business

This might be one of the most important lessons a CMO can teach a CIO. CMOs have always been measured by ROI. So CMOs have always had to learn to show how all of their initiatives can increase ROI.

IT, on the other hand, rarely had to demonstrate ROI in the past. They were back-office support teams. But that’s changed now and IT must shift from cost center to revenue generator. To do this, they must learn to speak the language of the business and prove ROI.

CIOs should pay attention to how their CMO colleagues pitch their initiatives, explain their results, and the metrics they use to measure success.

The Future of CIOs and CMOs

The CIO-CMO relationship can be mutually beneficial. When CIOs and CMOs work together, they can champion each other’s initiatives, encourage their teams to collaborate with one another, and create inter-departmental workflows and processes so they work more efficiently and with better results.

If you want to develop the CIO-CMO relationship, these tactics can help.

Find a common language
It’s essential that CMOs and CIOs understand how to communicate with one another. That means having open and on-going conversations about objectives and business needs. Both the CIO and CMO need to discuss jargon or what certain phrases mean within each department. If you are able to communicate openly and understand where each other is coming from, you’ll be prepared to take the next steps.

Align CIO and CMO outcomes
After you learn to speak the same language, ensure you stay in-sync on achieving shared goals. Hold joint meetings on a regular basis to ensure strategies are aligned, and share data and findings regarding the critical interfaces between technology and customer experiences.

Facilitate team collaboration
CIOs and CMOs may make the big decisions but it’s their respective team members that do the work. Therefore, the IT and marketing teams must learn to work together as well. As leaders, CIOs and CMOs must create opportunities for collaboration between the two departments such as holding regular co-department meetings, creating joint projects or inter-department workflows, or hosting joint brainstorming sessions.

The digital revolution is changing the way the business does business and it’s impacting every department – not just IT. But in many companies, it’s the marketing departments that are pioneering the use of emerging technologies to lead a company’s digital efforts. For CIOs and CMOs to be the all-star players the company needs, they need to work together and learn from one another.

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5 Signs You’re Not Ready for AI

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We’re inundated with headlines about the power of artificial intelligence (AI) these days. AI is everywhere and most businesses know they will need to adopt it soon, if they haven’t already. A recent study from Gartner shows that 37% of organizations have implemented AI in some form. That’s a 270% increase in the past four years!

I suspect that there are many CIOs feeling the pressure from their boards or C-suite peers to implement AI-related technologies. But even with the increase in the number of companies implementing AI doesn’t mean that every organization should hop aboard the AI train right now.

AI isn’t something that you can just pop out of the box and have it work effectively. Like most technologies, it requires a little preparation. Trying to implement AI in an organization that isn’t ready is a disaster waiting to happen.

How do you know if your organization isn’t ready for AI? Look for these signs.

 

5 signs you're not ready for AI

Your processes are undocumented or unclear

You can’t just “turn on” AI and expect it to magically – and instantly – solve problems or take on those tedious, repetitive manual tasks in your organization. The algorithms that power AI can only do what they’re told to do. This means that AI needs processes – and not just any processes. Your processes need to be clear, well-defined, and well-documented.

Organizations that are ready for AI have already identified and eliminated any convoluted parts of their processes. They’ve discovered and corrected gaps in process definitions. They’ve addressed process issues that caused human intervention and eliminated any waste or bottlenecks. They’ve already documented and polished their processes so that when they are ready to automate it, that automation can be implemented easily and quickly.

Your data is a mess

AI-related technologies rely on having data – lots and lots of data. And not just any data but accurate, reliable, relevant, and trustworthy data. One of the ways that the use of AI can be effective is that the algorithms that power AI have relevant and accurate data, in the proper context, on which to take action. If your company has taken a blasé approach to data capture and quality, this is a big red flag for AI adoption. Bad data is one of the main reasons that many AI projects fail.

It’s crucial that an organization has a robust approach to data capture, management, and quality before implementing AI. CIOs and IT leaders should investigate what data they already have, why and how the data is collected, and how that data is maintained.

Like any other technology-related initiative, bad data provided to AI only means bad data – and actions – out. Trying to adopt AI using unreliable data will only result in bad outcomes – only those bad outcomes will happen almost immediately.

Your team is resistant

Even though AI is all the rage, there are many IT professionals who are fearful that AI will automate them right out of a job. Implementing AI is an initiative that requires a purposeful approach to organizational change. If one member of the IT organization is resistant, the entire implementation could be at risk.

Leaders must help their teams understand that implementing AI does not indicate loss of jobs, but that some of the tedious, repetitive work done by people are better suited for AI – freeing up people to do the things that people do best – innovate, create, think, and plan. Associates should be provided with training to grow their skillsets for use in an AI-enabled world.

Communication and transparency across all levels are key for successful AI adoption. It’s important that those who will be working with AI are involved in the implementation process as early as possible. Team members will be more likely to engage and support the initiative when they have all the information upfront about how AI will be used.

There’s no business case for AI

The use of AI is trendy and exciting, but as I’ve pointed out already, AI is not a magic bullet.

It requires an investment of time and money. For an organization to realize the value in AI and for it to be implemented and managed correctly, AI implementation must solve problems that result in improved business outcomes. This is the only way AI is going to provide any ROI.

Yes, there are some eye-catching headlines around the use of AI out there. Don’t chase them. Look for the problems and opportunities in your company where AI use would help. Look for cases where the use of AI meets a need of your business or enables the achievement of a valuable business outcome. No, it may not be the most exciting use of AI – but it will be the most valuable.

You’re afraid to experiment

This is a real fear, especially among IT teams. You are too afraid of failing, so afraid of costing the business money and being unable to show any ROI, that you are paralyzed from experimenting with making AI work in your organization.

There are going to be stumbles and pitfalls along the way with AI adoption. They are unavoidable and inevitable, just like with any new or emerging technology. The key is to fail fast and learn so you can innovate, evolve and continue moving forward. You have to experiment to determine the right data infrastructure, the volume, and quality of the data, and getting the right people into the right roles. Adjustments will be necessary. AI will evolve and your business will evolve with it. Bottom line: be prepared to make those mistakes, find the learning opportunities and share those learnings across the rest of the business.

AI is not a passing fad. It’s only going to become more embedded in our world. So while there may be pressure to begin implementing AI right now, don’t make the mistake of getting in a race you’re not prepared for – it’s the fastest way to lose.

It’s not about being one of the first organizations to use AI. It’s about using AI correctly for your organization. Look for these signs to see if you are ready for AI and fix the foundation before you zoom off into an AI future. By starting from a strong foundation, you’ll be assured of success with AI.

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Does Your Service Desk Need a Tune Up?

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It happens to every CIO eventually. There’s a low grumbling across the organization. It gets mentioned at a few meetings. Other members of the organization take note of it. Then all of a sudden, the word on the street is…..

“The service desk isn’t performing.” (Okay, perhaps that is the family-friendly version…but you know what they’re saying.)

Whether it’s a lack of customer service, it’s taking too long to resolve issues, or there are slow response times, almost every CIO has heard complaints about the service desk.

Of course, no department in any organization runs flawlessly 100% of the time. And technology issues can be one of the most frustrating experiences for professionals (especially when they are not technologically-savvy people). So how can a CIO tell when there’s actually something wrong with the IT department?

In short, how can you tell that your service desk needs a tune-up? CIOs must have a plan to tackle service desk issues and they need to know the right way to do it.

service desk need a tune up

Collect the Right Metrics

No matter how annoying complaints can be, complaints alone may not be enough to initiate a service desk tune-up. CIOs need to obtain the data on their service desks.

The most popular metrics for measuring service desk basics are:

  • Speed to answer
  • Number of contacts logged
  • Average call abandon rate
  • First-contact resolution rate

However, there are many different metrics you can use (and that your service desk tool might track!) but don’t get bogged down in measuring every possible metric. Identify the right ones for your organization and gather the data to determine where the service desk may be struggling from an execution, whether that is a drop-in service levels, decreased user satisfaction, or long resolution times.

It’s also smart to survey end users. This will help identify specific issues that might be plaguing your service desk. These surveys don’t have to be lengthy or complicated. You can simply ask if the user is happy yes or no. If the answer is no, then you can ask the user to elaborate (in their words – an open text box works well for this) or you can follow up afterward.

Of course, metrics only tell you part of the story. Once you have those metrics, you have to dig into each one to understand what’s not working and see the full story of your service desk.

  • Is customer service lacking?
  • Are your processes and procedures out of date or not implemented?
  • Do you have insufficient staff to handle the volume of work?
  • Is there a lack of qualified staff?
  • Is there a lack of collaboration?
  • Is there a separation of roles and responsibilities for different service channels?
  • Are there proper escalation procedures?
  • Are there adequate contact handling procedures?
  • Is end-user support available when and how the end-user wants it?
  • What is the user experience when interacting with the service desk?

Your metrics should give you insight into where the gaps are in your service desk. If they don’t, then it’s time to reevaluate what metrics should be tracked.

Define goals

Once data has been gathered and it’s clear where the service desk currently stands, new goals can be set and communicated to the team. Be inclusive as these new goals are defined – include members of the service desk team as well as people from the user community to help define goals. Collaboratively set KPIs for each goal, establish timelines, milestones, and ideas for how each goal can be met.

Create a Service Catalog

If you don’t have a service catalog, now is the time to create one. Service catalogs can help organize resources, manage expectations, and identify inefficiencies. They also provide transparency between the IT organization and the rest of the business so that colleagues are better informed and equipped to take advantage of IT services.

It’s also important that someone owns the service catalog. Service catalogs are living documents. They are ever-evolving as new technology is purchased, new processes created, systems change, and business needs evolve. If you have an existing service catalog that is out-of-date, then take the time to review and update it.

Provide the Right Training

Often, the service desk technicians don’t know what they don’t know. They’re busy putting out fires or managing an issue until a more senior or skilled technician tech can jump in and resolve the issue. But how much time is this costing your organization? How much more could the organization accomplish if the senior staff was not having to assist as often they do?

Properly trained and enabled technicians to solve more issues without having to escalate up the chain. This results in faster resolution times and happier end users. According to MetricNet, companies that allocate more time to initial and ongoing training have higher first-contact resolution rates. Additionally, advanced or senior technicians can stay focused on larger initiatives.

Technicians can make or break a service desk. Invest in them by offering training courses and certifications.

Invest in Technology or Tools

Finally (and I do mean finally), after you’ve reviewed data, set goals, created or updated your service catalog and trained your team, you may want to consider upgrading your tools or technology. There is no shortage of fantastic service desk software out there and many of those tools can improve your service desk but only after you’ve diagnosed the problem and made adjustments to your team and your services.

Maintaining a service desk is not a one and done type of initiative. It requires consistent monitoring and improvements. While it’s not easy, giving your service desk a tune up is a worthy undertaking!

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