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IT, IT Leadership

Who is IT’s Most Important Customer? What role does this play in Innovation?

Picture1Who should IT focus on as it’s customer? The internal customer within a business unit? An external business the company sells to? Or the end consumer of your product or service? Is this a question of governance, focus or requirements? What does this have to do with innovation?

The intent of this article is to generate discussion and get your views on how IT should behave. To get things started I will provide some thoughts and ideas.

Is this about Governance, Focus or Requirements?

The simple answer to that question is all three. IT needs clarity around all three to succeed.

Unless the customer clearly defines why a project is being undertaken, what the business case and requirements are, and the project has appropriate ownership within a business function, then it is highly likely to fail (see my earlier article “Implementing Technology for the Right Reasons“). So the stakes are very high and IT needs to clearly know the role of the various customers in order to define what is needed and to be successful.

The Internal Customer view

The internal customer (usually a business function or operating company within the enterprise) is usually the owner of the project, developing the business case, providing funding for the project and leading the business ownership and governance. They should also be defining the all important detailed requirements.

But…… do they really know the full picture or are they making assumptions? Do they really know what the external customers need? This may limit the success of the project or lead to missed opportunities.

The Business to Business (B2B) Customer

This may be a large or small company that you sell your products or services to and are likely to be where your business generates its income.

What do they actually need? Is this being assumed based on your internal viewpoint or being verified with the B2B customer? Has anyone actually asked them?

  • How can you improve your relationship with your B2B customer through better information, integration or services?
  • What problems does your customer need to solve that you could help them with? 
  • What opportunities could this present?

The End Consumer

If you are a manufacturer this is likely to be the ultimate customer and consumer of your product or service. Are you making assumptions as to what they need or has research been undertaken to clarify?

  • What do they need? For example, do they need product information, hints and tips etc?
  • How can you get your customer to help you?
  • How can you connect customers with each other, so that they can help each other?
  • How can you connect with them directly? For example, via Social Media.
  • What can you learn? For example, how are customers using your products, what are they finding that is good or bad. Are they using your products in ways you had not thought of?
  • How can you use this information to sell more, increase your profit or improve your products/services?
  • How can you improve brand loyalty?

How is this connected to Innovation?

Some aspects of the above may not apply to you, you may deal direct with your end consumer, however, the principles and questions above are still relevant.

IT needs to go beyond the requirements of the internal customer and avoid making assumptions or being short sighted. Only by truly understanding the needs of all customers involved will IT be able to identify opportunities and game changers that will lead to new innovations and drive new revenue streams into the business.

So next time you are starting a new project, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the customer here? What do they really need?
  • What are their pain points? How can you help solve those issues?

Do you agree with the ideas above? Please provide your views and examples.

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