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The path to mature Infrastructure and Operations is through culture?

As the Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas, NV closes, I can’t help feeling a bit of irony in bearing witness to the contrast in culture and atmosphere that this city encompasses relative to the experience many of us have interacting with Information Technology organizations today.

Moving any taboos about Vegas aside, the experience here is about an immersion into a culture of service. From the moment you step into a hotel to the moment you sit down to test your gaming fortunes, your experience is facilitated by professionals whose job it is to ensure you have a good time. Whether greeting you at the door, serving that fine cocktail or dealing your next hand of blackjack, an excellent experience is made possible by people who know how to be of service.

In contrast, many IT organizations today struggle in providing such a positive service experience to those who are seeking to use IT resources for their own productivity. Having some experience of my own in the world of hospitality, I was delighted but not surprised in observing the conference lunch staff have a plan to insure everyone who finished a session around lunch time, was fully accommodated. Each attendee was guided to the next available seat and immediately greeted with a fresh salad, ice tea and warm roll. Careful attention was paid to whether or not I want more or less of something, and if I’m ready for what’s next. Throughout lunch, I experienced a pleasant positive attitude by the attentive wait staff that satisfied my expectations.

What would it take to bring this culture of service excellence to users and organizations? Users of IT resources need the assistance and care of IT professionals so that they can be fully enabled for productivity.

Thankfully, while attending presentations around Infrastructure and Operations, I noticed an ominous theme around what it will take to mature the IT services in organizations today, the message pointed directly to a problem of culture.

In an example of how a change in culture really can transform productivity, Jarrod Green describes in his session, “Kill the IT Service Desk: Create a Business Productivity Team to Transform IT From the Grassroots”, the concept of the Business Productivity Team(BPT). Jarrod discusses business productivity teams having a singular focus on enabling business outcomes through:

1. Extending the capabilities of current and new IT resources
2. Proactive Identification to the solution to a problem
3. Understanding of and alignment with Business Challenges
4. Enabling user self sufficiency and digital literacy
5. Establishing the relationship with the business as a trusted advisor

This savvy service team sounds really excellent! But what does it look like?

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It starts with someone who has knowledge of both technical and business processes. Instead of being an expert up the Ivy tower, they meet the user face to face where they are, leading them in solving their technical problems and teaching them about a new feature or way to do their work faster and smarter. Because a Business Productivity team is customer oriented, they earn the ability to influence by building partnerships and driving the consumption of features in current and new technologies that add value.

Wow, I must have stepped into an imaginary organization whose culture expects nothing less and rewards its professionals well! A pretty serious culture change is necessary in order to facilitate this unique capability.

In working with customers during services engagements, I am often asked by CIOs and IT Management how they can facilitate maturing their organization into   becoming a strategic differentiator in the business they support.  When focused on the evolution of customer service, support and the improvement of end-user experience I often refer to the “Fanatical” Customer Support that differentiates Rackspace in being a market leader of data center and cloud services.   Rackspace’s support model encompasses the spirit of enabling productivity and success as the outcome for its customers.

We can speak endlessly about novel technologies that create all kinds of efficiencies and time saved for users. In order to get the most out of the investment in technology, an evolved IT Service desk that drives productivity and end user satisfaction is needed for that next step toward an extraordinary IT organization.  Within the Operate Practice in Cisco’s Advanced Services,  we strive to help customers achieve the goal of operational excellence in the planning, building and management of their IT Investments.

In my coming posts I will share more about what I think the IT organization of the future, enabled by new cloud tools and processes, will look like. More importantly, I want to bring forward what I think a proactive, inspiring and value-creating culture looks like for both IT teams and the organizations who depend on them.

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