Granted, the truth is there have been plenty of times that IT and HR deliver solutions that are doppelgangers (not-so-nice imitation of a real solution). Sometimes the staff in these areas do not behave as if the rest of the company is their reason for being. With all the cost and time pressures, it's easiest to deliver almost good-enough solutions - who will know the difference?
My company is a consulting and training company. We believe that we deliver fun, fast, flexible and measurable learning/performance to individuals who are a critical part of important organizations. While on the plane to one of these gigs, I read about freeguitarvideos.com. You pay $29.95 (was $69, on sale now!) for Jody Worrell to show you how to play like Eric Clapton, using their DVD and book. There is a huge list of other guitar players you can learn to imitate. I have played a little classical and acoustical guitar, so this sounded cool. I thought about trying it and it scared me. We do not do guitar training but the premise is the same. Can my company compete with a $29 DVD and book? If we cannot prove that we add value, we cannot negotiate anything but price. My company structure, focused on customer service, delivery expertise and experiential learning, is too expensive to drive products that cost $29. Important CEO question: what is the value I must deliver and differentiate to prove to my customers that the extra dollars are well worth it?
Similar discussions rage in IT. Here is a piece that is getting lots of praise and creating angst written by Info-Tech Research Group:
In the early 1900′s, big companies often had a Vice President of Electricity. Securing large amount of power was a big deal, complex generators, technicians, engineers were required to operate them, and someone senior needed to be in charge of all of that.
There are no longer VPs of Electricity. Is it possible that in the
accelerating future there will be no VP of IT? That technology will belong to everyone, easily delivered and only noticed when it is not there? Is the role of IT more complex than that? The Electricity department disappeared when power companies standardized the whole process and built the infrastructure so each company would not have to. Outsourced. As one of my friends says "Don't grow a career around something that can be done by someone else for less money somewhere else."
A Forrester study of 900 end users and 900 IT professionals, in January 2013, found, for example, that 84% of business users experienced a severe or moderate impact on their ability to be productive on a monthly basis, as a direct result of IT issues. 14% experienced difficulties at least once per day. The study also revealed that there is a large gap between how the business thinks about IT and how IT thinks about itself. The difference varies regionally, between 13 to 16 percentage points. Is this a valid argument for the CIO position or an angry cry from the 'users' that more value is expected and might be found elsewhere? There are two trends in our personal lives going away from commoditization. The growth of small, independent restaurants that provide an intimate and exclusive experience is booming. Here in Indy we have invented a made-up neighborhood, SoBro, to keep our cool restaurants in, although they are sprouting up everywhere. As a similar example, McDonald's and Starbucks continue to convince me that I need to pay a lot more for coffee, clearly a commodity prior to the idea of baristas. They have both added value that has driven my purchase choices and speed is not the value. It seems that in a world of instant everything, we still crave and live for connection with people and a sense of community.
There is a growing attention to mindfulness, emotional intelligence and learning to stop. Check out the current cover of TIME. People are hungry to connect, this is illustrated well in a piece from The Harvard Crimson, referring to Drake, a classmate who had tragically died:
I am no saint; I neglect my parents and have my fair share of grumpy days. It is easy to prioritize other things in the midst of midterms and financial crises. As we get older those distractions become still stronger, and it becomes even easier to keep to ourselves. But I try to remember that the fragility of our existence is all the more reason to cherish every day, to make the effort to connect with others. One of the speakers at Drake’s funeral said this of his life: “Rather than being counted in days, his was better measured in lives touched.” An admirable goal for us all.
Anneli L. Tostar ’15, a Crimson news writer, is an anthropology concentrator in Eliot House. I was recently honored to design and deliver a one day facilitated session called Focused Performance for McDonald's. Focused Performance Course Information.pdf In this session, we defined strategy, prioritized projects using the strategy, then boiled it all down to a daily to-do list. We discussed strengths and motivators as an organization that could create blind spots and lack of focus. Below are some questions to get all of us thinking more clearly about our value and how that value drives connection between humans. We invite you to learn in community by sharing your answers below at our virtual community or email them to us.