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IT transformation is the key to great service

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A disconnect between the IT function and the rest of the business is harming many organisations’ ability to connect with their customers, argues Graham van Terheyden, and it’s time to put it right. The transformation expert explains how business leaders can realise the potential of their IT function – and perform better.

Businesses run on IT. Empowering staff, enabling operations and underpinning customer interactions, it equips them to deliver. But in too many companies, there’s a lack of understanding of what IT really can achieve, and what’s holding it back. At the same time, IT functions are often too far removed from what their business and its customers – both internal and external – actually need.

As a transformation expert specialising in IT, Graham van Terheyden works at an executive level to deliver a cohesive strategy for lasting change. His IT-focused experience enables him to bring businesses and their IT functions closer together, improving performance company wide.

Graham’s first step is simple, but powerful. He uses the Net Promoter Score to get an understanding of how IT is seen within a business. The popular tool is regularly used to gauge external customer satisfaction, but for Graham it reveals a huge amount about relationships with internal customers – and is a strong starting point for drilling down into the key issues.

“One of the problems IT has is that it’s often designed by one group of people, paid for by another and delivered to a front line that doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to feed back,” he says. “I find that using NPS with a cross section of the business is a great way to get into deeper feedback about where the problem areas are.”

A springboard for change

Often, the roots of the problem are the business being unsure about which technologies to invest in, as well as IT being poor at communicating and not understanding business need.

“One of the most beneficial things IT can do is turn the desk around and integrate with the business,” he says. “Just being more open and honest about what IT does – and can do – can improve perception very quickly.”

Graham’s approach is to ensure that the business carries out a detailed analysis of what systems they have and how they benefit the business. It’s then about making a careful evaluation of what IT investment is needed to improve the way the business runs and the way it serves customers. “It’s something companies don’t really do, but they should,” he says.

One of the other big issues Graham sees is that firms struggle to distinguish between the fundamental, day-to-day running of IT that keeps everything working, and the longer-term strategic aspects that add value. Splitting IT along operational-strategic lines ensures dedicated teams can focus on both vital areas.

Graham will also work to change the board’s view of IT, from an expensive burden to an efficient and powerful enabler. “Too often IT is just seen as a necessary cost – like paying the rates – but the big change for me comes when the board sees IT as an investment in doing better for their customers.”

Everything just works

In his experience, Graham says, organisations often find it difficult to get a good handle on what needs to change, what’s easy or hard to do, and what’s expensive or cost-effective. A transformation expert can guide a business smoothly through the process, ensuring the right strategy is in place not only for new systems or hardware, but also for areas like social media and emerging technologies.

Furthermore, because of the cost-savings a transformation will bring, the cost of delivering a transformation can be added to the balance sheet. And once that transformation is complete, Graham will usually recruit a permanent head of IT with the right set of skills to manage the new streamlined, re-focused function and maintain its positive progress.

“Ultimately, technology should just work – from the company and the end-customer perspective,” says Graham. “If you look at successful companies such as Apple, American Express, Amazon, or Tesla, they provide outstanding service at every touchpoint, all enabled by IT – and that’s what’s possible with the right strategy.”

Summary

  • In many organisations there is a disconnect between the business need and the IT function.
  • The Net Promoter Score is an excellent tool for beginning a positive functional transformation.
  • A transformation expert helps a business understand what it has, what it needs and then delivers the change.
  • Transformation experts replace themselves with a permanent hire when the time is right.

Graham Van Terheyden
Graham van Terheyden is an interim IT director, Chief Information Officer and independent consultant. He spent 17 years at BP before moving into the legal sector where he oversaw numerous transformation programmes. More recently he has facilitated change in a wide range of companies in sectors including food, pharmaceuticals and business services.  

Williams Bain
Williams Bain supplies organisations with experts that deliver major change.