I believe I can sum up all the characteristics of a successful IT organization in one word: Credibility. Credibility is defined as “the quality of being trusted and believed in.” First, credibility means that we are trusted. When we state something, there is a good probability that our customer believes what we are saying. Trust is undermined because of a lack of transparency. IT can’t explain an outage or refuses to explain how the outage was resolved. An opaque IT operation does not engender trust. Credibility also suggests that your customer believes that you will do what you say you are going to do. Dates and budget are critical. An IT organization that consistently misses dates or grossly underestimates costs will have very little credibility. Credibility also comes from consistency. Does the customer receive consistent treatment every time they call? Consistency gives the customer an interaction upon which they can rely. It gives them a good feeling.
The penalties for a lack of credibility are numerous and undercut the operation of the IT department at its core. Credibility breeds friends among the user community. Friends are less likely to pounce when the inevitable mistake is made. An untrusted IT organization is one that is under siege with users ready to attack as payback for poor service. A lack of credibility prompts executive leadership to seek to validate IT strategy and operations. This is usually in the form of external 3rd party reviews and audits. These activities will distract from the actual IT work and impact productivity and project success. The flow of money slows to a crawl for an IT shop with a lack of credibility. The budget allocation tends to stay at subsistence levels with the organization unwilling to invest in new IT projects.
So, what are the specific keys to achieving credibility for an IT organization? The first is Customer Satisfaction. You should measure it and make it a key component of your IT strategy. The second is Project Management. Credibility comes from meeting dates and coming in under budget. Finally, IT needs to be transparent. Pull back the shades and openly discuss challenges and mistakes. Users, for the most part, are reasonable. They are much more reasonable when they perceive they are getting straight answers.
How credible is your organization? Don’t ask me! Ask your customer!