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Is a Customer-Oriented IT Necessarily a Good Thing? July 11, 2009

Posted by wrivkin in Enterprise Architecture & Business Transformation.

Some time ago, I blogged about the fact that the best CIOs, according to the definition of CIO Magazine, used in their interviews different methods and approaches to describe their success.  The criterion of this success was quite uniform though: cutting costs.  Recently, I have re-read some of those interviews and found another criterion common for many CIOs: making their IT department more customer-oriented.

By the customer, and this is very important, they meant the external end user of the company. At first glance, this conception seemed viable: what, after all could be wrong if IT is more customer-oriented? Isn’t it the customer whose satisfaction defines a company’s success?

Now, giving it some thought, I am not sure that it is that simple. Let us analyze it and let us, for a change, do it based not solely on opinion, experience, best practices, or other kinds of guesses that are very wide-spread in the IT community today, but rather on an objective, unambiguous approach called Enterprise Development Methodology[1]. We are using this approach to avoid adding just another opinion in an IT world suffering from an overabundance of opinions.

Briefly, EDM considers Enterprise as an object fully described by its features, represented by Enterprise Architecture, and its behaviors, represented by the processes happening within, without, and with Enterprise. Namely, these are Business Processes (BP), Business Process Development Life Cycle (BPDLC), and Business Transformation (BT). The first two of these behaviors: BP and BPDLC are of the most interest for us now.

As it is defined by UML, the end customer is the most important external actor receiving valuable results from BP. So, our goal should be to make our BP as customer-friendly and mutually beneficial as it can be.  But who in an Enterprise is responsible for that? If an Enterprise has a Business Management and Business Analysts, then the answer is obvious: they are.

However, one may ask:”So what? What bad could happen if a company has both a Business and an IT department that are customer-oriented?” The answer is: chaos. If the IT department considers external customers as their clients, it means that it ignores Business as such. The understanding of customer needs and their implementations might be very different within those two departments, because they speak different languages. As a result, an IT department implements not what Business wants, but what IT thinks the customer wants! And this is far from the same thing!

This approach could create an informational abyss where an informational gap was before: between Business and IT.

So, what is the right approach? It is for IT to be BUSINESS-, not CUSTOMER- oriented. Everybody in an Enterprise should do what they are supposed to do. Business should try to improve BPs to satisfy the customer, and IT should create effective and efficient informational simulations of these processes. IT must consider Business as its one and only client. A company should follow BPDLC[2] to achieve smooth inter-operations of its departments and teams to the utmost benefit of both itself and the customer.

The methodological chaos in the formulation and implementation of Enterprise Architecture must be overcome! Carthago delenda est!

[1] W. Rivkin Technology Does Not Matter, Methodology Does. SOAInstitute.org, March 10, 2009

[2] W. Rivkin. Closing the Business-IT Gap Once And For All. BPMInstitute.org, December 12, 2008



1. Alexander Samarin - July 13, 2009

Agree, the answer on old question – who is working for whom in that team (or enterprise) — should be clear for IT.

Of course, it doesn’t mean to blindly implement everything that a particular business unit wanted — the enterrpise-wide optimisation (via executable models?) is manadatory.


Wolf Rivkin - July 14, 2009

Yep, the main thing here is the Architecture & Business Process Orientation as a method of analyzing of everything that happens in and with the Enterprise. So, optimization is namely the A&BP optimization. IT might lead this effort but the Business should have the last word . If IT replaces Business as business experts, the chaos is imminent.



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