Service as the core of the business
Service orientation as the basis of everything.
I am writing this article while I am on the train on the route from Dresden to Frankfurt am Main. It is the day after the winter weekend at the beginning of March 2018. The conductor has just come through and handed out a passenger rights form to each passenger. Because we will be at least one hour late in Frankfurt. No question, delays are always crap. The question for me as a customer is, how does the service provider deal with this? Is there timely and transparent information? Do I have to fight for my rights or not?
In my case and for me, Deutsche Bahn has done everything right. In contrast to Lufthansa. After all, I actually wanted to travel by plane. When I switched on my mobile phone this morning at around 3 a.m., the message was waiting for me that my flight had been cancelled. No info why. No indication of my rights. And my replacement flight leaves the next day. If I exercise my rights now, Lufthansa will invoke the weather and thus force majeure. I know this already, I went through it several times this winter.
Do you see the difference? With whom do I feel taken seriously as a customer?
Mental focus on service
Does this perhaps have something to do with the service orientation of the companies? I think so. I found a wonderful definition for the word some time ago:
“Service orientation describes the constant mental focus of an employee on all matters relevant to service”.¹ The definition would be perfect if we extended it to include business capabilities (skills that a company possesses or needs). Something like this: “Service orientation describes the constant alignment of the company’s capabilities and employees with all matters relevant to service. Whereby probably already the mental orientation of the employees is sufficient to achieve the rest.
Please take a look at your company. What about the service orientation towards your customers? What about the service orientation of your internal service units like human resources, finance or IT?
IT and Service?
I know my way around IT departments quite well and my diagnosis: There is still a lot of room for improvement! In other words, if we continue to do business as usual in IT, many IT departments will disappear.² Service, and the focus on serving, is the key to delivering value to your business. What makes a service? Remember your last taxi ride: you called the local taxi company, told them where you needed a taxi, the car arrived a little later, drove you to your destination and there you paid.
This is all part of the service. The service relieves me as a consumer. I do not have to worry about how to get from A to B, what it costs and how I can pay. It’s all part of the service. And I only consume the service when I actually need it.
Services are attractive for the customer
This is what makes the service concept so attractive for our companies as well. And this is exactly what all the external providers and cloud providers are counting on. They have a clear description of their service at a defined price. This alone is so attractive for many departments and companies that the IT budget is being cut back more and more in favor of external providers.
As internal IT departments, we have a huge advantage here: we have our internal ecosystem; you could listen to a podcast on this topic at https://different-thinking.de/oekosysteme-ecosystems/. We know the vision, plans, problems and wishes of our business departments. We can offer services that address exactly these. We can provide an end-to-end service. We can make the customer happy. Unfortunately, we succeed in doing this far too rarely! When you think of your internal IT services, how strong are the following points:
- With the service, the company realises a benefit for the business that it could not realise or only realise worse without the service.
- The service is described in an understandable way and the customer knows at first glance what the benefit of the service is. He or she knows what and what not to expect.
- There is a defined price for the service. This price is in a reasonable relation to the benefit that is realised with the service.
- There is a defined way how the service can be ordered and cancelled.
- The time until the service is delivered is defined and is within a reasonable range.
- There are agreed quality parameters for the service, which are also measured.
There is a person in IT who is responsible for the service and service delivery. This person has all necessary authority in the internal organisation to ensure quality.
And what is your conclusion?
Entrepreneurs, IT managers and all IT employees are allowed to work on making the handling of internal IT as easy as driving a taxi – ordering, getting in, paying, getting out.
And that the optimum has not yet been achieved is shown by further developments such as mytaxi. mytaxi has taken a close look at this process and the business model and improved it: ordering via app, paying via app and invoice directly in my mailbox. mytaxi uses an existing infrastructure and enhances it with its own services.
Exactly, your internal IT can do that too! You can buy operational services on the market and add exactly what your company needs to be able to act even better on the market.
You may understand service architecture like Lego: there are building blocks to buy that you can use to build a unique structure. You acquire basic building blocks such as e-mail, storage, virtualisation, etc. Once you have these, you can compare the internal production costs with the prices on the market. This allows you to decide where to buy the service. The external market has advantages and disadvantages – not only the price is decisive – it is a good indicator.
Anchoring service orientation
Orchestrating the interaction of different providers will increasingly be the task of the internal IT department. For this I recommend you to read the German article “IT as a “two-side-market” by my esteemed colleague Dr. Peter Samulat. In order for you to be able to build up internal IT as such a platform, you may start with the establishment of thinking in services and serving – the service orientation. To give you an idea of what your next sensible steps are, I have developed a worksheet for you. It guides you through 14 German questions about service orientation. You will get an idea of where you stand today and define concrete steps for the individual points! You can get the worksheet here.
 Dr. Peter Samulat has published a book on the subject: “Vom Verschwinden der IT im Unternehmen: Business Value of IT – mehr als der nächste Hype?” Erschienen unter “CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform”; Auflage: 1 (3. Dezember 2014), https://amzn.to/2G8X265
Robert Sieber is ex-CIO, podcaster and service nerd. His vision is an internal IT that can be booked, used and paid for just as easily as a taxi ride. As a consultant and coach, he takes a practical and pragmatic approach to his customers, helping them to establish genuine service orientation in the long term. In his spare time, he runs the IT Management Podcast. Twice a year he organizes the Servicenerds.Camp – a barcamp for all those who live service orientation. Robert Sieber is official OBASHI ambassador in Germany.