The Myth of the Internal Customer
For most companies, IT is a cost center. The employees of that department are there by the good graces of the rest of the company. This line of thinking often gets us in trouble by accepting the fallacy of the internal customer as reality.
The concept is not all that bad. We want to identify someone or some group that we can satisfy. That’s great – but why are we doing the project? Hopefully the answer to that question is to improve some interaction that we have with our customers.
Yes – there are going to be exceptions to that. Our customers generally do not care how we recognize revenue. So a project to restructure the way we book refinanced debt instruments will have very little bearing on the customer. But other so many other projects along the same line ultimately do affect the customer. Any change to the billing programs, accounts receivable aging, etc. ultimately affects some series of transactions we have with our customer. If we operate without recognizing the effect on the customer, we are blowing countless opportunities and perhaps jeopardizing a relationship that a sales representative has worked hard to build.
Another great example is with your websites. Often, it’s not current customers that you are affecting, but rather prospective customers. Yesterday, I spent time working on the problem of website redesign. There are countless reasons to redesign our sites – but there is little thought into the value that we are going to add to the creation of relationships. Having a website is great, but if it does not convey what you do and make you distinctive from all the other people who do the same thing, the redesign will not be a fruitful process.
So for all of you information workers out there – take heart to my advice. Find how your current projects will affect the real customers. The ones who spend money on your products and services. If nothing else, if will make you feel like you have a greater purpose. But it will probably give you perspective on why you’re working on a particular process and you’ll be in a better position to contribute back to the business ways of improving it.