The Value of IT 'Mystery Shopping'

Ann All
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The State of Communications and Collaboration

Companies are still wrestling with how to get the most value out of their investments.

Cliches get to be cliches because they really do apply to so many of life's situations. For instance, I know from repeated experience that not putting off until tomorrow what I can do today is almost always great advice. It lessens stress and just generally makes things go more smoothly.


But some cliches seem so patently untrue, I can't figure out how they ever became cliches. I don't think absence ever made my heart grow any fonder. Are you kidding me? It mostly makes me lonely, sad or bored -- or some combination of those things. It certainly doesn't foster closer relationships.


Though tools like instant messaging and email make it easier to communicate with other people, they can't substitute for good, old-fashioned, face-to-face contact when it comes to building and maintaining good relationships -- whether you're talking about friends, loved ones or coworkers. I've interviewed several CIOs who felt the same way and placed IT staff among their business colleagues, with good results.


Among the benefits: IT pros highly in tune with business goals and needs. Enhanced camaraderie. Business users that better understand IT challenges. A "true partnership in getting disagreements resolved and moving forward." (The last words are those of George Tumas, CIO of Wells Fargo's Internet Services Group, not mine.)


Proximity is an especially important consideration for IT and business groups that work together closely on projects. (And shouldn't this be most of them?) Co-location of business and IT staff can give change management a big boost, as I wrote back in August. It will help IT more accurately identify business requirements and determine how best to present new technologies to encourage user adoption.


In that post, I cited some advice from Prevoyance Group President Patrick Gray, author of "Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology." I'm a big fan of his regular columns on TechRepublic. Just last week, Gray revisited the idea of IT visiting employees on their turf to see how work gets done, reiterating some of the benefits.


He also offers a slightly different twist, suggesting IT pros spend at least a little time as IT consumers for a possibly eye-opening look at how IT does (or doesn't) get things done. His suggestions:

  • Call the help desk and ask staffers some simple and not-so-simple questions.
  • Call IT and ask if you can connect your iPhone to the corporate network.
  • Suggest a relevant enhancement to an existing system and see if it's routed to the appropriate person.


Doing these things should give IT a good idea of what it's doing right (and maybe help identify folks deserving of special recognition, a practice my colleague Susan Hall says is growing in popularity as companies realize the importance of retaining high performers in a competitive job environment). It should also identify areas with room for improvement. And putting someone in a customer's shoes is a great way to encourage a customer-centric culture.

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