Home > Change Management, IT Management > An Educated Consumer is our Best Customer(R)

An Educated Consumer is our Best Customer(R)

No sorry, this isn’t about Syms Corp, a US discount clothing retailer that’s been in business for about 50 years throughout the north eastern, middle Atlantic regions and in the Midwest, Southeast and the Southwest.

I grew up hearing their commercial and this tag-line and it’s stuck with me ever since. It really applies to technology more than ever. With the ever quickening pace of technology products being introduced commercially for personal and corporate use, the “every day” user needs to be very literate. And most unfortunately are not. Since dumbing down the product isn’t feasible (you can’t sell it, nor raise the price), then the only hope is for the IT departments to find ways to get user acceptance up.

I think that’s an area we in the corporate IT space don’t pay a lot of attention to. We more or less just take what the technology vendors give us and we find a way to digest it. Except you can’t. Our brain capacities are finite and limited – by culture, background, education, personal preferences etc – so how do we raise user adoption rates of technology higher? I posted something about this several months ago on my company’s corporate intranet in response to a marketing user’s invitation to talk about how IT can be improved to assist in the modernization of the company. Back then, I said that instead of discussing internally focused IT issues, it would make a lot more sense if we found a way to have better educated business users who could discuss IT technologies with their IT colleagues. At the moment, many/most do not or cannot. It’s mightily painful to have business users think that setting up a SAP ERP system is like “copying and pasting” from a previous SAP ERP system we set up for a similar business unit. Like we do for desktop PCs (i.e. ghosting images)! they are irrate and incredulous when you tell them that no, it’s a wrong analogy and insisting on faster, cheaper, better quality, more flexibility and no user documentation required is not only not possible but a route to disaster.

Check out Mike Schaffner’s blog where he asked the same question recently: Breaking the Paradigm: How Do You Get People To See The Possibilities Of New Technologies?

So then folks, how DO we educate our users better with all the technologies coming out in 3-6 months cycles when our corporate IT systems are 3-6 years out of touch? This is one bridge between IT and business we should definitely pay more attention.

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  1. July 1, 2009 at 1:37 AM

    (Here via the Effective CIO blog)

    Great topic, first of all.

    So then folks, how DO we educate our users better with all the technologies coming out in 3-6 months cycles

    At the risk of sounding somewhat self-serving, as a technology provider, I would respond to that question by saying CIOs should make it easier for their customers – the business users – to see, touch and “feel” new technologies. The key implications and applications of promising and relevant new technologies should be evaluated quickly and cheaply with a real-life problem.

    In other words, prototypes.

    Short, focused pilot projects (2-6 week lifecycle) with clear objectives in mind, solving small-but-important business problems with a new technology and then comparing the outcome with the traditional approaches. All these will probably help.

    IMHO, such practical education – with both sides having a stake in the process – works FAR better than sending users the vendor’s slideshow or analyst reports.

  2. July 1, 2009 at 5:47 PM

    Hi Krishna,

    Thanks for your comments and dropping by. I agree with you here. It’s important that we provide a platform for innovation to happen. Your suggestion is one way to do it.

    Despite the cost cutting happening everywhere, it’s up to us to have our IT infrastructure capable of providing a development or test environment for the business to try out new technology. Business innovation requires this collaboration.

    Thanks,

  3. July 2, 2009 at 7:39 PM

    Lui,
    Once again you bring up a controversial topic. 😉

    I think the answer is different for every company. How do you the educate business? You do it over time and have them at the table. The business should be steering IT in the direction the business needs to go.

    The example you give of the business user thinking of setting up an ERP system is like “cutting and pasting” I would hope is an extreme example that is not true. If this is true, then the IT department and the CIO, if there is one, has failed to provide value and education.

    I agree with Krishna that the CIO should make it easier for business users to see, touch and feel new technologies. This should be done over time and what is best for the business. The CIO should educate the business in all matters related to technology.

  4. July 3, 2009 at 9:24 PM

    Hi Arun,

    Yes, the main thrust of the posting is to “remind” that IT folks need to provide education. There’s probably lots of room for improvement at all levels across the board due to the perpetual discussions related to “bridging IT and Business” which indicates that it’s not all too successful.

    What’s dangerous is that if users are not sufficiently up to speed with the potential of IT capabilities to help them succeed and the business successful, the organizational impact is much greater and sometimes difficult to measure. It also brings up the point – how much are the senior IT managers educating their own staffs or encouraging their teams to push the envelope and innovative? And how well are the teams responding and proactively communicating about it?

    As for my extreme example…let’s just say that IT sophistication and knowledge does vary by geography, business sophistication, IT literacy etc.

    Cheers,

  1. July 8, 2009 at 8:00 PM

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