User-centric IT: What is it, and why is it important?

By Simon Gale

Just a year ago, enterprise IT departments had almost no interest in adopting a user-centric approach to IT services. Today, however, virtually every conversation I have with organizations about the development of their end-user or workplace services hinges on these key questions: How do we improve the experience for our employees? How do we provide the services they’re asking for?

What is user-centric IT?

User-centric IT means focusing on the requirements of the user. This involves responding to changes in workforce demographics and IT literacy, as well as to the rapid shift in working patterns. User-centric IT aims to deliver relevant content when and where employees need it, in a way that is easily accessible and enjoyable to use.

Chart demonstrating user-centric IT

In almost every organization, a user-centric approach will result in better alignment of IT with business requirements for flexibility, agility, choice and, if done right, cost-effectiveness. It will also reduce shadow IT.

The following are five rules for creating user-centric IT in your organization:

1. Continuously engage with and listen to users

Employees know which tools they need to improve productivity, boost sales and increase customer satisfaction and engagement, so listening to their concerns and ideas is a great place to start.

In the consumer IT market, customer feedback loops are a key part of providing good service. Online or app store reviews and social media discussions are extremely important as well. When engaging with users inside an organization, adopt the same techniques. Provide an easy way for users to communicate their needs and give feedback on existing IT products and services. Don’t forget that this type of engagement is a continuous process, not a one-off exercise.

2. Visibly act on input and feedback

As you receive input from stakeholders, put it into practice. For example, if employees want better mobile tools to do their jobs, develop a mobile strategy and leverage enterprise mobility services that will address these employee expectations. Work through the necessary organizational requirements for IT security and management, and keep the lines of communication open.

3. Deliver fast and continuously improve

The consumer IT market values the concept of “deliver fast, improve regularly” — it’s a feature of every good customer experience. Users have come to expect an experience that spans the physical and digital worlds, as with omnichannel retailing. The IT industry as a whole is evolving to be more agile, and businesses need to follow the same pattern in how they approach IT for employees.

4. Nail the user experience and responsibilities

Don’t forget that users today have a low tolerance for poor IT experiences. Getting the user experience right from the outset and improving functionality and scope in subsequent updates is mandatory. Application performance, design and functionality should match or exceed the quality standards set by the consumer market.

Gartner’s 2016 predictions stated that 70 percent of apps used in enterprises will be developed or adopted without IT involvement by 2020. At the moment, this is called shadow IT, but at that proportion, it will become primary IT. This is happening because users and lines of business want IT tools that work, and they want them now. If they don’t get the experience they’re looking for with enterprise IT services, they’ll go elsewhere.

5. Become innovative, disruptive and focused on the user experience

Whereas IT teams were traditionally the controllers or sole providers of IT, they are now enablers and service managers. Therefore, a user-centric approach requires a change in the mindset of most IT departments.

It also requires renegotiating the relationship with users and educating them on their responsibilities. A strong relationship between the IT and HR departments will help an organization be more agile, improve engagement, offer greater choice and realize the benefits of the latest technologies. It will also create an environment where bring-your-own-device programs are a realistic alternative for many users.

As organizations work toward a more user-focused IT strategy, they will empower employees to be more productive and achieve better business outcomes. To learn more about IBM’s approach to delivering a user-centric IT service, check out the following video:


Written By

Simon Gale

CTO Mobility & Workspace Services UKI at IBM Global Services

Simon Gale is an Associate Partner and CTO for Mobility & Workplace Services in the UK & Ireland at IBM. In almost twenty years working in end-user computing, he’s seen technologies come and go but always held the belief that the essential goal is ensuring that the business,…

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