IT Can’t Please Everyone

Sorry to break it to you this way. It’s a fact of life: IT cannot complete its work faster than the business can think of it.

The dependence on IT is growing exponentially, priorities shift constantly, and new opportunities come up daily. The gap between expectations of IT and its capacity is often widened by those executives who claim they are not technologically well-versed, yet assume IT can waive a magic wand and technology will just work.

That IT cannot please everyone is not a problem – it is a reality. Frankly, a hypothetical IT department that satisfies everybody 100% would be so expensive it would defeat the purpose. The key is finding the balance between responsible spending and internal customer satisfaction.

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The following factors drive internal customer satisfaction up without a substantial increase to the IT budget:

  • Transparency. Do constituents understand IT priorities and logistics?
  • Value. Do internal customers appreciate the benefits they receive from technology investments?
  • Audience. Is IT management choosing the right constituents for measuring customer satisfaction?

Achieve Transparency Through IT Governance

Achieving transparency of IT priorities may sound easy. In reality, no one likes to be a secondary priority. So IT ends up with too many “Priority 1” issues which simply cannot all be addressed at the same time.

The best way for IT to set priorities is to move the responsibility of prioritization out of IT—ideally over to an IT governance committee that includes executive-level representation from all internal customers.

Related: IT Governance Must Evolve or Die

Depending on the culture and size of your organization, you can exercise a number of options on  complexity, size, meeting frequency, and approval process. No matter what governance model you set up, the main focus of the function is to ensure IT priorities are clearly defined, in black and white, for everyone to see. This tends to reduce the number of requests and lighten the workload.

Maximize Outcomes from Each Line Item in the IT Budget

“Do more with less” is what we are all asked to do nowadays. But for most of us, it just sounds like an order to multitask beyond human ability. However, when it comes to IT, there is often untapped potential in owned/cloud technology, active projects, and perpetual services. We have found the following techniques help appease complainers and thus reduce stress on the IT department.

What to do with digital assets (any type of installed and maintained technology including databases, applications, etc.):

  • Implement a continuous improvement program to allow the business to self-prioritize grassroots ideas.
  • Get a business exec to take ownership of the asset so IT workload is funneled through this person.
  • Invite a 3rd party to assess the current state and propose a roadmap for a systematic move toward an optimized future state.

What to do with your IT initiatives (programs and projects):

  • Cancel projects that do not create tangible business value.
  • Scrutinize business cases for new projects.
  • Invest in project management.

What to do with your IT Services (anything IT does for others, such as help desk, PMO, infrastructure support, etc.):

  • Manage expectations by negotiating SLAs.
  • Drive continuous improvement by developing procedures to address recurring complaints.
  • Implement a pay-per-use charge to discourage freeloaders from jamming the funnel.
  • Outsource the service so IT is only a broker, not the responsible party.

Who Gets to be Happy?

There are organizations where user population is fairly satisfied with IT, but senior management feels IT could do a lot more. There are organizations where senior management appreciates how overloaded IT is, but general users complain nonstop. Each internal customer category has its own set of objectives. In their own way, all internal IT customers are “right.”

The question is, whom should IT be most in tune with? Unfortunately, there is no straight answer here. It all depends on your organization’s culture. Try the following few steps to gauge which audience segment IT should focus on:

  • Conduct an IT customer satisfaction survey and include all levels of reporting. Then look for patterns in ratings and comments.
  • Ask the business to designate IT liaisons. The business will decide whether these liaisons should be senior managers, middle managers, or something else.
  • Hold a monthly IT ice cream social and see who shows up.
  • Gain internal support. The most vocal customers could be the biggest complainers, but they also make the best advocates and proponents of IT when they get what they want.


This may sound obvious, but while IT can’t please everyone, it does need to define boundaries.

Achieving greater transparency into prioritization of IT activities, finding ways to extract better outcomes from existing IT investments, and designating the right constituents are some of the most effective ways IT can increase a fan base.

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