Answer the Questions

Answer the Questions

Each January I conduct for one of my clients a survey of CIO attitudes in the top 500 Australian organisations. It asks what characteristics and services CIOs are looking for in their IS suppliers. I am grateful that over 10 per cent of the CIOs surveyed find the 15 minutes or so to help me. However, inevitably I encounter one CIO who takes umbrage that I am bothering them with a survey.

This year was no exception. In response to the question what do you require in an IT vendor the CIO in question said: "they know my organisation and they can anticipate our problems without the need to use surveys". I thought the response breathtakingly naive. In effect, the CIO was saying that vendors should take an educated guess at the organisation's requirements.

Surely the greatest frustration for any consumer is when a vendor assumes they know what their customers want. As my manager at Sigma Data, Bob Taylor, used to remind me "when you assume you make an ass out of u and me". Most CIOs tell me nothing alienates them more than sales people who talk and never listen. In effect if CIOs want vendors to make solutions to user problems they must spare the time to tell potential suppliers their requirements. If they do not then they only have themselves to blame when their users whinge about the inadequacies of the IS systems.

I had to wonder if the hostile respondent, and CIOs who hate answering surveys in general, ever ask users what they want from IS. If not, how on earth can they align IS with the business? With such attitudes persisting it is perhaps no wonder that this continues to be the main problem that dogs IT.

One of the earliest InTEP presentations to impress me was a session on operational benchmarking. The speaker outlined how he used a one-page questionnaire to assess internal custo-mer satisfaction with the IT department's services. There were 19 questions covering a range of IS activities. and to fill in two columns. The speaker said the survey enabled his IS department to formalise its actions and to sort them into a prioritised sequence in order of the most value to end users. Clearly end users appreciated IS taking the time to canvass their opinions; some 40 per cent of those surveyed responded.

Many InTEP members were keen to get a copy of the questionnaire. This seemed to indicate that few IS departments were surveying end users.

While CIOs might bemoan the number of surveys they receive, the reality is they are a necessary evil. Results point IS marketing in the right direction and the data captured provides comparative information about what other organisations are doing. Most research companies provide their respondents with a summary, so participating is a useful way of monitoring how your organisation is travelling against the marketplace as a whole. v

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