Internal vs. External Customers? CIO Brook Colangelo doesn’t buy it

Internal vs. external customers? CIO Brook Colangelo doesn’t buy it

How do CIOs minister to their internal vs. external customers? For Houghton Mifflin Harcourt CIO Brook Colangelo, the dichotomy doesn’t hold up. “We wrap them into one,” he told SearchCIO Managing Editor Rachel Lebeaux at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium.

Colangelo talked about the importance of meeting the demands of both internal users and the educational publisher’s all-important customers in a conference session on communicating the business value of IT. In this SearchCIO video, he follows up with some pointers. Step No. 1? Take the complexity out of IT.

Given that CIOs have to keep in mind that they have two different customer bases — both their internal customers or employees, as well as their external clients — how do you serve both of those, and do you have different strategies for doing that?

Brook Colangelo: So, I think a couple of things about this. One, your external customer is obviously sort of the most important, because they make the decisions on how successful the company is, and nowadays they touch every element of the technology. You have to think about the bandwidth inside the network, or the ERP system — the customer is going to have an interaction with that, so your idea has to be one message, one theme.

At HMH, we have a couple of focuses here. The first is to focus on radical simplicity. We have to drive out this complexity of IT. It overwhelms us in these data points and user logins and how many passwords you have for the Internet. And so, driving that complexity out and then really pushing ourselves forward and delivering technology in a simple and elegant [manner] to all of our customers has been a major driving push here. I think all of our customers are sort of one, and we wrap them into one.

During the panel discussion, you were talking about how IT can communicate the value of what IT does. Does that play a role in also serving both these customer bases?

Colangelo: Yeah. At HMH, we’ve looked at things through the user’s eyes. And I think that if it’s an infrastructure project, if it’s a pure conference room upgrade or collaboration technology for even the customers, you’ve got to look at everything through the users’ eyes.

So, I’ve made my entire team go through user-story training, based on [the] Agile development methodology, so that we can write and iterate and be seeing this through the story points of a customer; and that way, no matter what you buy, build, integrate or customize, you see it and you go back and you measure it against what did that customer want, and did I deliver it for that. Not ‘Did I check the install box and then upgrade box?’

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