Are you building an “order taker” or “solution maker” environment?

The Order-Taker By mynameisharsha on flickrDave Brock just published a post that resonated with me. The title of the post – Order Taker or Solution Creator – hits home in the IT world.

In the article, Dave describes what he calls ‘order takers’ and ‘solution creators’. The order taker does a good job of working with clients to deliver a widget but does very little to ensure that the widget actually will solve the clients’ long term problems.  Nothing wrong with order takers mind you…they can be very reliable and in some instances, order takers are perfect.

But other times, its better to be a solution maker/creator. In his article, Dave describes the solution creator as:

 They’re idea people, they’re results people–not just for themselves but for the customer.  They help their customers envision a new future.  They help their customers think about their business differently.  They help their customer change and improve.

Emphasis mine.

He also writes:

When they engage the customer they talk about what the customer is trying to achieve.  They don’t spend a lot of time on what their solution does, it’s features or capabilities.  They know it’s not about the product but what the customer is trying to achieve.  Instead they focus on outcomes and results the customer will achieve.  They quantify these results, so the customer can clearly understand the impact it will have on their business.

Emphasis mine.

Historically, the IT group has been an order taker. They have existed to do what they are asked to do…and for the most part, we’ve been good at being order takers.

Need a new server? Check….that’ll be $$$.

Need a new application?  Check…that’ll be $$$$.

Need your email backed up?  Check…that’ll be $.

In recent years, some organizations have begun trying to transform the IT group into something more than an order taker.  Some CIO’s and IT groups have even taken the initiative to try to transform themselves into something more than order takers.

Some have been successful. Many haven’t.  Most that have succeeded in this transformation have understood that the status quo will not work going forward. The IT of yesterday will not work for the organization of tomorrow. Business is moving faster and faster every day and the order taker and gatekeeper mentality of yesterday’s IT will leave many IT professionals behind if they don’t change.

I wrote an article a few months ago titled Splitting IT – Operations and Innovation that talks about the need for IT to change or have change forced upon us. In that post I wrote:

Operational IT will focus on the tactics necessary to keep the lights on and servers running. Strategic IT / Business Technology will focus on the strategy use of technology for the organization.   Both groups will co-mingle and work together of course…but the teams will have different goals and different types of people working within each.

Notice the difference between Operational and Strategic IT?  One difference is that one is an order taker while the other is a solution creator.  Operational IT will remain the order takers and the newly formed Strategic IT / Business Technology team will be the solution creators.

So…CIO’s & IT Leaders…are you transforming your teams into solution creators or are you happy being order takers?  IT Pro’s…what about you? Are you happy in the operational world of IT or are you chomping at the bit to help your ‘customers’ create solutions?

PS: A few other posts about similar topics that I’ve published are Driving transformation with IT starts with transforming ITNot What, but How – Connecting IT and the Business and I own the technology, you own the content for examples. If you haven’t read them yet, I’d love to have you add them to your ‘to read’ list :)

Image Credit: The Order-Taker By mynameisharsha on flickr

  • davidabrock

    Eric: I’m so flattered by your post and comments. Having sold within the IT environment for much of my career, your comments about IT resonated with me (though I could never tell them ;-)

    Thank you very much for your nice comments! Regards, Dave

    • http://ericbrown.com/ ericbrown

      @davidabrock Welcome Dave…Thanks for stopping by! Maybe more people like you (and me) NEED to tell IT these things more…the good thing is I think there are more IT folks willing to listen these days.

  • k5nd

    Eric, good write up. We’re working on the same thing in our in-house publishing operation — moving from vendor to partner. It’s not easy — not only from our own perspective but from our client’s perspective.

    • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

      Thanks Jim. It is very difficult to move from one to the other but its necessary these days. The first step is always seeing that the problem exists..then the hard stuff starts…actually making the transition.

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  • http://strategitech.ca Elliot Ross

    Beautifully written and insightful Eric!
    And the hard part?
    Until IT leaders come out of their server rooms, it can’t happen.
    Until we as IT Leaders can come out of our proverbial shells and start actually talking to people – and some of those conversations will be difficult, there is no way to become a solution maker as you are completely removed from any actual business perspective.
    And with that gap – you can only be an order taker – reacting when the memo hits your desk

    Regards & Thanks!

    Elliot

    • Eric D. Brown

      Thanks Elliot!

      That is the hard part for sure….its requires not only an organizational change but a cultural change to get IT professionals to understand and use the ‘soft skills’ that we all have. Those soft skills are usually the hardest to master but they’re necessary to be able to really understand that business and your role in the business.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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