Continuing my series on the structure of a theoretic IT organization, today’s subject is the group in Operations that supports production systems. The Production Support group’s primary function is to act as a proxy for the customer throughout the organization. Resources are limited in the company and reacting to every customer issue appearing through the help desk results in chaos – it is impossible. This organization prioritizes the organization’s response on behalf of the customer. They must determine the organizational cost of not resolving the customer’s issue and compare that to the estimate of the cost to resolve it – as expanded across the potentially affected customer base. There is no single cut-and-dried formula for this, each company must develop their own. The result of this calculation determines which issues get addressed first and how fast.
Production support also represents the customer in planning meetings and product roadmap sessions.
The people in this group must be hired for their empathy with the customer, drive to satisfy the customer’s need, and ability to quantify the business impact of customer problems. Technical skills can be learned. Customer rapport is a talent. One key set of metrics this group must understand inherently is Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), Customer Referral Value (CRV), and the Cost of Quality (CoQ). While it is important to resolve the customer’s problem and generate customer satisfaction, it must be done with the company’s long term interest (the bottom line both now and in the future) in mind.
Another consideration is that, as proxy for the customer, the Production Support organization also owns the data in the prodution databases. This seems a strange concept – the data is not owned by the lines of business, but by the customer’s representative. It makes more sense when you clarify that the line of business users are customers of the IT organization. But making the internal mindset shift that says that the customers own their own data and that Production Support acts as their proxy/guardian, various decisions and thought processes become automatic. Privacy issues resolve themselves. SOX separations of concerns become intuitive. Decisions like retention policies are much easier to manage. Most importantly, the IT Operations orgaanization becomes naturally and axiomatically more customer focused. The transformation is amazing to watch.
I have rarely seen Production Operations organizations play prominent roles in large IT organizations, and even more rarely acting as the customer’s proxy. When used, it has been extremely powerful. Can anyone share stories when this concept made a significant differents, for good or ill, in your organization?