The Human Element: How to Enable a People-Focused IT Strategy

The Human Element: How to Enable a People-Focused IT Strategy
October 17, 2023

At first glance, you wouldn’t think that a background in evolutionary biology and ecology would prepare someone for a career in IT.

Having navigated this unique career trajectory, however, I’ve realized just how much of my biology and ecology training has translated into the strategies and philosophies that make for stellar IT service in today’s digital employee experience-driven world.

I came to the world of IT from Research & Development to dedicate more of my efforts to championing people and human understanding. I like making complicated things simple and focusing on the human element of how we make things accessible, engaging, and empowering despite their inherent complexities — which constitutes many of the core priorities of a modern IT professional.

At my previous employer, I was responsible for the IT experiences of a wide variety of stakeholders, ranging from veterinarians doing preclinical research to VPs of IT enabling the digital transformation of the pharmaceutical industry. I quickly recognized the diversity of experiences among these stakeholders — the optimal experience for a veterinary surgeon is very different than that of an analyst who submits data to the FDA, for example.

That’s where my background comes into play. I’ve always had a keen fascination with animal behavior and how it interacts with its environment. If you view a corporate entity as a big colony of ants, for example, how does that colony move and interact with its unique environment? How do laws of behavior apply to a corporation and the way we interpret technology?

Considering these questions has shaped my perspective on what makes for effective IT service, as I’ll illustrate below.

Technology-Driven vs. People-Driven IT Service

There are two schools of thought when it comes to delivering effective IT service and solving the issues that hinder an organization’s productivity and cost-effectiveness.

  • The first is what we’ll call a technology or numbers-driven approach. IT digs into technical data, sees what’s wrong within their environment, and deploys remote actions to fix those issues as efficiently as possible. This approach naturally lends itself to IT professionals; their data literacy and results-based performance indicators place an emphasis on technical solutions first and foremost.
  • And the second is when an IT initiative informs the technical with the personal.

The most successful IT initiatives start by asking the end users themselves: What’s most important to you? 

After all, IT is a customer service industry — and the end user’s perspective is no different than the voice of a customer. In a people-driven IT strategy, we plan and strategize and prioritize around the voice of the customer. We prioritize remote actions based on what’s most important to people.

With this people-first approach, the whole narrative around IT changes. It becomes much more of a vessel for effective relationship management — and at its core, DEX is really about how you perform relationship management for the enterprise.

Use Case: How Employee Sentiment Can Enable Agile IT Transformation

The employee feedback survey has long been a contentious topic in the world of IT. Whether deployed by IT or HR, sentiment surveys are usually distributed a few times per year at most, and in many cases the results they generate are either insubstantial or get ignored by IT — who don’t see the value in asking people how they feel when we already have hard data at our disposal.

But when we helped a business unit in Singapore deploy targeted engagement campaigns, the result couldn’t have been further from the negative outlook on employee feedback that permeates so many IT organizations. In fact, the business groups wanted to deploy engagement campaigns more frequently than the technical pilot allowed.

That’s because they quickly saw the value of employee feedback when it came to making better business decisions. These sentiment campaigns weren’t superfluous or intrusive, but inclusive and valuable. The more frequently they took the pulse of their employee base —the more agile they became in deploying the right technology. Because they weren’t just listening to the data; they were also listening to the people who use the technology — the people behind every action that makes their business run.

A Personalized Digital Experience is the Future of IT Service

While the background I bring to IT may be unique, I believe it’s representative of the shift that’s taking place in our industry around the topic of digital experience.

In the past, adhering to rigid SLAs was the start and end of IT service. Now, we’re no longer just talking about peoples’ IT health or IT performance — it’s become your (the user’s) digital experience. IT not only exists to enable technology to function correctly, but for you to have a positive experience that is transformative for your specific role and needs.

Employees — especially ones belonging to younger generations — expect to have a sense of autonomy and control over their digital experiences. It’s no longer enough to look at a bunch of systems with green lights that indicate there’s no problem. People expect personalized technology experiences — and when IT organizations place those experiences on a pedestal, not below but alongside the hard data, they’re able to achieve the best results possible.

Going to the users directly and asking them “How are doing?” is much more than a courtesy. It’s an essential step to creating an IT strategy that improves the workplace, increases IT efficiency, and ultimately delivers value to the business.

As a Senior Digital Employee Experience (DEX) Researcher at Vizient, I apply my research and analytical skills to help stakeholders improve the digital environment and culture for employees across the organization.Learn More

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