You can’t clean a table until you know why you’re cleaning the table. Are people going to eat on it, or perform surgery?
–Concept comes from Dr. Deming
IT is complex: it can take a half-dozen different people across several teams to support one IT service. The systems administrator scheduling cron jobs is being helpful, but doesn’t necessarily understand how their work is benefiting the overall University. IT is normally several steps removed from the benefit delivered: IT is helping the Finance department, Financial Aid, the Registrar’s Office, Advancement–other groups who then produce more direct value for students (or other stakeholders). The groups working with IT often don’t have experience with how IT can be best utilized, resulting in gaps where IT could provide more value than they understand.
We need to understand ourselves, and help IT staff understand, what value is and what costs are for the end “customers” (if I can use that word). We need to understand the entire value stream, and be positioned to question and ensure that IT is doing the right things to optimize value. When people do understand value and can speak to it, they can cut through the layers between their work and the end user. They better understand and have a purpose for their work, and they can become a partner in building and optimizing IT services.
That’s why our company is named “Higher Education IT Management.” We focus on higher education because there is huge value in knowing both IT and the context for IT.