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Guiding Principles For IT Wed 06 May 09

If you need me I'll be there.

Jules_Verne_pocketwatch_compass_nullalax While going through some old papers the other day I came across something I'd written about 15 years ago in my first IT role.  It was a statement of Guiding Principles for IT that I used to let my employees and the users of IT how we intended to perform our role.  I patterned it off of what I had seen at a non-IT service provider and I was impressed by its simplicity, clarity and straightforward approach.

I re-read this very carefully and it still rings true for me now just as it did 15 years ago.  Even though I have not posted this in my new role (now that I've found it again I just might), it is still the way I like to operate.  It has many of the elements of a mission statement but it is more about how we do our business, truly guiding principles.  Take a look at it.  I'd love to hear what you think of it.

Guiding Principles for IT

The IT Department is committed to providing the absolute highest level of service possible.  Everyone in IT has made a personal commitment to the following principles in order to provide this high level of service.

  • I am a service provider.  My job is to help you do your job better.  If you need me I'll be there.
  • I'll bring to bear all the available resources to answer your question or fix the problem to get you back in operation quickly.
  • I will treat you as I would like to be treated - with courtesy and respect.  I will keep you informed about the status of your project.  I will do my utmost to meet all schedule, delivery and performance commitments and if I cannot, I will let you know beforehand.
  • I will perform my job in a professional manner using all the tools and skills of my organization to complete my assignment in a timely, efficient and thorough manner that meets your needs - every time.
  • I will help you apply Information Technology to enable you to perform your job faster, cheaper and to develop new products, services and markets and better serve your customers.

When I first brought this concept up much of the the discussion had to deal with the first point - the "I'll be there concept."  Typical suggestions were that we should say 'within normal working hours' or 'per our Service Level Agreement' and if we have the resources and if it is a high priority and if . . . and if . . . and if . . .  All valid arguments but in the end they only dilute your commitment. All anybody wants to know is, are you truly committed or not.   A recent PC versus Mac commercial illustrates this very simply.

I've always believed that in terms of organizational performance you get what you aim for.  So why not aim high?  Qualifiers just lower your aim.  No one ever succeeded by having aspirations of mediocrity.

The second most common point of discussion was in answer to the question "Why not aim high?"  The answer is because we'll fail, there is no way that we could possibly live up to those standards all the time.  It's true, we will fail.  However, the point isn't that we will fail but that we try and that when we do fail we continue to try to do better.

The Ten Commandments are the best known set of "guiding principles" that many people try to follow and yet still fail in their attempts.  Our failures however, do not make the Ten Commandments any less worthy.  Before I get a call from the Pope let me clearly state that I'm not equating the Guiding Principles for IT with the Ten Commandments but only trying to show the value of having a goal even if we fail to achieve it every time.

The third reaction I would get is that IT's end-users would take advantage of this to make undeserving demands.  Additionally, they should take some responsibility for their own actions by learning to use the computers better and to better understand their systems.  By providing this level of service we are just enabling their lackadaisical ways.

Clearly, our end-users do have some responsibility for the way they use IT.  However, the irresponsibility of a few doesn't mean we should lower our performance.  We shouldn't let the actions of a few dictate how we do our business.  While we can't control what others do, we can control what we do.  Complaining is simply unhelpful.

Those are my guiding principles.  So I'll close with a questions for you:

  • Are these a worthy set of Guiding Principles for IT?
  • How do you think your IT employees would react to them? 
  • How would you go about getting your IT employees committed to them? 
  • How do you think your "customers" would react to them?  
  • What are your guiding principles? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment.

"Jules Verne Pocketwatch (compass)" photo by nullalax
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