Sunday, May 20, 2012

Reactive, Proactive, or Innovative?

When I used to work on help desks, people told me that we needed to be proactive instead of reactive. The image that popped into my head was Minority Report. I pictured something like this:

Roger (on phone): Hi, this is Roger from the Help Desk.
Employee: Hey Roger, what's up?
Roger: In 10 minutes, you're going to get an error when you try to save a file. Just add a 2 to the end and you'll be fine.
Employee: Cool, thanks. What number am I thinking of right now?
Roger: You're actually thinking about the letter Q.

How can we be less reactive without being clairvoyant? By understanding our business better.

Causes and effects

Most IT work is driven by the impact on the consumer of a service or process. They get an error, they call us. They have a need, they submit a request. This is reactive. No matter how fast you are, the consumer is still impacted.

Consumers are driven by their needs. They create demand on our resources and capabilities to fulfill those needs. Being proactive starts by understand their drivers and how they use our services. We can then monitor those resources and capabilities before demand occurs. 

For example, a sales person enters orders into our system when their customer buys a product. The application is a resource they need to complete their work. So we monitor the application. It goes down. We let the sales force and other stakeholders know and update them on progress until it is back up. This is proactive. We mitigate some or all of the impact of the service outage. Good for them, good for us!

Now let's go another step back on the chain. We mentioned that consumers create our demand. Where does their demand come from? It comes from their consumers! So they would like to be more proactive to their environment so they can be a better service provider. 

What happens the better we understand this environment? We in turn can provide advice on how our consumers can better use our services. We can also modify or add services that help our consumers serve their consumers. In short, we help our consumers be more proactive in their environment. This is innovative. We provide better services that help our consumers serve their market. Now we are serving a more strategic role - awesome!

Reaction is a part of being a service provider and never goes away. The more we can think about how we can be more proactive and innovative, the more we will contribute to business success and distinguish ourselves from other providers. Even if we can't be PreCogs, we can still provide value.

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