Are You Being Served?

When I go for a meal in a nice restaurant, I expect a good customer experience. The ingredients that constitute this (pardon the pun) are quite obvious. I expect good food and good service from the waiting staff for example.

Once I’ve ordered my meal, I want several things: my food should arrive fairly quickly, it should be what I ordered and should be of good quality. I want it to be safe and secure to eat – cooked with fresh ingredients and not frozen in the middle. It also needs to be able to perform the task of satisfying my considerable appetite. If the waiter has not delivered on any of these requirements, I will send the food back and go somewhere else next time.

Analyst house, Gartner say that within IT departments, the “relations between Development and Operations are generally viewed as poor, with some even characterized as toxic”. I think the same is often true of the relations between the kitchen and the waiters.

In many ways, the role of the kitchen mirrors that of the Application Development team. App Developers are responsible for creating applications for customers and the kitchen, in the same way, is focused on cooking the food that customers want.

The kitchen is also responsible for ensuring that the food is sent out to the restaurant and not left to get cold, which can often lead to a heated exchange of words between the kitchen and the front of house. Cooking and sending out starters, mains and desserts like clockwork is key. Similarly, application development is much like this as developers work in an Agile environment behind the scenes to build a continuous flow of apps.

The poor waiters however, are stuck in the middle. Their job may appear straight forward but during opening hours, their role can become quite complex which can lead to a difficult relationship with the kitchen! As well as delivering food to the customers’ table, waiters must greet customers on arrival, take orders, answer the phone, address complaints and clear up any accidents.

They have to balance the speed of delivering meals to the tables with the risk of falling over or dropping plates, all while maintaining control to give each customer the right meal and with a smile.

The waiters can be likened to the Operations team who try to balance the speed of delivery with risk and control as well as looking after the infrastructure, fixing problems and taking care of existing customers.

The difference between the restaurant and the IT department however, is that with the latter, these potential conflict areas can be solved quite simply with the use of an IT Performance System. This piece of technology can automate the quality, security and performance testing of pre-production software applications, driving much more testing in far less time than a manual process.

The end result being a higher quality application with better security which can be delivered to market with a quicker turn-around time. Unfortunately technology is not yet advanced enough to offer this kind of result to the restaurant!

An IT Performance System also streamlines the order and complaint processes. In a restaurant, this would be illustrated by making sure that repeatable meals are ordered, cooked and delivered to customers which maximizes collaboration between kitchen and waiting staff so that both can focus on cooking and delivering.

In the IT department this would mean automating the flow of information between Development and Operations (such as requests and defects) and maximising the re-use of assets so that communication is faster, more accurate and without duplication.

Additionally, busy waiters often don’t have time to constantly monitor their customers for smiles and to check that they are happily tucking in. An IT Performance System could do this and tell the waiter about an unhappy customer before they ask to see the manager. I know of several companies that use an IT Performance System to monitor the real-time online customer experience of its customers. When a problem is detected the system alerts Operations and can kick off a diagnosis process to drive a rapid return to good service.

By maximising collaboration, service flow and control, it is more likely that the customer will leave a big tip for the waiter, send compliments to the chef and come back another day. The question for the IT customer however, is ‘are you being served?’

Fil Zanasi is responsible for HP Software’s marketing and business development strategy across the UK Financial Services sector. Fil is a technology management evangelist with over 15 years in this market. He blogs and contributes to press articles on a frequent basis.