In his book, how, Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything in Business (and in Life), Dov Seidman lays out a very compelling narrative of why the HOW of WHAT we do is the new differentiator for success. It sounds confusing, but stay with me…. In essence he says, that in the past, it was WHAT people invented or manufactured made them successful. Today, the product alone isn’t enough, it has to be coupled with HOW it is made and delivered. Part of his argument speaks to the idea that in a commoditized society, where inventions can be quickly reproduced throughout the world more cheaply, and often with little regard to intellectual property rights, many can produce the same or equivalent item. Therefore, the distinguishing factor is not WHAT is made, but HOW it is made and HOW we add value beyond the item (or service) itself.

Seidman goes further to say that in our increasingly transparent society, people today don’t just want to buy any product, they also want to know where it is made (i.e. in fair labor markets, politically acceptable countries) how it is made (i.e. environmentally friendly, without animal testing, safety tested components) and even who makes or sells it (big box stores vs. local merchants). These factors, along with things like customer service and a customer relationship (part of the HOW), make up what he considers the total customer experience. Hence, the value to the customer is no longer just the item itself (the WHAT), but is the result of multiplying the WHAT by the HOW yielding a value for the overall customer experience.

I bring this to your attention since it is one of the most elegant justifications I have seen to explain why IT Relationship Management will be a critical element in the success of every IT organization.

If we extend this idea to the delivery of IT products and services, WHAT we provide to our stakeholders and users can often be sourced (or outsourced) from different suppliers and won’t necessarily meet their needs unless we also consider HOW it is made and delivered. To bring a commoditized technology to our business partners, internal IT departments must differentiate themselves from 3rd parties if they want to provide the best overall customer experience. It is the combination of WHAT and HOW that will set internal IT departments apart from external suppliers and make them the provider of choice to their internal customers.

Internal IT departments have always had technical staff on hand to provide their company with the WHAT, but WHAT alone may not yield the full value of the IT investment.  Further, since your competition also has a similar WHAT, future innovation is more likely to come from better networking, better relationships, better collaboration, etc. Starting now, IT departments need to embrace Relationship Management and become proficient in providing the right value added services to improve their HOW, thereby improving their standing as the preferred technology supplier and their company’s competitive advantage.

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