Why we should introduce network thinking in IT change communication projects

Oct 02, 2017
  • IT
  • automotive
  • chemicals
  • discrete manufacturing

Today, most b2b IT change communication assignments just concern one link in the chain: our customers ask us to help them in gaining internal support for their IT projects. The focus lies on creating awareness within their own organization and to increase the adoption rate of new applications by the end users. In itself, the fact that IT is communicating with the business is already a major leap forward. It has undoubtedly become necessary for IT to communicate internally about the business benefits it brings. Especially since the role of IT is questioned and its power – and financial resources – risks being transferred to the business. In other words, IT is under pressure to show its added value.

We can only welcome the first steps that IT is taking in the field of communication. However, we believe the unexplored gold mine is even bigger than most organizations now estimate. It also requires multiple departments, such as marketing and sales, to take part in the communication efforts.

Network brains

A domain that we can learn from is supply chain management. A supply chain manager does not only look at their own organization as an integrated stack, they are also fully aware of the importance of the other links in the chain for their success. As a consequence, they set up a dialogue with suppliers, customers and more and more, with the end-customers as well. As such, supply chain management by its very nature depends on relationships and connections. The economic crisis has even sharpened this collaborative way of thinking, since the pressure to decrease logistics costs is extremely high, while the operational cost structures have already been cut to the bone. Often, the only way to still make progress is to collaborate and to create a win-win situation for several parties.

We can also learn from companies with a strong designer focus, since organizations like Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike and Whirlpool are heading the S&P 500 over the past ten years for a reason. They are adapting the concept of ‘design thinking’, which also relies on end-to-end thinking, to their core strategy. They find desirable solutions by focussing on what matters to the end customer. Or, like Steve Jobs once said: ‘design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ And isn’t that ultimately where IT is all about? Making sure that the customer can easily place an order, is informed about every step in the buying cycle and receives the most optimal solution in the end.

So, lets steal the network brains of the supply chain manager and design expert.

IT as a value creator

Imagine that you would not only communicate internally about a major CRM (Customer Relationship Management) rollout, but would also involve your customers in its attendant communication actions. By communicating proactively about the upcoming change and its possible implications, you can also make your audience aware of your organization’s efforts in shifting from a product-oriented focus to a fully customer-centered approach and of the business benefits this will bring them. It’s an ideal moment to get in touch with your customers and to show your organization is constantly adapting to an ever-evolving world.

By deploying a value chain of IT communication you’re making IT people conscious about the impact of their work for the organization. It can even be a catalyst to clarify the objectives of the IT department for everyone involved and to crank up their pride and engagement.

On the other hand, if other departments – especially sales and marketing – are more aware of the way IT contributes to the organization and customer satisfaction, there will be more respect for the work IT delivers. Additionally, it can help show the added value of IT and change its perception as “only a cost”.

Internal customers?

Extending the communication about IT projects to the customer can be an opportunity to shape a positive and professional story about your organization. On top of that, we are convinced that we will evolve into a world in which networks will be key to success. All departments must be part of that story. Back office departments, like IT, should be visibly working for the ‘external customers’.

In the coming years, every company should find a way to make sure that all its employees are connected to the customers. An open, outside-oriented communication approach, with an eye for the end-to-end communication value chain, is a good first step in that direction. Let’s be truly smart and use network brains in IT change communication.