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Using Six Sigma process to engage your users with IT consumerization

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John Weathington

IT consumerization is the antithesis of old-fashioned IT practices. It requires the CIO to actively engage and listen to the user and be open to change that is not necessarily governed through IT compliance. It doesn't have to be a hostile discussion, however. There are steps where both the business need and the needs of IT can be met. The CIO has a distinct opportunity to be a champion through this process, using IT to bridge the gap and gain user engagement. Here are four key steps that CIOs can follow to make the transition to consumerization as easy and painless as possible.

  • Understand the need. When one of your business users suggests a solution, try to understand their real needs. Their initial suggestion tells you what they want -- now probe a bit to understand what they need by asking a series of whys. Sometimes one why gets you to the answer, but sometimes it takes several. I suggest a facilitated exercise with the users called The Five Whys. This is a typical technique used in Six Sigma process to uncover root causes. There's no magic to the number five -- you could have your answer after only one.
  • Understand the gap. Resist the urge to defend your current architecture or foreshadow complications. This discussion should be in the spirit of improvement and understanding gaps. These first two steps essentially build a requirement for improvement.
  • Understand how the tool bridges the gap. The first two steps in the process may make the users suspicious that you're trying to negotiate with them in some way. This is not the case; you're just trying to find the best solution. Acknowledging their proposal is still on the table is a great way to demonstrate this.
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  • Explore the best solution. It's very important to keep an open mind throughout this process, and strongly consider what the users saying. Again, be careful not to appear as if you're negotiating them out of their original idea. Using the idea behind the Six Sigma process, try to brainstorm some other solutions with the users -- both to see if you understand the requirement properly and whether that solution completely satisfies the requirement. You may have a consumerization solution the users legitimately like better.

IT consumerization is happening right now in your organization, whether you like it or not. Your users are finding ways to get around IT, in the spirit of doing what's best for the business. Meet them halfway by engaging in these consumerization discussions with an open mind and open heart, and you'll reap the benefits.

This was first published in August 2012

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