September 12, 2019

Making IT Like Disneyland: Prologue

I used to say that my goal was to run my IT department like a Starbucks. And by that I wasn't suggesting that I wanted to extract as much profit as possible out of my customers on the back of an underpaid workforce and mediocre product. I meant that I wanted my IT department to run the way a Starbucks cafe operates. To me, at the time that meant an IT department that is clean, polite, and can consistently and competently deliver on a wide catalog of services. It also felt like a clever thing to say and seemed to resonate with my caffeine-addled peers.

Something I found on Google Image Search that kind of fits...
What I've learned in the seven or eight year since I made that declaration is that I was greatly overvaluing the services being delivered and equally undervaluing the experience of the customers receiving those services.

Let me explain. If you've worked in IT, you've probably heard, or like me expounded that good customer experience is a byproduct of good IT fundamentals. If your systems are stable, your backups solid, your security sound (editor's note: your heart true), the IT Fairy will visit all of your users at night and gift them with a great customer experience. And that is exactly as realistic as it sounds. In reality the IT Fairy is Arri from Estonia and the only gift he brings is identity theft (editor's note: sorry Estonian readers).

The same is true for Starbucks. The service being delivered, in this case coffee, is only a component of the customer experience. To illustrate this point, let's pretend you just walked into a Starbucks and ordered an Americano. You receive your drink, it's the correct size, correct temperature, correct flavor and aroma. Name is even spelled correctly on the side of the cup. Service delivered, boxes checked, happy customer. Easy, right?

But what about the ten minutes you just waited in line to order? Then the additional ten you waited for your drink to arrive? Or that guy in corner loudly dictating his next self-published masterpiece? Maybe the James Taylor and Sia duet album of Thanksgiving classics that is now soundtracking your decent into madness? Better be one hell of an Americano.

The other danger of relying solely on service delivery to determine customer experience is that you set yourself up to falsely associate poor customer experience to failed delivery. We're back at Starbucks again and this time instead of handing you your Americano, the barista pours it all over your hands. Which is contributing more to your poor experience, the skin on yours hands beginning to blister or your lack of beverage? Service delivery would say the latter. Reality would make a strong counter argument.

So, what does all this have to do with Disneyland (editor's note: after 450+ words of Starbucks ramblings)? From the very beginning, Walt built Disneyland to be a place where people have an experience. The attractions, the characters, the performances, the music, the theming, tools to enhance and amplify the experience, but the experience itself is the product, the service that is being delivered. Walt explained it best himself in his opening day speech, "To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land."

To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Information Technology is your land.
What if we apply Walt's philosophy for Disneyland to IT? What if customer experience becomes the product and IT services become the tools to support it? What if we make IT like Disneyland?

This is how I have been leading IT for several years now. Though the Making IT Like Disneyland series, I will be exploring how to create a better customer experience by applying Disneyland concepts to IT leadership and operations. No, we won't be devising plans for the World Famous JIRA Cruise or Splashtop Mountain or even Mr. Tableau's Wild Ride. But we will be looking at how things like cleanliness (editor's note: shout out to The Sweep Spot) are integral to the Disneyland experience and how they can also be used to further IT.

To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Information Technology is your land.


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