Later this week I’ll be delivering a three-hour online workshop on how to use the Higher Education TechQual+ Project survey and Web site tools. The survey and tools are available free of charge for assessing the quality of IT services on college or university campuses. The first question we’ll cover is “Why TechQual+?” Or, why should IT leaders use a standardized survey for gauging IT service quality? To answer that question, let me share an experience that I once had as an external reviewer assessing IT services at another university.
Over the course of two days, the review team had conducted a number of focus groups where we discussed perceptions of IT service quality. Overall, the feedback received was positive. There were many things the IT organization was doing that were well received. There were also a few areas where most agreed there were some opportunities for improvement. But, that was before we came to the last focus group on the last day. The tone and nature of the feedback from this one group of individuals was in stark contrast to what we had heard during our previous discussions.
In this last focus group, there was one individual who had very negative perceptions about the capabilities of the IT organization and its leadership. He didn’t just have negative opinions; he was also quite articulate and forceful in rallying the other focus group members to share in his beliefs. In short order this individual had successfully shifted the focus group to an open complaint session about the central IT organization and its leadership. Having performed countless focus groups in the past, the review team was able to put these negative perceptions within the broader context established by the other focus groups. However, this experience raised an interesting dilemma that goes to the heart of one of the fundamental challenges faced by IT leaders – the relationship between perceived service quality and IT leadership credibility.
Let’s suppose that the CIO’s president is walking around campus and they just happen to run into some of the same individuals who participated in our focus groups. What would they tell the president if the subject turned to concerns about IT service quality? What would the president’s perception of IT service quality be if they only talked to the one individual who possessed such strong negative opinions? The question for IT leaders is do you want to leave the reputation of your organization’s performance and leadership to such chance encounters?
Successful IT leaders rely on tools like TechQual+ to regularly collect data regarding the quality of IT services and to solicit feedback on opportunities for improvement. Such data helps to create a context for the anecdotal feedback that comes through casual conversations. The strength of TechQual+ is that it provides a common way to collect data on IT service quality, allowing for comparisons against normative data collected from other institutions also administering the survey. There is now a large community of participating institutions using TechQual+ to drive IT continuous improvement programs on their campuses.
There is a direct relationship between perceptions of IT service quality and the credibility and effectiveness of IT leaders. Those with strong reputations for service quality find it easier to build alliances and gain support for their work. Ultimately, on every college or university campus there is a prevailing narrative about IT services and the capabilities and performance of the IT organization. Tools like TechQual+ can help IT leaders drive this narrative, by using data to inform conversations about more effective delivery and use of IT services. To get started with TechQual+ or to learn more please visit the project’s Web site at http://www.techqual.org.