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Uber.PNG.pngI’ve mentioned before that I’m a frequent traveler.  And like many frequent travelers, when I land in a new city, I usually switch on my phone and immediately open the Uber app to request a car (or SUV when I’m traveling with a larger group) to take me to my destination.  For those of you not familiar, Uber turned the taxi and car-service industry on their ear when it launched its on-demand, cash-less car service app.  It’s a fantastic service that makes my travel experience easier, eliminates my concerns about having enough money (or the right currency) to pay for my trip, and ensures I never lose my receipts when it comes time to do my expenses.


However, Uber doesn’t see itself as “just another car-service company.”  They’re a company that connects people with drivers – in their own words - a company that is “evolving the way the world moves.”  It’s a pretty cool concept, and one that has GREATLY benefited me during my travels.  But here’s the thing.  I can only enjoy this service when I’m traveling because the city in which I reside, Houston, has very old, restrictive taxi and car-service laws.   Not surprising, the taxi and car-service industry, in most cities, is highly regulated and change comes slowly but, as seen by cities like New York, Dallas, Chicago, Paris and London, these laws can evolve to meet the changing needs of the population… the people who want an easy, safe, reliable transportation experience. Houston is the last major city in the United States to not offer Uber or an Uber-like service because the laws aren’t written to enable “evolution in the way people move”.  Nope the laws in Houston require the minimum fare for a car-service to be $70 and also state that a car-service must be booked in advance.  It’s 2014 – we’re an instant gratification society, in economically difficult times.  Why wouldn’t a city evolve it’s regulations to meet the needs of the citizens? 


So my question to you, IT service management professionals in 2014, in the context of Uber – a company that’s modernizing transportation by turning a very old industry on its ear – is:


“What processes, rules and/or standards are you following because that’s the way you’ve always done it?”


This is an easy question to ask, the hard part is really thinking through the answers and doing something about it.  I encourage you to ask these questions of yourself, your team and your organization to uncover the reality of the impact of your current way of operating on your customers:


  • Who is your customer?  This sounds like a silly question, chances are your customer has changed.  Did your way of working with the customer change, too? Or do your policies, procedures and processes force you AND your customer to interact in a way that is outdated and unnatural?


  • Now that we know who we’re serving, let’s examine what they need.  What are the most common services your customers need from IT or issues they need help with?  I encourage you to not take the easy route and issue a survey, but to get in conversation with your customers.  Face to face is best.  Make an effort to get in front of your customers and listen.  This is how you might discover your customers want something you’ve never even considered (like a cash-less, on-demand car service app.)


  • What is your SLA for responding to an inquiry or request? If it’s more than a few hours, why?  Do your processes “sandbag” to give you time so you never fail to meet the agreement.  Worse, are these really even agreements or just timelines you have dictated to your customer without truly evaluating the time it takes to respond?  Finally, do your SLAs exist to set expectations or to serve as a shield.


  • Where are your customers and when might they need your help or services?  Again, another question that might seem silly, but is worth asking yourself.  How has your workforce changed since you wrote your policies and processes?  If they’re using tablets but your policy states you only support desktops and laptops, something is wrong.  If your workforce is mobile (and let’s face it, what workforce ISN’T mobile these days) they’re going to need your help, now more than ever, at all hours of the day and they’re going to need your help with new and different technologies to help them gain and maintain a competitive advantage.


This isn’t a comprehensive list of everything you need to consider, but it should provide for some good discussion.  Uber challenged and changed an industry when they looked at a service from the customer’s perspective.  Their journey hasn’t always been a smooth one (point in case, the City of Houston continues to resist change in favor of old laws that don’t benefit the consumer) but Uber is a company committed to a new way of moving people that’s affordable, safe and convenient.  I submit, examining our services from the customers perspective might uncover some unsavory realities about the way we operate and interact with our customers but the in the end, the discoveries empower us to innovate and isn’t that why we got into IT in the first place?