Providing Better IT using Antique Hardware

The Great Mouse Switch

An organisation took the following measures:

  1. It got rid of all the new-fangled optical mice, and replace them with old-fashioned mechanical ones (the ones with the little balls in them).
  2. Managers of the IT department were made personally responsible for keeping these mice gunge-free. These managers are not permitted to delegate cleaning to their staff. Instead, the managers were issued with a cleaning kit, and were responsible for mouse cleaning in person.
  3. Weekly emails were sent to staff stating that that all mouse problems would be dealt with as a priority.


The organisation that took these measures found the following benefits:

  1. The managers found themselves spending more time with their customers than they did previously.
  2. The mice that picked up the most gunge belonged to the people who used them the most: the organisation’s knowledge workers. As a result, it was the people who had most to benefit from IT who received most contact with the IT managers.
  3. Not realising they were talking to managers, the users found it easy to talk about the IT service that they received.
  4. Users were comfortable to express themselves in their own environment.
  5. User’s surroundings provided props and examples that they could use as a point of reference.
  6. The managers got to know the most common frustrations that their customers experienced with the IT service they received – both through conversation and from witnessing their users going about their day-to-day duties.
  7. Mangers noticed that the The IT managers saw impact of those frustrations first-hand – both on business productivity and on the welfare of their customers.
  8. Managers got to know more about the day-to-day operation of their customer’s business.
  9. Managers better understood how IT contributed to their customer’s business.
  10. Managers better understood the challanges faced by their own staff when they were field.
  11. Managers came back from meeting the customers with lots of small tasks for IT staff.
  12. The execution of these tasks significantly increased the confidence of customers in the IT department.
  13. IT staff intially resented the extra workload that these small tasks created.
  14. IT staff became aware that they needed to focus on providing a better quality service, resolving user issues first time where possible.
  15. IT managers focus broadened to the whole service offered by the IT department, rather than just the area for which they were personally responsible.
  16. Managers built up a picture of the most common issues faced by their customers, and to develop strategies to eliminate them.
  17. Managers were better able to prioritise, plan and strategies based on their clients real needs.
  18. The clients business was better served.
  19. As the IT service was better able to meet the real needs of the organisation, clients recognised the value that IT was adding to their business.
  20. Clients recognised the potential benefits that IT could offer to them, and were confident that the IT department would be able to deliver. They were willing to spend more money on IT, knowing that the benefits they would achieve would be outweighed by the costs.

The Mousetrap

Alright, allright: you’ve got me. This didn’t actually happen. I made it up. It is all just a silly story.

Or is it…

Getting to the Cheese

Fictional as the story is, it illustrates some important points about IT service delivery. If your organisation is anything like mine, there are some interesting comparisons to be made between this made-up company and the real one:

  • Do your IT managers talk directly to knowledge workers, or do they just speak to other managers?
  • Does the IT department prioritise the things your knowledge workers believe to be important?
  • Do IT managers know their client’s business, or just IT?
  • Is IT driven by business needs or by technology?
  • Do IT managers talk face-to-face to their customers, or do they hide away in their ‘ivory towers’?
  • Do IT managers ever see clients in their own workplace, or always meet in stuffy meeting rooms or in the IT department?
  • Do IT managers take active steps to assess their performance, or do they sit back and wait for feedback?
  • Do IT staff focus on quality of service, or do they do a hit-and-run quick-fix just to get jobs off the books?
  • Do managers understand the difficulties faced by their own staff, or do they leave that to others?
  • Is your IT department have the agility to notice and adapt tochanging business requirements, or is it change direction as slowly as a super-tanker?

It our answers to these questions are not the ones that we would like, we must not get down hearted. Seeing the problem is half way to finding the solution.


Whilst I am not advocating taking a retrograde step with people’s hardware, I am challanged to look at the way IT is delivered to our customers. We need to find creative ways to engage with our knowledge workers so that they can influence the direction that our IT service takes. In doing so, we can improve the value we offer our customers, and in doing so improve our own position within the organisation.


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