CIO Symmetry

Sep 7 2010   4:49PM GMT

Improving business services management, one vehicle at a time

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

It’s funny the places where you can gain some insight about business services management.

Last week, I spent two hours waiting at my local Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to exchange a green-lettered license plate for a red one (I couldn’t pass inspection without it).

This particular RMV is located in a big mall north of Boston. The place was packed on that afternoon and spilling out into the mall corridor, with people just milling around, waiting their turn. When you come in you get a ticket with a number that includes your approximate wait time. But me, and many other paranoids there, didn’t want to risk walking over to the Best Buy or the food court for fear of some freak occurrence that would skip a bunch of numbers and pass me by.

The waiting throng discussed some better options. “Why can’t we do this online?” someone asked, stating the most obvious solution. But another said, “They should have those beepers like they do at Panera [right around the corner in the mall], and buzz you when your number is close.”

A simple but brilliant solution. But she didn’t even see all the benefits of a service that could not only improve customer relations, but also drive commerce in the mall. A closer partnership with the mall could even enable the project to be subsidized, so as not to spend any more taxpayer dollars, a shortage of which has exacerbated the very situation we were in.

Once my number came up and I got to the service agent, it took her no more than two minutes to fetch me a new plate and print out a new registration. The situation recalled a story we did with another commonwealth of Massachusetts tie, “How CIOs are tackling IT business services creation,” in which Ed Bell, a former interim CIO for the state House and Senate, discussed how he sought to help his customers, the legislators and their staffs.

“I sat in the clerks’ offices, sat on the House and Senate session floors and watched what they did and how they did it,” he said. “From that vantage point you can take that information and do a better job communicating with constituents as well, who really are the ones we serve. It was a good education for them, and for me. From a business product standpoint and a customer standpoint, we need to engage with customers to see how we can improve their environments.”

This enlightened approach has not filtered through all of the corridors of the State House. But it’s a lesson for all managers, technology or otherwise: Get out from behind your desk to understand how your business really runs.

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