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IT, Customer and User: A Bermuda Triangle

triangleThere are plenty of reasons that ITIL is hard to approach: between the initial versions of the ITIL books (which were poorly structured, had multiple definitions for the same process, and overall were capable of making even the most ardent IT professional want to catch a nap in the break room) and the general complicated processes included in ITIL itself, it's easy to take a few missteps. This blog post from the IT Zealot admits this (despite being, as the name implies, a firm believer in the value of ITIL), and goes on to explain why the ITIL books can be so confusing. One way around this – both easy to do but difficult to begin””is rereading sections of ITIL until it fundamentally sinks into your mind. Yes, the language can be difficult, but the value of truly understanding what individual elements of the overall methodology call for is immeasurable. It's with this idea in mind that the ITIL Zealot explains what they believe is one of the most common misunderstandings: the difference between customers and users.

According to the post, a lack of understood definition between the two causes a Bermuda Triangle within communication comes in. In ITIL, the Customer is (as described in the post) “is someone” who represents the business (i.e. a group, team, function, unit). A User is “someone who uses the IT (Service)”. This means the customer is the group or individual who makes upgrade request and pays for the service, and the user is the individual who actually uses it. Confused yet? Don't be; think of it this way: a customer pays for application X to be built, and you (IT) builds that application to specification. The customer then provides that application to their employees (the users). This is the beginning of the problem addressed in the blog post from the ITIL Zealot. Users inevitably want things to change in an application. They want a better looking UI, more options for what they do, or eventually need the application to evolve with their business practice. So these users contact IT through the help desk or via the “contact us” information. And now you've got the Bermuda Triangle between IT, the customer, and the user.

As the ITIL Zealot puts it, the user should be contacting the customer, and the customer should explain the new enhancement request/issue to IT. Without that chain, the user is making requests that IT can't do anything with (after all, the customer is the one footing the bill, not the user). To correct this common issue, the post suggests establishing the line of communication early, performing User Satisfaction Surveys to present to the customer, and routine User Acceptance Testing and post implementation reviews. This creates the proper lines of discussing between all three, and helps everyone escape the nebulous ITIL Bermuda Triangle.


About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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