They are the words most CIOs will never hear said aloud: “The I&IT Organization assists my business unit in understanding the rationale and costs associated with technology.” Or perhaps this one: Given my understanding of what my business unit pays for I&IT services, I think my business unit is getting good value for the money.” Or how about a simple, “I receive useful advice from the I&IT organization.”
If any of those sound somewhat familiar, though, it’s probably because they are the kind of statements with which employees in an organization are asked to either strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree or strongly disagree. They are staple of technology user satisfaction surveys, and even if a growing number of CIOs are balking at describing their coworkers as “users,” or “customers” in favour of “partners” or something else, the feedback has never been more important.
At the recent CIO Association of Canada Peer Forum in Toronto, Ken Kawall highlighted all of these statements and others as examples of the kind of surveys he uses within the Ontario government. As the assistant deputy minister and CIO for the Labour and Transportation I&IT Cluster, Kawall was talking about the age-old issue of aligning IT with the business. He highlighted a number of external projects that have benefitted citizens, such as the Ontario identity card for non-drivers, and Select Ontario, an online tool for helping those investing in the province to choose an appropriate site. All of those achievements, however, require close collaboration with other parts of the organization, and ensuring their needs are met is critical to overall success, he said. The satisfaction surveys are a fundamental way of measuring that.
“If you don’t ask, they don’t tell. If they don’t tell, you don’t know where to go next,” he told the CIOCAN Peer Forum. When an audience member asked how he managed to get a decent and honest response rate, Kawall laughed. “You have to meet our users. They’re not shy at all.”
According to recently-released market research, however, IT department user satisfaction surveys remain are far from standardized across the industry, and unevenly deployed at best. While some degree of variation from one organization to another is to be expected, a failure to look holistically at user satisfaction on an ongoing basis may be one of the things that hampers CIO effectiveness as they seek to involved in more strategic business decisions.
“They may be conducting surveys on an ad hoc or occasional basis, when a perceived need arises such as before a system upgrade, or they may only be surveying users about certain services or systems,” according to User Satisfaction Surveying Adoption and Best Practices, a study published by Irvine, Calif.-based Computer Economics in February. “For example, some help desk systems send out a survey request to determine user satisfaction each time a help desk incident is closed. Such surveys are useful for determining the satisfaction with help desk services, but they will not reveal dissatisfaction with other IT services.”