responds to the prevailing demandfor information technology. TheIT organization and the businessare involved in a continual process
of nding the balance between
supply and demand.
The IT organization must be ableto deal with rapidly changingtechnological developments,while the commercial need of itsclients changes at the same time.This tension between supply anddemand puts IT managers underconstant pressure to prove thattheir service is client-oriented.Nowadays, the magic word inservice delivery is quality. But whatexactly is quality?Scholars distinguish roughly threeapproaches to describe the conceptof quality. First, the philosophicalpoint of view: In Zen and theArt of Motorcycle Maintenance(1974) Robert Pirsig describesquality simply as ‘excellence’. Onerecognizes quality when facedwith it, but cannot explain it. Forexample, “Music composed byBeethoven is of a high quality, butwe still don’t know why”.
Froma theoretical point of view, thisapproach is perhaps interesting, yet virtually unusable in practicebecause quality, according to this
denition, cannot be accounted for
nor measured.The second – technical –approach is exactly the opposite.According to this approach, of which Frederick W. Taylor laid thefoundations in ‘The Principles of
Scientic Management’ (1911),
quality can be seen as an objectivestandard that can be measured.In this case, any divergence fromthe standard means a reduction inquality.Finally, the client-oriented
approach leaves the denition of
quality up to the client. Quality isthus subjective and depends onthe client’s individual experience.
According to the denition of
Joseph M. Juran, expert in qualitymanagement, the quality of aservice is good when the client isconvinced that it’s good.
The Technical Approach
Currently, numerous ITorganizations use the technicalapproach to measure the qualityof their IT services. By employingobjective quality standards,organizations can acquire insightinto the technical quality of theservice: How many questions arebeing answered successfully?How many disruptions are beingrestored? How many bugs are
being xed? To guarantee this
quality, checklists of qualitystandards are drawn up; forexample, the telephone at the helpdesk must be answered withinthree rings.To a certain extent, this is a usefulmethod of measuring quality;however, it is no guarantee forsuccess. In the example above,help desk employees could answerall incoming calls within thegiven three rings, only to put thecustomer on hold. Sure, the qualityrequirement is met – the phonedidn’t ring more than three times– but has a good service actuallybeen delivered? Figures areconjured up out of thin air, creatingthe illusion that the service hasbeen made measurable. Thedanger of this technical approachis that help desk employees aim tomeet the quality standard, withoutit actually leading to a generalimprovement of the service.
Whether the client is satised
with the provided service doesnot depend on what is delivered(the technical quality), but also onhow the service is provided (thefunctional quality). The telephonemight be answered quickly, butis the help desk employee at theother end of the line actuallyfriendly? Does he or she use toomuch jargon? And if the clientis offered a solution, is his or herschedule taken into account?
Research reveals that it is exactlythis functional quality that isdecisive in the perception of clients.
The reason for this isthe nature of providing service:services are not tangible, but areeffected as the result of interactionwith the client. The client is oneinseparable component of theservice. Therefore organizationsthat wish to gain real insight intothe quality of their service, shouldthen consider applying a client-oriented approach. What does theclient think of the service? If anIT organization is really strivingfor client satisfaction, then the
“Quality is subjective and depends on theclient’s individual experience”