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Expert's Angle: IT & Operations… Quite the Match

Only a few years ago, you wouldn't expect these two departments to be dating, let alone thinking about getting into a long-term relationship. It has been reported and verified that resources from both IT and Operations have willingly sought to better understand the other and magical things are occurring.

Dee Kohler at ACCE 2012:

Session 406: The Contact Center and IT: Better Together!
In this lively (and fun!) debate, industry experts share how to ensure teamwork among departments with very different perspectives. Dee Kohler, of Customer Service Junkies, represents the frequently frustrated contact center leadership, while Lori Bocklund, President of Strategic Contact, speaks for embattled IT professionals. This discussion will engage you discover why the contact center and IT can be better together!

Session 505: Why Can't We All Just Get Along?!
If you advocate and ask questions, but still leave the office questioning whether others understood your viewpoint, this session is for you! In this interactive session you’ll reveal the top communication challenges, solutions for conflict resolution, and ways to encourage open dialogue within your contact center.

ICMI defines successful contact center management as having the right resources in place at the right time to meet a desired service level with efficiency and quality. Appropriately supporting a world class contact center takes the effort and synchronization of many resources across a variety of departments. Marketing, public relations, product development, sales, corporate training, human resources …and information technology. Each of these departments has a direct impact on the successful operation of the contact center. They are key contributors of information that includes sales projections, media schedules, product changes or launches, customer demographics, corporate announcements and other company news. But the Information Systems & Technology department’s impact goes further. IT/IS provides and supports the architecture, systems, applications, hardware and software, not to mention provisioning appropriate network capacity to enable customer connections.

So why in the world would such an obvious match take so much effort and time to blossom into a working relationship?

After all, they say that opposites attract…

Opposites Attract

Historically, organizations have worked in predominantly independent functional structures. The flow of work was one-way, often lacking understanding of impact on different departments. Today, no department is an island. IT and contact center may appear to be complete opposites, yet have found a way to become partners, allies and dare I say… friends!

Let's be honest, a Contact Center is a very social environment. People sitting on either side of one another; talking, typing, texting and chatting with people via multiple devices; looking forward to breaks with coworkers, and the ultimate FOOD days. IT, on the other hand, may be stereotyped as quiet, heads-down techies having contests on who can utilize their keyboard shortcuts before requiring a mouse (brother Doug). Many could agree that IT and Contact Center are polar opposites, extroverts and introverts, the red and green of the color wheel, and unlikely to become yin and yang.

Getting to Know one Another

We're not going to debate or argue about who called who first! In the past 7-10 years, there has been a marked difference in how Contact Centers and the IT departments have been working with another. The progression has included:

  • Inviting one another to each other’s staff (or partner) meetings to understand one another’s issues and perspectives
  • IT is shadowing contact center service representatives with scheduled frequency to understand business processes
  • Contact Center leadership is engaged in the learning of systems software, applications and hardware solutions.
  • Joint participation in companywide efforts, such as system upgrades, testing, business continuity planning and even picnics

As the two departments worked together, it became apparent that there was more a strong interdependency. They needed one another and there was a synergy when they worked together. Leadership noticed and started to encourage the two areas to continue with their efforts and see where it might go.

Collaboration to Relationship

After getting to know one another better, the relationship continues to blossom through collaborative efforts:

  • Based on business need, developing positions such as business and systems analysts to support larger projects or for ongoing technology optimization
  • Collaborative business requirements to improve contact center technology functions
  • Joint vendor selection to assure architecture compatibility and operational success
  • Contact Center staff assisting with systems testing
  • Assisting each other with training efforts
    • Assist company support help desk with soft skills training
    • Assist contact center with applications training
    • Timely outage notifications and recovery times
    • Enhanced communication about what is coming next, leading to common priorities and planning

    When IT and the Contact Center partner together and develop a working relationship, magic happens!