Customer Orientation in an IT Organization
Lecturer, Project Management
The British University in Dubai
Visiting Lecturer, University of Manchester, UK
P.O. Box 502216
Phone, 971-4-367 1952
Fax, 971-4-391 3626
Customer orientation is essential for success in today’s competitive environment.
Jaworski and Kohli (1993) proposed a model to measure customer orientation. This
model has three components: 1) Intelligence generation; 2) Intelligence dissemination;
and 3) Organization-wide responsiveness. This model has been applied in several
sectors. This paper applies the model to an IT organization involved in developing the e-
Governance interface for a municipality. For applying the model, unstructured interviews
were conducted in the organization. Based on the interviews, some of the issues that
highlighted the need for customer orientation were: 1) Absence of concurrency in design;
2) Lack of information on supporting hardware and software; 3) Absence of a knowledge
management system for sharing lessons learnt; 4) Reactive nature of the organization; 5)
Different personnel for design and troubleshooting; and 6) No direct contact between
programmers and either the municipal department or the end user.
Information Technology (IT) departments in any organization occupy a significant
position. However, over 60% of IT projects represent a failure in terms of exceeding the
budget, deadlines and also in terms of dissatisfied customers (Goepp et. al., 2006).
Agarwal and Rathod (2006) point to the disconnect between the expectations of the
customers and understanding of the producer (IT departments) as one of the major factors
contributing to this high failure rate. King and Burgess (2006), point to the
interdepartmental and intradepartmental communication as a critical success factor in an
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation, a prevalent IT project for the past
decade. Dhillon (2005) points to excessive importance on technological issues and very
little on organizational issues as an important contributor towards IT failure. Procaccino
et. al. (2005) rate customer satisfaction and user friendliness as key indicators of a
successful IT project. Based on these recent findings it is important that apart from
technical competence, organizational aspects that contribute to customer orientation
should also be given importance in IT sector. This paper presents a model that measures
the organizational customer orientation in IT sector.
Dulaimi (2005) defines “customer” as a blanket term for “all parties and individuals who
would influence the character, scope, and nature of the product or service that the
business needs to provide”. Defining customer in this manner gives us the flexibility to
refer to both the internal and external customers using the term “customers”.
Narver and Slater (1990, 1994), and Joworski and Kohli (1990, 1993) are the most cited
works in the area of market orientation. Narver and Slater (1990) state that “market
orientation is the organization culture that most effectively and efficiently creates the
necessary behavior for the creation of superior value for buyers and, thus, continuous
performance for the business”. This definition broadens the scope of market orientation
to include the participation of all the departments in an organization and not merely the
marketing department (Dulaimi, 2005). Dulaimi (2005) further argues that “the use of
the term market-orientation is useful to make it clear that customer orientation is much
more than the establishment of customer needs and expectations through the process of
briefing and feedback but to include all forces that may impact the effective identification
and fulfillment of such needs and expectations”. Therefore he argues that the both the
terms market orientation and customer orientation portray a wider organization-wide
focus on customer and can be used interchangeably. For this research also, both the
terms are used interchangeably.
Jaworski and Kohli (1993) proposed a model to measure market orientation based on
organization-wide generation, dissemination and responsiveness of market intelligence.
This model has been used by several researchers in various applications and sectors like
Construction (Dulaimi, 2005), Supply Chain (Saiguaw et al, 1998), New Product
Development (Kahn, 2001), Hospitality and Tourism (Sin et al, 2005, and Qu et al,
2005), Manufacturing (Singh and Ranchodd, 2004), and Non-profit Service Sector
(Gainer, B., and Padanyi, P., 2005). This paper presents application of this model in the
IT sector through a case of an e-Government organization.
The case considered for this paper involves an e-Government organization. This
organization is responsible for designing, coding and maintaining the web interface as
well as the back-end software functions of a municipality and is described in more detail
in the next section. The model proposed by Jaworski and Kohli (1993) has three
components: 1) Intelligence generation; 2) Intelligence dissemination; and 3)
Organization-wide responsiveness. Dulaimi (2005) argues that if this model is applied to
an organization, it should be able to effectively satisfy customer needs and expectations.
Intelligence generation in this model, for the case to be considered, means the generation
of customer needs before design of e-services. The effectiveness of the intelligence
generation is affected by who collects the intelligence, how the intelligence is gathered,
how often it is collected and the mechanism for revision as well as validation.
Intelligence dissemination in an organization can be evaluated by analyzing the process
of distribution of knowledge within the organization. In case of an e-Government
organization, it is essential to collect information on customer needs and distribute it
within the organization so system design, webpage design, database design and other
related technical operations can be performed.
Organization-wide responsiveness can be assessed by evaluating the product/service
design process. How does the design take place, how much is the customer involved, and
how often does the design need modification after product is launched?
Dreamland is a city kingdom located on the inlet of the Persian Gulf. Dreamland is a
major port and commercial center of the Middle East, and the principal shipping, trading,
and communications hub of the Persian Gulf region. Sometimes referred to as “the
Venice of the Gulf,” Dreamland is a bustling, cosmopolitan city and a popular tourist
Dreamland was founded as a small fishing village by the end of the 18th century. After
the discovery of major oil and gas reserves in 1960s, Dreamland became a major port and
a wealthy commercial town by the 20th century. Dreamland's population is estimated to
have reached 857,233. Only 19% of this population comprises of natives and the
remaining 81% are expatriates who have come here seeking employment opportunities.
Dreamland Municipality is regarded as one of the largest establishments in Dreamland, in
terms of the number of people it employs, the volume of services it provides to the public
and projects it carries out.
The municipality was established in the 1940s with three employees and housed in a one
room office. However, it was in 1965 that Dreamland Municipality came into being
officially. The municipality kept up its steady growth since its inception and now
employs more than 11600 people.
In the year 2001, Dreamland Municipality embarked on a major e-Government initiative
triggered by a wider, Dreamland wide government initiative to automate all government
functions. The vision for the Municipality e-services as defined by the ruler was “Use e-
government solution as the primary delivering channel to provide a single, easy,
integrated, and reliable means of access to Municipal information and services in order to
continuously improve the quality of services provided for the residents, businesses, and
partners, reduce internal operational overheads, enhance revenues, and promote
Dreamland’s image as a commercial and tourism hub in the Gulf region.”
This vision for e-Government transformed the priority of the municipality to act as a
customer oriented, agile and accountable entity, rather than a public bureaucratic
organization. This was a major paradigm shift and required detailed planning on the part
of the top management.
The IT department in the municipality owns the e-Government initiative. It is important
that the organizational structure of this department is discussed in detail. Figure 1
represents the organizational structure of the IT department. This department performs
operation tasks, beneficiaries support, planning and development of information systems,
computer-related tasks, data processing and ensuring the safety thereof. It also provides
staff with sets, programs and necessary telecommunication networks, supplying and
linking all facilities and websites of the Municipality with e-Government websites and
information telecommunication network with standard specifications and protection of
the same against various risks.
Assistant. Director General
Quality Control Office
E-Government Section Systems Development Section Office Automation Section
E-Gov Planning & Office Automation
Systems Development Unit Operations Unit
Design Unit Programs Unit
E-Gov Service Office Automation
Systems Support Unit Network Services Unit
Development Unit Support Unit
E-Gov Support Planning & Systems Computer Applications
Internet Operations Unit
Services Unit Design Unit Training Unit
Figure 1: Organizational Structure of IT Department
Within the IT department the e-Government section has three main responsibilities: 1) To
supervise, upgrade, monitor and support all computer systems of e-Government, whether
externally purchased or internally developed; 2) To prepare and identify the technical
criteria and standards related to the development of e-Government, databases and
programming languages and implementing the same in IT Department; and 3) To study
and analyze e-Government systems, to determine their creation methods to prepare the
technical specifications of systems required to be developed and to prepare tenders for the
system work. These responsibilities are undertaken by three major units within the e-
Government. The first unit deals with the planning and design of e-Government services,
the second deals with development of websites and databases and the third deals with
post implementation support.
The systems development section of the IT department has four major functions: 1) To
propose long, medium and short term development plans for the IT systems; 2) To
prepare and determine the technical criteria and standards for development of systems,
databases and programming languages, and to undertake the responsibility of
implementing the same at the IT Department; 3) To perform feasibility studies of the
systems which various regulatory units at the Municipality desire to get, and to make the
appropriate decision in respect thereof; and 4) To provide technical assistance and
necessary training as to the systems used or to be used at the Municipality.
The office automation section of the IT department has three major functions: 1) To
prepare and determine requirements of office automation programs, to perform their
feasibility studies and prepare recommendations in respect of the same; 2) To prepare
tenders and technical specifications of office programs and equipment, to communicate
with companies and suppliers to evaluate submitted tenders, and to prepare the joint
recommendations in respect thereof in coordination with the concerned regulatory units;
and 3) To supervise the training of all computer users on the use of various office
programs, Internet browsing, e-mail, web-mail and security aspects.
The operations and network service department within the IT department has three major
functions: 1) To operate and maintain internal and external computer network and
connection lines and circles; 2) To propose and execute procedures and regulations
related to the security and confidentiality of information network, databases, information
storage and back up; and 3) To install, transfer and maintain terminal monitors equipment
(i.e. terminal monitors programs), printers and connection equipment.
Each element of the IT department performs a distinct function. For the purpose of this
study only the e-Government section hereafter referred to as e-Gov of the IT department
was considered, as that section was the only section within the IT department which
produced service interfaces that were used directly by outside customers.
e-Gov has four major roles played by employees. The roles are: 1) Custodians; 2)
Business Analysts; 3) Systems Analysts, and 4) Programmers.
Custodian is the in-charge of a service. The municipality automates its services in
phases. When a particular service is planned to be automated and is going online, a
custodian is appointed for that service. The job of the service custodian is to manage the
entire process of converting the service to an online service and manage any proposed
changes, post-implementation, after the service goes online.
Business analysts are responsible for documenting the process flows prior to system
design and coding. Once a decision is made to automate a service and a service custodian
is assigned to it, the business analyst starts the job of discussing with the relevant
department within the municipality who has the ownership of the service. Based on that
input the process flow is designed by the business analyst and handed over to the
Systems analysts start working after the business analyst has documented the process
flow. Systems analysts are responsible for creating the data flow diagrams, entity
relationship diagrams and UML diagrams. Once system design is completed, coding of
the system starts.
Programmers are involved in coding of the entire service during the initial development
and modifying the codes post-implementation, if required.
e-Gov has two major responsibilities: 1) Design and launch of new services online and
2) Maintaining all the e-services that have been launched already.
and Custodian On Approval it Does
Work Closely to Goes to Systems Diagramming and
Design High Level Analyst Send it for Coding
Custodian System Analyst
Figure 2: Service design process
Figure 2 summarizes the service design process. Once the decision to go online is made,
a custodian is appointed. The business analyst under the supervision of the custodian
designs the process flow for the service. During this design, the business analyst works
very closely with the concerned municipality department(s). Once the process flow is
designed and approved, a systems analyst is appointed to do the system design and the
database design. After the system design is complete, coding starts. Coding can be done
either internally by a programmer or can be outsourced to an external vendor. Once the
coding is complete, the systems analyst evaluates and approves it and then it goes for the
approval of the custodian. Once that approval is obtained the service goes online.
DM or User
the Service to
Go To Systems Is Problem Go to DM
Administrators Technical? Department
Go to Programmer Yes
Figure 3: Service maintenance process
Figure 3 depicts the service maintenance process. Once a service is launched both the
external users and the relevant municipal department(s) can contact a help desk if they
have a problem with any part of the service. Once the problem is reported the custodian
is notified. The Custodian analyzes if the problem is technical or not. If the problem
relates to the process then the concerned municipal department is notified and once their
change is approved by the custodian the problem is rectified. If the problem happens to
be technical in nature then the systems analyst is notified. The systems analyst makes the
decision about whether there is any need for coding. If there is a need for coding then the
programmer does the coding and the changes are implemented after the approval of the
custodian. If no coding is needed, then systems analyst makes the necessary adjustments
and sends the changes for the approval of the custodian.
e-Gov currently has six custodians, three business analysts, three systems analysts and
two programmers currently on staff. Due to the small number of employees at the e-Gov
developing a survey instrument and conducting a statistical analysis was not possible.
Therefore, for the purpose of this research, unstructured interviews were conducted.
Interviews were conducted with four custodians (due to unavailability of the other two),
two business analysts, two systems analysts and two programmers. Prior to the interview
a pilot interview was conducted with one system analyst and one business analyst. The
information obtained from these interviews was only used to modify the method of
conducting the interviews. One significant feedback from the pilot was the need for
difference in emphasis of interviews based on roles in the organization. No information
obtained through these two pilots will be used for analysis in this paper for drawing
conclusions. Each interview lasted between 20 and 30 minutes and was conducted at the
workstation of the interviewee.
Questions for intelligence generation were primarily focused to provide more insight into
the mechanism of gathering intelligence what information does a particular individual
need for his role and how he obtains it, how often is the information obtained during the
duration of the design project or through a maintenance task.
Questions for intelligence dissemination were focused on obtaining information about the
intelligence transfer and interpretation within the team in a project and the mechanisms in
place to do that.
Questions for responsiveness highlighted mechanism to respond and to follow-up on
response, organizational learning through knowledge management, and incorporation of
change in the style of functioning based on the intelligence obtained.
After interviewing the employees and reviewing documents about steps and procedures,
results were compiled. For the purpose of analysis, results are divided into the three
categories of intelligence generation, intelligence dissemination and responsiveness.
Currently, when the project is started a service custodian is appointed who facilitates the
process design. After the design is complete the systems analyst completes the systems
design and then the programmer codes. This process is very sequential and misses
concurrency. Not only does this process not have concurrency, it has very regimented
channel of communication. Programmers and systems analysts do not have direct
communication either with the concerned department at the municipality or the end user.
In fact they are not even appointed to a project till after the business process is
completely documented. Even though there are standards for developing the process
flow documents and identifying the user interface specifications. Mullens et al. (2005),
advocate the use of concurrent engineering for new product development. Concurrent
engineering practices can be applied to this e-Gov organization as well, creating a direct
interface between programmers and end users.
One more issue with the lack of concurrency is simply expertise. Currently, all service
custodians and business analysts come from business administration backgrounds,
systems analysts come from MIS backgrounds and programmers are computer scientists.
Due to this difference in expertise it is important that systems analysts as well as
programmers be involved in the initial process design as well, since that can potentially
have impact on data structures, user interfaces and codes. This lack of concurrency has
resulted in multiple iterations in the service design process and delays in implementation.
For the post-implementation support similar problems have existed. At the time of
conducting the interview the programmer was going through the sixth iteration of a
recoding on a request made by the concerned department at the municipality. The issue
again is that a sequential process is followed, where the service custodian decides what to
do and solve the problem based on her/his understanding without input from the
programmer or the systems analyst. During the interviews the systems analysts and the
programmers pointed out that this is a frequent problem and a lot of post-implementation
changes have to go through multiple iterations due to lack of direct contact between the
complainant and the technical staff.
In the current organization structure the e-Gov section does not have control over the
hardware and software platforms. That is done by the operations and network section of
the IT department. Currently, the IT department replaced a middleware because the
vendor for existing middleware went out of business. The decision for changing the
middleware followed six months of procedures. However, e-Gov was not informed till
the new middleware was about to be installed. Currently, there is no mechanism where
the e-Gov section communicates with other sections on a regular basis proactively and so
they always have to react to changes elsewhere. This need to change and a more
proactive interaction is needed for the future.
Currently, there are standard forms and formats to disseminate information on a project.
Every service designed poses new problems and informal communication becomes very
important to get a quick response to a problem. However, currently in the development
process the dissemination of information is done solely by the custodian and makes the
process more bureaucratic and less conducive to technical members like systems analysts
Another issue that several interviewees pointed out was the absence of a platform or a
knowledge management system where one can store lessons learnt on a project for future
use. There is not even any informal mechanism of doing so. Everyone works in
isolation, based on their personal knowledge and information on standard documents.
This lack of knowledge sharing is counterproductive and results in the phenomenon
popularly known as reinventing the wheel (Kulonda et. al., 2003).
As far as responsiveness is concerned, e-Gov is a very reactive organization. There is no
contact between the e-Gov and municipal departments or the end users unless a problem
with a service is reported. The municipality tracks two major matrices adoption rate and
the proportion of revenue generated through online versus over-the-counter transactions.
Both these matrices are made available to the service custodians. However both of them
cannot highlight issues like user satisfaction by changing the interface. In order to
harness this improvement, a more proactive approach is needed for every service that can
potentially result in incremental improvements.
The other issue is with the team structure for responding to complaints either by end users
or concerned department in the municipality. The only person who remains committed to
a service is the service custodian. If some technical issue arises, then it is not necessary
that the service custodian approach the same systems analyst or the programmer who has
developed the service initially. This results in delay in responding to complaints. One
way of addressing this issue is by keeping the entire team constant for post-
implementation support. The only time this rule should be violated is when someone is
on leave or has left the organization.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Customer orientation has become a key element of organizational strategy (Dulaimi,
2005). Jaworski and Kohli (1993) proposed a model to measure customer orientation.
This model has three components: 1) Intelligence generation; 2) Intelligence
dissemination; and 3) Organization-wide responsiveness. The model has been used in
several sectors and this paper applies the model to an IT organization dealing with the
development of e-Government interface of a municipality. Employees of this section of
the municipality were subject to an unstructured interview and the findings indicate that
the current process at the municipality is very sequential and better communication
through practicing principles of concurrent engineering will be beneficial. For a new
product development type of project, which happens to be a big responsibility of this
organization this will improve the inter-organizational communication and eventually
efficiency of product development as highlighted by Kahn (2001). There is a lack of
contact between the programmers and the concerned municipal departments which has
resulted in multiple iterations for troubleshooting reported problems.
e-Gov play no role in selection of software and hardware platform and which is driven by
another department. This has been an issue recently when some changes were made and
e-Gov was informed only after the changes were finalized.
The Service Custodian currently is the sole point of contact of the concerned municipal
departments and end-users. The communication takes place through standardized forms.
This becomes even bigger a problem when personnel on the team are from different areas
of expertise and the hope that a business analyst will produce a document that will be
completely understood by the technical members of the team have not been realized,
which again makes a strong case for applying concurrent design practices. There is no
knowledge management system where everyone can share lessons they have learnt
individually and hence repeating the same mistake is a possibility.
e-Gov is a very reactive organization where any change is solely driven by complaints. It
is important that a more proactive approach of seeking views and insights be adopted to
help in incremental improvements in the future. The last issue with the organization is
the possibility of having different personnel for repair or troubleshooting then the ones
who developed the product. It will be more efficient to keep all members of the team the
same, post-implementation also.
It is important to note that this research has applied the model only to one IT
organization. Application on multiple organizations will definitely result in refining the
model for the IT sector. But through this application we have gained some valuable
inputs that can be used for improvements in an organization resulting in better customer
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