Changing Services: Clients, Quality, and Collaboration

Michael G. Prais, Ph.D.
Director, Academic Computing Services
Academic Computing Services
Northern Illinois University
Dekalb, Illinois 60115
815-753-9252 (FAX)


User services at NIU (Academic Computing Services) faces the same trends that menace and excite every other information services organization. We should not fool ourselves that these trends represent a single transition, and that we will not need to meet these challenges again. Dyer associates change (or lack of it) with organizational culture. How do we recognize internal and external culture and anticipate change?

Some of these changes were brought on because of the inability to get responsive service from the computer center. Some of these changes were brought on by new and inexpensive technology. To change, to handle change, and to function effectively, Drucker suggests that we define "what our business is and what it should be". Do we know what service is?

User services is at the interface between the client and the computer center. There are activities that we focus on that we believe will make ourselves better. Deming suggests that quality is a focus on client expectations, worker participation, and constant improvement. How do the ideas apply to user services?

The role of user services is to develop and provide information about information processing. This requires technically competent workers--knowledge workers. Drucker suggests that the knowledge worker direct himself or herself. What are the responsibilities of the knowledge worker?

User services and their environment are changing. It is important to understand client expectations and to empower workers to meet those expectations to survive. Drucker suggests that the manager has responsibilities to the organization that allow workers to be effective and clients to be satisfied. Meeting these responsibilities requires collaboration and consensus and no longer includes the use of power and authority. What is the role of the manager?

1. Recognizing Culture and Anticipating Change

Originally published in Proceedings of the ACM User Services Conference XXI, 1993.
Copyright Association for Computer Machinery 1993
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