All my professional career, I’ve been a member of service organizations. Granted, by some standards, that has not been for very long, but since I graduated from university, I’ve been a technician for a small business that sold and repaired PCs, I’ve been an owner of a business doing exactly the same thing, I’ve been a sysadmin type in an academic support department, and I’m now a system administrator in an academic unit.
A faculty member once said to me, “It’s a relief to hear that you consider yourself to be in a service organization.” I took that to mean that he didn’t feel we (always) behaved as such. But how could it be organized any other way? We all report, ultimately, to a faculty member, and in our organization, it’s faculty members who make the requests and drive the agenda. He could have been remarking that my own behaviour contraindicated this belief, but I don’t think so. I will avoid false modesty and say that I know most faculty members and grad students for whom I do work are extremely happy with my work, as is my manager.
So why the statement? Has a clear mandate not been given to us, and if not, why not? (The fact that I ask this question gives a pretty clear answer: not really.) How do IT organizations perceive themselves? I used to think that mission statements were foolish, but I’ve changed my mind over the last several years. They allow an organization to not only publish a self-perception, but to ensure that staff members either are aware of this perception, or at least to not give them an excuse for being unaware of such. They allow people dealing with that organization to know what they’re getting into and what to expect.
Ultimately, a service organization needs to define itself in terms of the person or group of people to whom it is giving service. I’m not entirely sure that’s been done – not for our own group in particular, and not for most other service groups on campus. Even if statements of mission have been made, it’s not clear that they have been promulgated or are under regular review to ensure they’re still applicable.
Are you in a service organization? If not, how do you know that?