Walmart: The Ultimate Accountant

We’ve defined four different IT personality profiles: The Accountant, The Butler, The Nanny and the Agent. Each one varies based on how much focus they put on understanding the business and how important user satisfaction is to them. 

Save money. Live better.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Walmart offers a great selection at a great price. They are a true example of a company that understood the need of its customers and works hard every day to solve it: pay less. Walmart doesn't pretend that shopping there will be a fun, exciting experience. It doesn't promise that you will be healthier or that you will look great. All it promises is that you will pay less. And they deliver.

Service orientation: What service?

Walmart is not known for its service orientation. Yes the store is clean and there is typically sufficient cash registers so that you don

Walmart offers low, consistent service. They neer pretended to be knowledgeable in what they sell. They also don't pretend to have people available to answer your questions. But they do deliver consistent, reliable service in what they do: cash registers.

Same goes for Walmart greeters, the person at the entrance of the store who's all smiling and checks your bags. Of course, their job is not to make you feel good about shopping at Walmart. They are part of the loss prevention team. Their job is to make sure that no one steals anything and remind everyone else that they are checking.

Business orientation

Walmart also doesn't pretend to be able to give you advice on your shopping habits or lifestyle. They are certainly not at the forefront of the fashion industry. Nor do they sell cutting edge electronics. They are a generic provider of products that are in high demand. Their business orientation would be very low if they were an IT department. They answer to the needs you already now you have and certainly don't try to influence you in any direction.

They also don't possess any knowledge about their products that everyone already has. They don't know more about laundry detergent than you do and will not steer you in new directions.

Why being an accountant works for Walmart

Walmart is a great Accountant because it has embraced their role. Their focus is even in their tag line "Save money. Live better". They spend 100% of their effort at being a better Accountant. They don't try to differentiate themselves with product expertise or by understanding their clients better than the competition. They distinguish themselves with everyday low prices. And customers love them for that.

Being an Accountant

How does this apply to IT departments?

First, it is important for IT departments that are accountant to accept their role. Some IT leaders have a hard time limiting their involvement and try to be all things to all people, missing the mark. Customers would be confused if Walmart started to advertise their expertise with electronics. That's not what they want from Walmart. Same with IT. They need to stick to what makes them a success: low-cost service.

The second point to consider is to be very good at what you do. Walmart may be low-cost but their service is consistent and quick. This helps them keep costs low. The same applies for Accountants in IT. Having a low service orientation doesn't mean to be bad at delivering service. In fact, IT departments would have everything to gain by having good, quick and consistent service.

Finally, Accountants need to be focused. While Walmart has a great selection, it is still fairly limited for a given product. IT departments need to imitate that by having well-defined service catalogs and service levels and sticking to it. Introducing variety only raises complexity and ultimately costs.

Take-aways

  • Walmart's is a great Accountant because they embraced their role
  • Being an Accountant allows you to provide lower service, but not bad service
  • Consistent, predictable service delivery is key to keep costs low
Posted on October 18, 2013 and filed under ISP3.