To Serve Our Customers

To Serve Our Customers


When I first became the CIO of NASA?s Goddard Space Flight Center, I noticed that our tagline was, ?To Serve Our Customers?. 


I chuckled to myself when I recalled one of my favorite TV shows, The Twilight Zone. There was an episode titled To Serve Man.  It was about seemingly friendly, humble, and servile aliens from outer space that wanted to be helpful.  It turns out they really wanted to serve ?man? for dinner. We don?t eat our customers alive, do we? Of course not! However, it made me think — what does ?serve? really mean in the customer context? Do we assist them or do we consume them?

Big scary alien getting ready to eat another customer


In Nucleus Top 10 Predictions for 2008, this was supposed to be a tough year for irrelevant CIOs.  Today?s IT customers are savvier.  With the widespread availability of things like wikis, blogs, and other on-demand applications, their need for the IT department has greatly diminished.  They will have their needs satisfied whether or not the irrelevant CIO likes it or not.  A 2007 IDC survey, Are CIOs Irrelevant to Enterprise 2.0, shows that for business use of Web 2.0 tools, nearly two-thirds of the tools used for business purposes were NOT managed by their corporate IT organization.  CIOs can take their 18-month software development cycle and shove it!


So is it better to be irrelevant or forgotten? Let?s look at being forgotten for a second.  My model here is the Maytag Repairman.  I love the commercial where the Maytag Repairman is in the office and someone gets a little nervous about the possibility that the fridge is down.  But, the repairman is fixing the copier and notes that they will need toner soon.  Delivering quality, which is in the eye of the beholder, gives us a chance to get into the head of our customers and find out what they really need.  Quality is absolutely necessary, but not sufficient. So thanks for your 5 nines Ms. CIO, what else do you have?


Discussing the impact of Software as a Service (SaaS) in Why SaaS Could Make Your IT Skills Irrelevant, CIO.COM challenges irrelevant IT organizations to behave more like IT Special Forces rather than IT Infantry ? we insert ourselves with surgical precision at the right place at the right time ? we get in and get out ? leaving a job well done ? on to the next mission.


Maybe Janet Jackson got it right, ?What have you done for me lately??  True service to our customers requires customer empathy not just sympathy.  We have to get into our customers? heads to understand and experience what they feel.  The need for a relevant CIO or IT organization won?t go away, but we will be challenged to continue to evolve and possibly operate in new ways to ultimately serve our customers.


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

4 thoughts on “To Serve Our Customers”

  1. I loved that episode of The Twilight Zone! Out of interest who does NASA consider to be their customers? Do the general public fall into that category or even the Human Race?

  2. But I would expect a CIO to be extremely relevant to organizations like NASA due to sensitivity of data and information.

    Security at normal data centers are hardly trustworthy – although there are independent standards and audits that can be conducted, they are both prohibitively expensive and difficult to implement. So I guess, a CIO has to safeguard sensitive data.

  3. You sound like an alien disconnected from mankind. I do not understand your direction Linda Cureton. i have reason to believe that you are all aliens over there at nasa. What the f*** is really going on???

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