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There Is Not An Internal Customer

IT and “the business” is a phrase thrown casually in conversation.

IT leaders want to convey the importance of taking care of the business, using “internal customer” with peers and their teams.

However, describing coworkers as customers creates a natural tension and decreases trust.

Creates a subordinate relationship

Treating your peers in sales, marketing, and finance as a customer creates a subordinate relationship. 

Customers expect a level of service that is above and beyond. Customers expect the fulfillment of their requests in a timely fashion.  

Working as a team, we expect delays due to resource allocation or competing priorities. We hope to collaborate with other teams to reach our goals.

Framing colleagues as customers cause our teams to be afraid to tell the customer ‘no.’ This leads our teams to over-commit or attempts to deliver solutions we shouldn’t. 

We should empower our teams to discover the motivations behind requests and come to a mutual solution.

Reduces customer focus

Treating colleagues as customers creates a disconnect from your actual customer – those buying your product or service. 

While IT may not interface with the customer, it should consider ways to serve them. What starts internally when a customer uses your site and purchases a product? Are there forms that need to be signed? What could be at a salesperson’s fingertips to close a sale?

As IT professionals – whether in App Dev or Operations – we should consider making the customer journey more manageable. This will lead us to improve our peers’ processes and focus on those buying our product.


What are you currently measuring? Are they in line with your customer goals? 

Are you measuring SLA times or uptime? What about Net Promoter Score? 

Or, are you measuring ROI for a new initiative? Will the dollars you spend today reduce friction and time to delivery for your customer-facing teams? 

OKRs of your technical teams should be aligned with those of your client-focused ones. This achieves alignment and a sense of camaraderie rather than adversity.

IT and “The Business”

Be part of the business. Focus on the customer and how to assist customer-facing teams.

When technical teams come out of the shadows and build alignment with other groups, it decreases adversity. Teams have a perspective of the request rather than thinking they are being blocked.

Technical teams should understand why they are implementing something. This helps build a team that rows in the same direction.


Let’s all drop the internal customer moniker and focus on what really matters – those fantastic people across the globe that find value in what we offer.

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