Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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Innovation starts with your users...


The best advice I ever received when I was looking to start a consulting business was this:

“To guarantee success, find a need and fill it.”

There is no value in creating products or services for which there is no need. On occasion, an organization will come up with a game-changing product and redefine a whole industry, such as RIM in the early days, replacing pagers with email anywhere, and Apple with its iPhone and iPad, which brought smart devices to the masses. But, for the most part, the businesses that thrive are those who have mastered the ability to identify a need and fulfill it.

It is evident that they excel at anticipating what their customers would need, and when. They have essentially put themselves in the place of the user, and walked through what a successful experience would be. Interacting with these organizations is uncannily intuitive. The website is informative, expectations are clearly defined, there are no unpleasant surprises, and if it is a product, you could likely hand it to a child and they would be able to figure out how to get started.

As you read this, I’m sure you are remembering your own experiences in dealing with companies offering this type of product or service. This may be anything from the great little restaurant you frequent or the car dealer you have bought a second or third vehicle from because you loved the service.

But not all businesses are thriving.

There are far too many companies, service organizations, and manufacturers more concerned with numbers, and specifically how high can their sale numbers reach in the next quarter, than they are with the experience of their customers in interacting with their products.

No one will deny that Apple has made a huge impact with the iPad. Even if you are not an Apple fan, you can’t deny the device is simple to use. I can hand mine to a 3-year old and she will flick and swipe at the screen like a pro to find her games and books.

I got an iPad for my parents (who are in their eighties). A week later, they wanted to buy a second one so they don’t fight over who gets to use it. These devices have opened up a whole new world of opportunity and discovery from the comfort of their La-Z-Boy recliners.

And the best part (for me), I have barely spent mere moments providing them with tech support. When you consider that I’ve had to help them with setting up almost every other device (i.e. their first computer, programming numbers into phones, setting up HD television, replacing the 8-track player with an iPod) this is almost a miracle.

In my role as a CIO, I get to preview and try a lot of different devices, software applications, and computer hardware. I admit that much of what I see leaves me underwhelmed, like the array of slate devices that have come my way recently.

I also know that I would never, ever recommend that my parents use one of these other slate devices.

The iPad comes with the Apple ecosystem. The iPad, while intuitive to use, is like celery – designed to move the dip (or in this case the experience) from the bowl to your mouth. A lot of the other devices are like celery without the dip. The experience runs out of steam pretty quickly.

I am remiss to quote yet another saying by Steve Jobs, but the following is fitting of the streamlined user experience and device capabilities of the iPad:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology.” (WWDC 1997)

So what can an IT leader learn from this?

It would seem that many of us in IT leadership missed the class on customer experience:

  • We have a service catalogue but have never defined what a successful experience would look like.
  • We ask our users to use products and services that we ourselves would never incorporate into our own department.
  • We launch new technology initiatives without ever consulting the people who will actually have to use the new system.
  • We get defensive when we are questioned about missing functionality or dismissive when new features are suggested that we didn’t think of.
  • And on and on…

It doesn’t sound very nice to be a customer of this type of an IT department but, unfortunately, many of our users have these experiences daily.

What is different though is that given the influx of personal devices and cloud- based applications and services, our users now have a choice. For example, marketing departments can set up a contract with and completely end run your department.

Don’t think it isn’t happening, or won’t happen to you, so let me suggest something:

It’s time to change the way IT is done in your organization.

Dust off your service catalogue; sit down with your team. Take each of these services and discuss what a successful user experience would look like. It’s not about what’s most convenient for your team, but what would make the user experience the best it could possibly be. Talk about how you are going to make it happen. Then do it.

If you start at the end, you are leveraging proven wisdom for running a successful organization.


Note: A version of this post by the author previously appeared on the IT World Canada website.

Images:  Used under Creative Commons license

About the Author:

I’m the AVP - Information Technology for Sheridan College, in Oakville, Ontario Canada, where my team is transforming the delivery of education through innovative application of technology. I'm also a beBee Brand Ambassador.

I'm convinced that IT leadership needs to dramatically change how IT is delivered rather than being relegated to a costly overhead department.

In addition to transforming IT in my role as CIO, I look for every opportunity to talk about this... writing, speaking and now blogging on BeBee ( , LinkedIn, ITWorld Canada, or at

I also shoot things... with my camera. Check out my photostream at 

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Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #11

Absolutely Paul... Not understanding the concept of value caused me quite a bit of consternation in my early days.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #10

Thanks Jim for the kind words. I do however prefer to get my end of week buzz with a wee dram of single malt.

Jim Murray

4 years ago #9

Real wisdom this late in the week gives me wonderful buzz. Thanks Kevin Pashuk

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #8

You say 'Aaaarrrgh!!!' like you have experience in this Phil. Unfortunately, you are not alone in being frustrated at low performing 'solutions'. I wrote an earlier post that IT departments need to 'Eat their own Dogfood'... i.e. use the same tools they 'force' er, I mean deploy to their users. Perhaps I'll dig it up and repost.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #7

Thanks Robert. There have been many opinions and articles on how Apple lost its innovative edge when Steve Jobs passed. When your focus is 'profit', then that will trump innovation. While I've never been an Apple 'fan-boy', I've certainly appreciated Steve Job's drive to 'put a dent in the universe'.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #6

My experience in adopting new technology in business is that you are 125% correct, Kevin. It is absolutely essential to begin at the end, namely, with a very clear idea o what you want to achieve, and work backward to create or adopt or adapt what you need to achieve that. In computer systems that avoids ending up in the absolutely maddening position of having paid big bucks for a system that does everything ... except this one important function or report, for which the software guys then provide you with a manual patch. Aaaaarrrgh!!!

Robert Cormack

4 years ago #5

Good post, Kevin Pashuk. If only we were all as "intuitive" as Apple, although I have to admit, under the leadership of Tim Cook, I've been consistently underwhelmed. I'm finding myself more confused by Apple products than I ever was (25 years with Apple products). Things definitely have to change at Apple—and Microsoft, for that matter. As I tell everyone, I'd rather be writing than spending hours trying to understand apps (most silly) and companies trying to monetize. I'm not against paying for something that I NEED, but I'm frankly insulted by the vast array of products and devices that are supposed to be labor-saving. I don't need tutorials. I'm forty years out of university. Here's "intuitive" for you: Make my life easy (so I can spend time doing the things that are important to me) and I'll open up my pocketbook. Anything else is self-serving. Thanks for writing.

Pascal Derrien

4 years ago #4

thats true I have been to a few of them on Cybersecurity if its not a dog and poeny show they are very useful and productive :-)

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #3

Thanks for sharing Stephan! Read the article about innovation Tool for Strategy & Marketing teams !
A great tool for innovation is An Advisory Board On demand for strategy &marketing team: read the following:

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