Are you experiencing issues with your ITSM tool? Whether it’s poorly configured due to a lack of requirements definition or workflow design, no self-service capability, incorrectly labelled fields… the chances are you are not able to deliver a great experience. Rather than effective automation, you end up with massive inefficiencies and a host of manual workarounds – in order for support to attempt to get the job done.
When the support teams are unable to effectively manage and view their workload, tickets, queues, and escalations, it makes efficiencies impossible. Most agents, team leaders and the manager will spend hours in labour intensive, manual administrative tasks. They’d try to figure out what the support ‘landscape’ looks like with the inability to measure what it ‘feels’ like to the customers.
Individuals may work very hard to deliver great service for customers and users as they call on support. However, their ability to process support tickets may be sorely impacted by the workflow design (or lack thereof), before even getting to resolve the issues at hand.
People waste hours manually exporting data in spreadsheets before being imported into a presentation format for further editing. Hours and hours of management time are spent creating these reports which have lagging data. The value of this information to the business is lost in time.
So alongside great people and a well-defined process, whether you have the right tool or not is a key question. What makes the tool right? There are lots to choose from in the ITSM space. Whether you are scaling from start-up to enterprise-class there is a product and pricing structure to suit. It is important to decide what you want the tool to do, map how it should do it, then map those requirements to the tools’ abilities. Many come out of the box with ITIL-based process flows embedded in them.
But NONE of them come ready to service your individual organisation! ITIL gives you the what – you need to determine the how. Treat this as a core stream of an improvement project. You will get the efficiency gains and benefits of automation.
However, what if all of this is still the wrong approach?
At Bright Horse, we are advocates of challenging traditional ways of thinking. We have partnered with thought leaders like Nexthink and Citrus Collab to demonstrate how IT needs to change from being a reactive support function to a proactive service enabling productivity.
ITIL was often felt to be too cumbersome, too vague, and too bureaucratic to be adopted with any level of success, and nobody likes additional admin! The thing with ITIL4 is that it has addressed the issue of relevance in today’s ever-changing world and now seeks to address the issues of digital transformation.
What’s IT service management all about?
Many of the projects we have worked on historically are medium to large corporates with complex, legacy IT systems and services. If the goal was always to better align IT with meeting business objectives, that has now been eclipsed more and more by IT becoming the business. However, if we revisit the premise of IT service management, it is about organisation, culture, leadership, people, process, and technology in alignment, whatever the size, environment, or objectives.
The thing is, this is now not only relevant to medium and large-sized organisations – but to the smaller start-ups where tech is THE business. Whether it’s the whole business organisation or a large IT function the principles still apply.
How has ITIL4 improved?
If everyone has focused on delivering Customer Value when defining how products and services will be designed, built, and implemented, with control over implementation, delivery, and support, then the desired outcomes can be delivered by focusing on the Service Value Stream. ITIL4 has aligned to Agile methods for product and DevOps for better integration between development and technical operations. Combine this with traditional delivery and support processes and you have a much more robust set of integrated practices.
The familiar incident, request, problem management appear, however, end-to-end change management in ITIL4 is being scaled back to an appropriate level of change control which will be more appealing. All of this is exciting and promises to help organisations align – but surely the ultimate goal is to meet business objectives and whether financial or growth based – that can only be achieved through delivering great service.
Your customers will tell you how you are performing, and if you need to scale up or get control, it is key to understand the components of your services and how they are delivered to achieve business value. Perhaps 2020 and the start of a new decade is the time to review how you are performing and to understand where you are on the Service Maturity journey.
How can we help?
We welcomed over 100 prospects and clients in 4 locations around the UK this year at our special SLA To XLA events. Our mission is to help IT professionals better understand the concept of service and how that impacts the customer experience. If you missed this year’s events, it is our intention to run these events into the new year so lookout for the upcoming announcements on location and dates.
Here’s wishing you season’s greetings and a very prosperous New Year!
The concept of Experience Level Agreements or XLAs is gaining traction and there is a growing interest in the subject. We also want to continue to add value to our clients. Therefore, we’re keen to help you understand what it means and how it can be effectively implemented in your organisation to ensure satisfied employees and increased productivity in 2021.
Understand Service Level Agreements (SLAs) Before Experience Level Agreements (XLAs)
In order to get to XLAs, one first needs to understand what Service Level Agreements or SLAs are. According to the latest version of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library or ITIL4, an SLA is:
“A documented agreement between a service provider and a customer that identifies both services required and the expected level of service.”
What this means is that an SLA is a contractual understanding between the IT service provider and the customer about what the two parties can expect out of a particular service. As suggested by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, there are three basic parameters to create an SLA which are basically a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), a means to measure the success or failure of these KPIs, and the possible penalties that might come into play if the contractual SLA is violated by either of the two sides.
Even though these three parameters seem to be good enough to give the assumption of creating a logical contract between the service provider and the customer, in reality, the ‘Watermelon Effect’ takes place between the two sides. This leads to unhappy customers and eventually loss of business to the competition.
In most SLAs, the reports of the service appear green (like the outer skin of the watermelon). Even then, the customer remains red (like the inside of the watermelon) – dissatisfied and angry because the so-called green reports did not help him or his business achieve the goal he had initially expected to while paying for the service.
Therefore, the two major problems with SLAs are: they are very IT service-oriented (ticket response times, recovery times, availability), however, they don’t share much information on how nicely or poorly they performed for the user. Also, most of the metrics used to measure the SLAs are often done at a low level which doesn’t ensure a high-quality experience for the user.
As the IT Service Management (ITSM) industry becomes more and more user-centric, simply working on the Quality of Service (QoS) would have to be supplemented with Quality of Experience. In other words, a QoE-driven SLA can be referred to as an Experience Level Agreement (XLA).
Therefore, while talking about XLAs in line with SLAs, they can be defined as a special variety of SLA specifically altered to set up a common understanding about the kind of quality levels the customers will experience while using the services. It is important that this understanding is written in clear terms for both sides to relate correctly.
How Do XLAs Work?
As mentioned before, XLAs needed to be written clearly in a contractual form, which means experience levels are needed to be measured before categorising them for the customers to choose from. This could be done using the various aspects of the customers’ expectations. For instance, the outcomes or benefits they wish for while using the service.
Such an assessment would allow the users to choose which level of experience quality would they wish to avail themselves of while buying a service. Such segregation would also impact the various prices, and deals that the service providers would have to offer.
Why Focus On Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) in 2021?
In today’s highly competitive market of service providers, when a customer reaches out to use a service, they expect that the service will be operated with utmost reliability and for an affordable price. Therefore, from the perspective of the service providers, two parameters have reached their competitive saturation:
Customers can rest assured that they will receive the best service the providers can give.
The price for the service will remain similar across the market, regardless of which provides the customer chooses to go ahead with.
In order to get ahead of such a highly saturated market, the providers who
Such a lack of experience for the customer results in a market gap for IT service providers. They can get a competitive advantage in the industry and increase their customer loyalty, reputation and revenue by offering their customers a certain level of experience based on the contract the provider and the customer sign. These are Experience Level Agreements (XLAs).
XLAs are therefore ideal for conveying the kind of expectations a customer can look forward to while using the services of the provider on the basis of employee experience.
XLA Failures That Can Harm End-User Experience
According to Bright Horse Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer Neil Keating, there are four bad XLA practices that can be counter-productive.
Uncontrolled IT Service Management Structure: When a company wishes to hop into XLAs while their basic ITSM structure isn’t stable.
Wrong KPIs: When the company focuses on the incorrect KPIs to measure an employee’s success or failure. For example, enforcing a 15-minute time limit on a service desk agent to resolve a user’s problem. Instead, allow him the time to solve the problem thoroughly and without any rush.
Depending Too Much On ITSM Tools: While ITSM tools are helpful in determining where the problem lies, they will not be able to solve everything. See what the tools have to say and then analyse what you are doing to do about the tool’s diagnosis.
Ignoring The Experience Management Office (XMO): A company needs to show that the Experience Management Office is at a senior level for it to be taken seriously. If the experience management office is too low down on organization, it will just become a data repository.
Learn More About Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) With Bright Horse
Our partners, Nexthink have demonstrated how their tool takes the users’ perspective in, rather than the IT perspective outwards. They combine hard metrics with user sentiment. This is a huge step for many IT functions, moving from a reactive position to a more proactive stance.
User sentiment is hard to capture. Service is consumed at the point of the experience, it’s about how you make someone feel. Another huge part of delivering service effectively is to actively manage expectations.
If you feel you need to explore we would be delighted to help you on your service journey. We call it From Service To Experience, and you can still book to attend. If you can’t make this one but are interested in future dates and locations then please do let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How does it feel when you work so hard to meet all the terms of your SLA’s – BUT the customer is still unhappy!
There is increasing coverage of XLA – (Experience Level Agreements) – replacing the traditional SLA’s (Service Level Agreements). The original purpose of SLA’s from an ITIL® perspective was to help move the IT function from a purely technical capability to one which organised its systems and technology into business services supporting the organisations goals. This was and still is a valid effort – because for every organisation that has matured in service delivery terms there are still those who ‘talk’ service – but deliver technology – in silos.
Historically many Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) were written by IT, for IT, in order to measure their ability to deliver the expected levels of response, resolution, availability and performance of systems and services. The Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and metrics were created so that they could be recorded, monitored and reported on, within the vast range of ITSM tools available on the market, and many were (and still are) included in contracts that have no bearing on the reality of the service experience – from the customers perspective.
When everything is changing and transforming at ever-increasing speed – we have to constantly ask (Continuous Service Improvement (CSI)) whether the people, processes and tools being used by IT are still equipped to manage the expectations of today’s employee demands for productivity.
The rise in the number of frameworks designed to address IT and business issues is a clear indicator that there is no simple solution to a very complex set of variables. However, if we simplify the issues into the three core pillars of people, process and technology – we can begin to review whether they are fit for purpose and how far on the maturity journey SLA’s can take service.
What has to happen to better manage customers’ expectations and experience into the future?
Defining the customer experience requirements – from the customers’ perspective – will always be very subjective – but you have to put a stake in the ground. Start somewhere. The power of a positive experience is the best marketing tool you have. Ask the customer, speak to them (in their language), what is most important to them. Don’t make assumptions about what they need and more importantly when they need it, manage expectations about what is realistic and achievable then plan how to surpass the basic levels of service delivery and commit those into the design of the services.
During our series of roadshow events this year which explores this topic in detail we have been asked a lot of questions about HOW to transition, where to start, is there a framework, a method, a defined step-by-step approach we can take? One of the key considerations is how you move from being a reactive service provider to a proactive one. Consider the fundamental difference between the following statements:
• We fixed 90% of incidents within SLA
• We fixed 90% of incidents before the user was affected
This requires a complete shift in culture and operations with regards to HOW we set and manage expectations and to not make assumptions about what the customer wants – which many SLA’s are guilty of.
This is clearly demonstrated by the following examples of the distinction between the approaches:
• Oracle financials were available 90% of the time
• We enabled the invoicing/payment process when finance needed it
How Can XLA Help?
This is where XLA is gaining prominence and increased attention. It is all about the customer’s perception and experience. Many ITSM professionals have been saying this for years – but how has IT now evolved to a point where this can actually be delivered as a reality in the digital age?
Moving from reactive to proactive operations means that the culture of the organisation needs to change from one where ‘the revered firefighting hero needs to be replaced with the fire prevention officer’.
With proactivity comes increased productivity, but you need the right tools to facilitate the change in approach, for the people, the processes, and the technology!
To find out more about the service maturity journey and how to formalise XLA to benefit your organisation – join us in Edinburgh for the last roadshow of 2019, dates for 2020 in London and Birmingham being announced soon. Alternatively, drop us a line email@example.com or give us a call 07785 540171.
Does your current service model and technology allow you to effectively measure end user experience (UX) in real-time, from the employee’s perspective? The focus tends to be on issues reported to the service desk, but how many are never reported? What if degraded performance has become the norm? The perception of IT is also degraded. If your users don’t bother to complain anymore, you are not winning the service journey.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, it would have been faster horses”
– Henry Ford
This famous quote symbolises service delivery keeping IT in reactive, fire-fighting mode, versus taking steps to improve user experience in a proactive way, that better aligns IT to the business. It requires a different way of thinking. After all “the thinking that got you to where you are now, won’t get you to where you need to be.”
What Is User Experience?
User Experience can be defined as the technology that goes beyond fulfilling its instrumental needs put forward by humans. It is subjective in nature which consists of complex and dynamic encounters of human-computer interaction (HCI). There are three major components of UX:
The consequence of a user’s internal state (expectations, motivation, mood, etc).
The characteristics of the design system of technology.
The context within which the interaction between humans and computers takes place.
Ever since the beginning of the 21st century, UX became the talk of the town, especially in the IT sector. It was the phenomenon that played an important role in how humans interacted with computers. As technology grew more sophisticated, the human-computer interaction became more intricate, complex, and imperative.
What is The Importance Of User Experience In 2021?
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic across the world, there has been a sudden change in the way people interact with technology. In the year 2021, human beings have started spending more time online. Their behaviour on the internet has also undergone a major overhaul. Experts believe that these changes in Human-Computer Interactions will become the basis for the progress of UX for years to come.
According to UXMagazine, there are seven elements of UX that companies will need to focus on, in order to gain a plausible advantage over their competitors in 2021:
Voice Interfaces: As chatbots and virtual assistants continue to grow in popularity, the requirement for a voice interface will become a basic necessity for mobile apps, websites, and other tools.
Simplistic User Interface: Gone are the days of big and jazzy fonts and complicated instructions. Users need their job done quickly and in a well-organised manner. They are willing to sacrifice looking at multiple pop-ups, notifications, and advertisements very happily. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that developers must curb their creativity in presenting new and important information.
Negative Space: Negative Space refers to the empty or blank areas across a webpage which is surrounded by certain objects. Over the years, the fondness for negative space has grown significantly. Check out the minimalistic homepage design for Google that has not only been pleasing to look at but also gets the work done.
Imperfect Elements And Asymmetry: Remember when your boss wanted every single panel, image, and font to look just perfect? Crisp edges, all the colours inside the borders and not a pixel of imperfection on your website? Experts believe that imperfect elements create a sense of relatability between the service provider and their customers.
Softer Elements: One of the biggest changes that UX monitors will see from 2021 onwards is the use of “softer-looking” elements. These include buttons that are more round than box-like. The edges are curved rather than sharp and the overall look and feel on the page looks more pale and soothing to the eyes rather than being absolutely contrast in colours. This is also known as Neumorphism.
3D Elements And Animation: The era of 2D pictures and video may be at its twilight and User Experience designers are moving towards making things visible in a three-dimensional space. The animation or the way in which on-page move upon interaction, is also getting a lot of attention. However, you will also have to be careful about how much animation to use as it can delay the loading time, which can, in turn, spoil the UX even more.
Information Architecture: How you show the information on your website is as important as the information itself. The display, design and structure in which information flows throw a page determine the kind of attention with which potential customers may be interacting with your content, product and services.
What Is The Importance Of User Experience In The IT Sector?
In the IT sector, UX has become more important than ever. As an increasing number of companies move towards automation and cloud-based services in order to look after their businesses, it is ab absolute necessity for the software to look after the seven elements of UX mentioned above. These products must ensure that anticipate the users’ potential needs, wants, demands and even mood, in order to serve them more efficiently.
Many IT experts will talk about User Experience in one of the following terms: User-Centered Design, User Interface (UI) or Graphical User Interface (GUI), Usability, Human Factors & Ergonomics or Human-Computer Interaction. However, the fact remains that a good UX is not any one of these features but a unique and rather rare combination of all of them.
Take A Step Into The Future Of UX With Bright Horse
Information Technology cannot fire-fight their way to continual improvement, it requires a decision today to take the first step in a new direction. We continue to enjoy running half-day workshops across the UK, designed to explore the steps required to build towards pro-active service delivery that prioritises driving value around UX. At these events, we discuss how to shift from service level agreements (SLAs) to experience level agreements (XLAs) and improve their UX.
Our partner, Nexthink empowers organisations to gain full visibility into UX and where to improve. Their digital experience score provides IT with a single score out of 10 that comprises rich data and real user feedback to inform IT was to make pro-active changes that will boost employee IT experience and increase productivity and engagement. Find out how Bright Horse and Nexthink can help you enhance your User Experience.
The discussions our workshops foster, coupled with attendee feedback, show that organisations are at varying stages of this transformation and that it requires a cultural step-change in thinking – Nexthinking you could say!
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Bright Horse always looks for new innovations, tools, and services that can help our customers on their service maturity journey. However, can chatbots be truly useful in solving the problem of digital employee experience? Everywhere, the talk is of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and NLP (Natural language processing), and the rise of chatbots. Virtual agents are seen as core routes to improving the experience of IT support for today’s workforce.
Chatbots And Modernised IT Support
So where do you need to be on the maturity journey for chatbots to be appropriate? How do they improve and modernise IT support as we currently know it?
The bigger reason this is so relevant, is that our customers ask “what must we have in place to make this a reality?”.
According to Gartner analysts:
“By 2021, more than 50 percent of enterprises will be spending more per annum on bots and chatbot creations than on traditional mobile app developers”.
How To Get A Return On Investment On Chatbots?
What abilities, capabilities, technologies and supporting processes should be embedded to ensure the adoption of new technologies? How to ensure that they deliver not only on ROI but on results and business objectives for improved productivity and experience?
At the most basic level, it is about the quality of the underlying data used to inform the chatbots. The integration of front-end communication channels can only satisfy user requests if they are able to access information that is accurate. Thus, there is a technical requirement to integrate chatbots into an existing ITSM tool (suite). Alternatively, a new toolset for any organisation can also be used. It is about having real-time information feeding it that provides the required level of service expected by users.
Service requests are primarily managed by the service desk. Therefore whichever chatbot technology is chosen, it must route users seamlessly if it cannot answer the question through the appropriate escalations to match their expectations. People don’t want to be ‘passed around’ from one support channel to another. For example, from self-service to email, to telephone.
Top 5 Chatbot Trends To Look Out For In 2022:
Chatbots For Payments:
More bots will be connected with payment systems such as Paypal, digital wallets, and other payment gateways in 2022, allowing users to make payments without ever leaving the platform. By connecting with the payment infrastructure, you may provide your chatbot with enough data to support conversation-driven upselling to your consumers. The same may be utilised to deliver updates on a user’s transaction data, payment confirmation, expense records, and so on, resulting in a high level of user confidence and retention.
According to a Forbes article, voice searches will account for more than half of all queries by 2022. Digital users prefer messaging solutions with voice and text-based interfaces, according to Accenture research. “Ok Google, what’s on my schedule today?” is a common way for users to start their days. It’s all about giving your customers a seamless experience with your company, and voice-driven chatbots can help you do that.
Artificial Intelligence-Driven Chatbots
Chatbots powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) will simulate human communication and recognise the purpose behind the language that users enter. They will then respond with an answer that closely resembles a human’s enquiry. This technology will train customer care professionals for high-impact encounters this year, thanks to AI integration with chatbots. By learning from client encounters, AI-powered chatbots will be able to detect trends in their behaviour.
In 2022, emotional intelligence-based chatbots will play a critical role in the AI tech industry, which will disrupt numerous industries. Companies will design emotional intelligence bots to add soft skills to business, according to projections, which will have a significant influence on how customers contact and engage with organisations. To forecast your emotions, chatbots will look at punctuation and capitalization.
Analytics and Insights with Chatbot
Analytics are extremely useful in tracking, retrieving, and evaluating data for any firm. They assist you in comprehending client requirements so that you can continuously measure and enhance your techniques. You’ll be able to properly measure and assess important search phrases, preferences, and satisfaction using chatbot analytics and insights. It will allow you to establish deeper ties and rapport with your consumers.
How Can Nexthink Technology Help?
The beauty of Nexthink technologies is that it provides the ability to find and fix issues and incidents faster than ever possible with a traditional tool, because it views the infrastructure from the end points’ perspective; back in towards IT, rather from an IT perspective out. It informs the ITSM tool and the chatbots about the user’s equipment and devices, which applications and versions of the software are installed, as well as connectivity.
If it is possible to automate a higher percentage of low-level, manual repetitive tasks and queries, then perhaps staff can be freed up to focus on the higher value work, making everyone more productive and cost-effective! That would then be a very positive outcome for the overall employee experience.
If you want to talk to us about how we help you with any aspect of your IT service maturity journey (regardless of where you are) we would be delighted to help you identify which of our automation partners can help you to deliver your business outcomes for employee experience.
If the premise of ITIL® was always to ensure that IT services were fit for quality and purpose and ensured business would remain competitive and responsive– it is safe to say there have been a few issues with it over the past few years.
Many IT practitioners become obsessed with ITIL for ITIL sake – and lose sight of the overall purpose of the framework. Lots of emphasis on qualifications over practical application. Many clients want to know which version of the framework or which books you can now find Change Management in! Why is this relevant if the purpose is to improve services. Who cares which version it is, or which book its in – or whether it was in the original library and made a come back two versions later. Surely the point is as above – every organisation must design their services to suit the size, scale and complexity of the business they support – or what is the point?
There is increasing interest in the relevance of IT Service Management as we move into the digital era with promises of AI and Cognitive Automation, but surely the point is that business must adapt and survive, or die in a world where start-ups now seem to have the agile advantage over the very large corporates who struggle to adjust. So, if Service Management supports that objective, then surely it’s still relevant?
Historically we have seen the use (or misuse) of SLA’s – Service Level Agreements. These are now being superseded by Experience Level Agreements (XLA’s) – does this mean IT is finally listening to its customers? The new outside in view of IT Service is being driven primarily by a new generation and workforce of technically savvy demanding employees who don’t care what KPI’s IT has written – they are all about the PRODUCTIVITY. Can they do their jobs? Surely it was always about this.
So, whether you are a supporter or vehement hater of ITIL and all that has gone before in versions 1-3 – does version 4 serve a purpose that is current, valid and that offers REAL value to the organisations who intend to adopt the principles? I decided to take a look to see what I could establish as it is still early days.
Using an integrated ITIL4 framework approach this new version of ITIL acknowledges almost all business processes are now digital and focus has to be on value delivery from the service provider, incorporating many concepts from DevOps, LEAN and Agile. Value is a core area of focus for this new version. Increasing speed, reducing cost and improving quality are the key areas delivered through a LEAN approach. These are all necessary to meet the challenges businesses are facing today. The premise of DevOps was to create a culture of collaboration in consistently siloed teams and ways of working.
As the environment and workforce demand more and at greater speed – traditional IT may struggle to keep up and the customers will find alternative service suppliers – shadow IT is becoming more and more of an issue – but this is due to a lack of delivering VALUE to the organisation. The focus of v3 was on processes – 26 of them no less. The new version looks more at what capabilities are required for IT to service and enable the business. One of my previous blogs talked about how many frameworks now exist and how tribal people have been about the adoption of these in isolation. The value comes with the integration of lots of principles which is where ITIL4 framework has aimed.
ITIL was always good at saying WHAT should be done – it didn’t tell HOW that should happen which created issues for many organisations who then sought external assistance. The Service Value System is a central tenet, holistic thinking around how all the parts of any system need to work together.
It seems to have included the concept of managing projects and building and developing software products or services into the framework rather than it sitting outside of the framework.
Process has evolved to become practices, something that IT needs to be good at. There are 34 basic practices broken into 3 key areas, general business, service management and technical categories into logical groupings. Additions include organisational change, talent management and risk. Some have updates such as relationship management. Ultimately the Service Value Chain crosses many practices to deliver value.
So whilst bringing together multiple frameworks might elevate the value proposition – how that translates to delivering VALUE to customers who in turn are trying to deliver VALUE internally has yet to be seen!
I believe the guiding principles are valid, however all of this still relies on organisational culture, great leadership, collaboration, communication and co-operation across current organisation structures not necessarily aligned with shared vision or objectives. Overcoming this is paramount to whether adoption of ITIL4 framework happens – much as it was with ITIL 1, 2, and 3 -in my opinion!
Would love to hear our customers opinions on this subject.
ITIL® – “ITIL® is a (registered) Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.”
Bright Horse recently ran an event based on the Service Maturity journey, talking about how to move from Chaos and Reactive support to an Automated environment and Optimised support to deliver an excellent digital employee experience. The need to move from service to experience agreements has become an absolute necessity in order to retain happy customers.
When we look at the characteristics of each of these maturity stages, organisations are able to recognise where they are in their own journey.
There is a new area of focus emerging for ITSM, as technology has moved on in orders of magnitude and this coincides with the launch of the new ITIL 4 model for the digital era.
Employees are put first, as an outsider’s perspective of how they experience the technology they use in the workplace. Bearing in mind most people’s expectations are now driven by the technology they consume on a personal level. Cloud-based apps, no ownership of data, and immediate response and delivery of service. This is usually not the experience they receive in the workplace, where often response times to requests or issues take a long time to resolve, IT is reactive, and systems are unstable, slow or unavailable when needed.
Combine the fact that employees only use the Service Desk when there is a problem and it is a short step to IT being identified AS the problem.
IT needs to move from the fire-fighting mentality – to one of the fire prevention officer, to look at a more proactive approach that comes with well-trained IT teams who collaborate, have the right tools and robust fit-for-purpose tools in place that facilitate proactive support.
On average, research shows that UK workers lose 9 days per year due to technology troubles. However hard downtime metrics are only part of the problem, there are issues with focus when people are constantly interrupted and attention is shifted – it is difficult to recover and when this happens repeatedly – productivity is significantly reduced.
IT need to understand whether the ITSM tool (Cherwell etc) they have in place is fit for its purpose, does it facilitate not only servicing requests and incidents, but also Problem Management as this is one of the next steps into proactive support.
The key issue with statistics is that they don’t capture the whole issue. Firstly, the tool cannot collate all of the data to present a view of what the users experience on a daily basis. Secondly, employees don’t report many of the issues they have with technology and applications. If their applications are constantly crashing they may well be rebooting on a daily basis, and IT has no sight of this. Lastly, Service Level Agreements historically have been written by IT and for IT, knowing they can achieve them, rather than it being an agreement of what the business needs.
A service level can be achieved and show ‘green’ for IT performance KPI’s but the degraded levels of service may mean the employee experience is a world away from satisfied.
The next generation of service tools such as Nexthink, are able to capture and process data from employee endpoints and analyse it so that support and resolution can be delivered BEFORE the employee has called to register their complaints. This collector and data analysis allows IT to see what is happening from the employees perspective – IN REAL TIME.
No lagging reports with data a month or 3 out of date, this is real time analytics that show the health of the employees experience from every connected part of their experience from their device all the way back into the data centre. It can help with device performance, productivity tools such as office 365, and combine hard scores with employee sentiment – collected at the point of experience.
Nexthink have a Digital Experience score which is used alongside Hard Metrics to provide a more accurate representation of the customers’ experience.
Combine all of this with a need to ensure IT staff is trained in good Customer Service to ensure they have the Essential Skills needed to deliver a positive personal experience each time they interact with a customer – they need to communicate, manage expectations, treat customers with respect, be available and speak the customers’ language.
The definition of Experience is something that leaves an impression on someone.
The definition of Empathy is seeing something from the other person’s Experience.
IT needs to get much better at delivering a quality Experience that supports workplace productivity and leaves an excellent lasting impression!
Over the past 30 years, we have often discussed elements of IT Service Management maturity with our clients, whether related to tools, process or change, but now we are talking more and more frequently about the overall maturity of the services – as they relate to the ability to deliver what the business needs in the digital era.
How Has IT Service Management Evolved?
There are other maturity models that can be referenced, such as Business Relationship Management (BRM) and the maturity of the alignment with the business. We are talking here specifically about the maturity of managing the services.
IT historically had a technical, infrastructure-based focus, and IT Service management evolved to align closer to the business with a service focus, but with that shift has also come to an inward-focused view.
The Role Of Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Service level agreements are needed as part of the journey to maturity – but this may mean the efforts of service delivery are focused on how well IT performs – regardless of how the customers or end-users are experiencing that service.
If Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) have been created from an IT perspective with no real view of the priorities of the business services – the targets set and reports on those achieving and those breaching targets – may bear no relation whatsoever to the experience of those using the services.
The Risk Of Information Technology
An example of this is the reporting of ‘degradation of service’ still showing services as available and running within the parameters set and measured whether they align with timings, critical business periods, and outages for the customers or not – the customers perspective and experience is not visible to IT within this reporting mechanism (especially if they don’t report to the service desk and are not asked for their feedback).
The risk for IT in this scenario is that the customers are wholly dissatisfied with the service at certain points in time – and this level of potential misunderstanding means the reputation of IT as a whole is based upon their daily experience at the desktop – justified or otherwise.
Experience Level Agreements (XLAs): The Next Step
The evolution of digital transformation and the business demand for services in the enterprise that match the personal experience – means there is now an increasing focus on Experience Level Agreement (XLA’s) and the customer.
Experience Level Agreements and Digital End User Experience are two of the subjects we cover in our events and webinars.
Many IT teams are working ‘flat out’ just to keep the infrastructure running, and even with a state-of-the-art ITSM implementation – still can’t get beyond the basic processes of Incident, Request, Problem, and Change Management. Even in those areas, practitioners face real challenges. A lack of ownership, discipline, understanding, or ‘care’ means IT service can still seem pretty poor for the customers. Time to switch from Service Level Agreements (SLA) to Experience Level Agreements (XLA).
Infrastructure remains a major time-consuming factor even today. How refreshing would it be to proactively reduce incidents and identify trends and problems before the customer has decided they are unhappy enough with it to call the Service Desk?
Research has shown that many unsatisfactory breaks in productivity are not even reported for resolution – if the impression of IT or the Service Desk is that they are incompetent and unresponsive – the chances are the users will perform their own reboot and fix the issue themselves – whilst IT is none the wiser of issue. What would that look like in lost time and money if all of these ‘minor’ incidents were extrapolated across the employees within the organisation?
What Is A Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
According to ITIL, a Service Level Agreement (SLA) is:
“Agreement between an IT Service Provider and a Customer. The SLA describes the IT Service, documents Service Level Targets, and specifies the responsibilities of the IT Service Provider and the Customer. A single SLA may cover multiple IT Services or multiple Customers”.
Essentially, a service level agreement is an understanding between the IT service provider and the customer regarding the performance targets that are to be delivered by a service. SLAs can consist of a number of aspects such as providing the most number of service tickets.
A certain set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of a service. The average values of these KPIs are estimated over a period of time or on the basis of dependability metrics such as the Mean Time To Fix (MTTF) or the Mean Time To Repair (MTTR).
A method to measure these KPIs by the hands of the customer, the provider, or both.
The penalties that can take place in case any violations of the SLA occur from either side. For example service refunds or fines.
The Problem With Service Level Agreements:
As of 2021, a significant shift has been seen in making the IT service industry more user-centric. This means that while availing service to the customers remains the most important task of an IT service provider, it has become an equally important job to look after the customer’s experience while they receive this service in order to maintain customer loyalty and growth.
What is an Experience Level Agreement (XLA)?
An Experience Level Agreement (XLA) is therefore a specially designed Service Level Agreement (SLA) which also factors in the quality levels of employee experience the customer will be guaranteed while using the provider’s services. These parameters of these quality expectations must be clearly determined, measurable, and relatable to the customer.
Why Are Experience Level Agreements Important in 2021?
A customer expects reliability and proper execution of service when they pay for it. Most IT service providers tend to overlook these two aspects that determine the quality of the service. As a result, the customer’s experience gets ignored.
Such a lack of experience for the customer results in a market gap for IT service providers to set themselves apart and get a competitive advantage in the industry and increase their customer loyalty, reputation and revenue by offering their customers a certain level of experience based on the contract the provider and the customer sign. These are Experience Level Agreements (XLAs).
Experience Level Agreements are therefore ideal for conveying the kind of expectations a customer can look forward to while using the services of the provider on the basis of employee experience.
Benefits Of Experience Level Agreements
Edge Over Competition: Most of the members of the industry already have two characteristics – They will give their best effort and their services are mostly sold at a flat rate. Those who drop their prices below the market average would admit to unprofitability in the long run. Instead, providing an experience guarantee can give you the added benefit over your competition.
Customers Willing To Pay More: Research conducted during the International Conference on Network and Service Management (2013) shows that customers are more likely to pay a higher amount for a service provided the quality of experience is high. This opens new doors for service providers who can set multi-level Experience measuring parameters for the customers at different prices.
Measuring Important Aspects Of Your Business: XLAs can help measure factors such as wasted salaries, potential issues or success levels for a recent migration project, lifespan, and performance of certain types of hardware, the number of employees who had disabled their anti-virus or malware software creating a breach of policy and security risk for the organisation, among other things.
Increased Customer Loyalty: The logic is simple. If you keep a customer happy (deliver great service as well as great experience) they are bound to stay loyal. They would return for more business in the future. Alternatively, it takes just one bad experience for the customer to lose faith. As a result, they move to your competition.
Time To Move From SLA To XLA:
What if you could see things differently? How about finding a way of collecting information from every connected endpoint on the network? How about sending real-time performance information to an engine that feeds a dashboard showing the real health of the IT estate? What if you had a tool that could overlay all the process functionality in your chosen ITSM tool? Imagine collating real-time, leading indicators and analytics about the performance of IT and the customers ‘real’ experience?
Surely this would be a step forward for service maturity giving better indicators than monthly management reports. The reports lag by one month and focus on the performance of the Service Desk against KPIs than the actual productivity experience within the business. This is the start of the next big thing. A time where Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) are given priority over Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
Learn More About Experience Level Agreements With Bright Horse:
Bright Horse delivers exclusive education courses of Experience Level Agreements. The objective is to help out customers improve their business performance. We enable you to get a competitive advantage in the IT service providers’ market through improved employee experience and engagement.
Become a part of my certified courses that are delivered by experienced professionals from the industry. We understand the direction in which the IT sector is headed, where simply providing service will not be enough.