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 email@example.com.
With the current pressures of tuition fees, student loans, demographic change, and intense competition for the best students, the need for Universities to effectively articulate the value of the offering has been sharply brought back into focus. In addition, Higher Education organisations are having to explore alternative ways to increase income, such as apprenticeship schemes and creating ‘enterprise hubs’ with office space and facilities being made available to commercial organisations. The latter also provides a potential career progression opportunity for students. Here’s why Service Management Digitalisation has become extremely important in today’s era:
Providing support to faculty, staff, and students both on and off-campus is no small task. Campus boundaries are expanding with the growth of online classes, satellite campuses, and international programs. Keeping technology up and running is more critical as books, lessons, schedules, and grades move online. Because students use their personal laptops, smartphones, and tablets, implementing uniform technology guidelines is close to impossible.
Websites and intranets are rapidly losing ground as the primary point of digital content consumption, to be replaced by an evolving set of interconnected channels such as Facebook messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp and WeChat. If you consider these channels collectively, arguably they point to a shift away from ‘digital consumption of content and services’ towards ‘digital conversation supported by content’.
The most important aspect of a conversation is that it is personal and immediate. Implementing digital change, in the face of deep-seated barriers such as siloed systems and complex governance structures, is an entirely new challenge.
Siloed structures, must change to enable institutions to achieve the transformation digital can enable. (1)
Service Management Digitalisation
Our strategy is to help Higher Education organisations automate and digitalise services by delivering the best technology solutions, aligned to effective processes and support by motivated, engaged people. To deliver this we’ve reviewed the market and partnered with the best technology providers.
Bright Horse has worked with local and globally recognised Higher Education organisations, listed within the top 10 UK Universities by QS World University Rankings 2018, to deliver service change through service automation.
For some, this has simply meant the adoption of lean and streamlined processes automated through our Service Management tooling solutions based on the Cherwell and Bomgar Technologies. Other successful examples include using the Cherwell platform to create a Student Registration system, Self Service portals or refining and automating a student accessible Service Request Catalogue.
By using Cherwell’s Social media integration capabilities, combined with Bomgar Remote Support tool integration, organisations can deliver improved levels of digital interaction and collaboration mentioned above.
In addition, as a Microsoft Certified Partner, we can help Higher Education organisations with site-to-cloud migrations based on Office 365 and Azure. Improving productivity and Service Management by using cloud-hosted solutions is the future we want to be part of with you.
Cultural Change at the Heart of Digital Transformation The key to success is not just the acknowledgement of strategies, policies, systems, tools, and working practices and processes, but primarily of identifying desired attitudes and behaviours – and eliminating those which are undesirable.
Changing the culture of any organisation requires strong and visionary leadership, a strong and cohesive management team, and the buy-in and support of the employees. Many organisations talk about the importance of good communication, yet still very few identify formal programs of cultural change and improvement to support digital transformation initiatives.
The place to start is with internal attitudes to change, and how to embed a more collaborative attitude within an institutionalised culture. Get this right and technology becomes the easy bit.
For one recent University, a Service Management simulation event was delivered as part of the 2 day kick off workshop. This provided employees with a practical experience that enabled them to assimilate key learning points with a new way of working. The simulated environment allowed participants to be able to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” which drove improved communication and helped to break down operational silos – which in turn improved cross-functional and technical working practices.
Lean Service Management Principles & Processes In addition to Cultural Change, another key success factor is well defined, effectively executed, and automated processes. With years of experience in ITSM and the ITIL framework, across a wide range of industry sectors, we’ve worked with many clients who experience issues with process maturity.
Reviewing the maturity of processes includes a number of factors from the guiding principles, policies and documentation, review of activities, ownership and accountability, whether there are any bottlenecks and problem with approvals.
As well as the roles and responsibilities required to effectively manage the processes, we work through the process flows to identify issues which can then be addressed, whether they are developed from scratch, re-designed or enhanced to support your digitalisation initiative – eliminating waste, where waste is work that adds no value to a product or service.
Our passion for Higher Education Bright Horse has a passion for bringing young people into the industry and, to support this, volunteer our time to a local University to teach Service Management principles, practices and methods on the 3rd year of their student computing degree programme. In addition, we provide mentoring for students on their projects as well as offering career guidance and general assistance in getting them ‘business ready’.
This partnership has evolved to a level where we are now looking to recruit some of the University’s top talent into our own organisation as we grow and expand – ensuring we continue to develop our consultants of the future. As we move in to 2018 a select few will be placed back in to the University as we build on our existing team of Consultants, some of which have been recruited from within the Higher Education sector, to establish a Centre of Excellence around our chosen Microsoft, Cherwell ITSM & Bomgar technologies.
(1) Credit: Paul Hoskins (Extract from “Branding for Universities in the Digital Age” article)