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XLAs Explained: Bridging the Gap Between XLAs and ITIL

Man working at a desk in an office

In the world of XLAs, there are various data streams that we use to manage and predict experience, from SLAs and KPIs providing Operational data, to technical tools providing T data, and sentiment surveys providing the all-important X data. In implementing XLAs you may have access to all or some of these streams. Depending on this, and other factors, you may decide to start out your XLA journey on a differing maturity level. Without getting too deep into it, there are 3 levels of XLA maturity where. In order of progressions, these are:

  1. Exclusively sentiment - Only using the mandatory sentiment data stream to gather X data that we act on

  2. All data streams - The level we would recommend. This is where the three TOX data streams are utilised to provide as full a contextual picture of experience as possible

  3. All data streams applied across multiple departments - An end-goal for XLAs where the maturity level 2 can be implemented across multiple organisational departments. This allows for XLA projects that focus on the wants and needs of particular groups of people in an organisation as opposed to grouping all departments together or just focusing on one user group.

What we're interested in for this article is maturity level 1 - just sentiment. Some organisations may, understandably, be apprehensive about adopting an approach like XLAs because, whilst gaining steam and recognition over the past couple of years, remain in relative infancy when compared with other heavyweight workplace management initiatives. One in particular that we've all heard of is ITIL. The foundation of service management, ITIL is a recognised and well-established approach to IT service management. It is trustworthy. Its principles also link to the field of experience management. Logically this makes sense. The experience economy succeeded the service economy, it therefore makes sense that experience management would adopt principles from the prior economy in the implementation of its own initiatives.

What this translates to is the trustworthy and recognisable world of ITIL also being in part incorporated into experience management principles and guidelines, and thus should become less daunting an initiative for organisations still in the decision phase. Let's take 3 ITIL principles and illustrate how they can fit into the design and implementation of XLAs and experience management.

1. Start where you are

'Start Here' painted on the ground

ITIL tells us not to build something new and instead look to where we are currently. This moulds itself well with Experience Collab's second phase of the Experience Optimisation Framework - 'Explore'. In this phase, organisations are encouraged to look towards the resources they currently have that can assist in experience management. These include dashboarding tools like Excel or Power BI and survey tools like MS forms, the three of which may have been included in the organisation's Office 365 subscription. This isn't the only example, other tools exist in different IT product libraries, and free survey tools also exist.

Because experience is a relatively new initiative, it can seem like taking on an entirely new set of processes and tasks on top of what already exists. To some extent it is, the initiative wouldn't exist if there wasn't a clear and identified need for it, however the start of this project is a much more internal investigation and aggregation of resources to focus on working with what we currently have, akin to what ITIL guides us to do before we attempt to start anew.

2. Progress Iteratively with Feedback

Experience management is a journey. A journey we repeat, taking on the feedback from the previous excursion. Of all the ITIL principles, this holds perhaps the most direct comparison. Under ITIL, we are encouraged to make gradual steps and gain feedback that will influence our next. In the same sense, the goal of experience management is to make steps towards the experience, of our employees or customers, before gaining feedback from those people regarding our success. Any feedback we receive is then analysed and feeds into the next experience journey. From this feedback we may remove or add experience ambitions as they become fulfilled or apparent in the same manner we might repeat a sequence of an ITIL-directed project where feedback directs where we alter our focus.

3. Collaborate and Promote Visibility


Communication is a key part of experience management, both in a direct and indirect relationship to the ITIL principle and its definition. Under ITIL, partners, suppliers and various departments are encouraged to work together in order to drive desired outcomes. In a more general sense, experience management is centred around communication. We communicate between departments to determine the current picture of experience, the Experience Now, and we communicate with employees after experience improvement measures have been implemented to determine their effectiveness. Communication and communication across departments is key to experience management.

A more literal parallel can be drawn from reading into the communication between partners and suppliers. XLAs can be implemented between organisations and their service providers. Known as provider XLAs, these aim to ensure a stronger relationship between the provider and customer organisation where experience ambitions, set out by the organisation, are to be adopted by the provider as part of their contract. As we see on all levels regarding the ITIL principle, good communication and openness encompasses XLAs and experience management.

It can be tempting for organisations to start with maturity level 1, partly due to the relative infancy of experience management and XLAs. Whilst this is perfectly valid, we encourage all organisations undertaking this journey to continue and mature to level 2 where multiple data streams are considered. It will represent some extra tasks and management as the project progresses, but also represents a great opportunity to learn more about an up and coming initiative which, we hope, now doesn't seem as unfamiliar as it once did.

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