In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, enterprises are driving their digital roadmaps to provide employees with secure and continuous access to IT resources, from anywhere and at any time. To do this well, the IT infrastructure must always be “on.” However, the actual employee experience goes well beyond having IT resources accessible without disruption.

In addition to continuous accessibility, IT must also consider other end-user IT expectations, such as application speed, proactive support, request fulfillment time, resolution and change management when new digital technologies are introduced. To keep up with all these expectations, IT should combine the service level agreements (SLA) that are standard in most business today with a new metric that takes into consideration end-user productivity and satisfaction: experience level agreements (XLA).

XLAs are outcome-focused and seen from the point of view of the end user. By measuring service consumption through a user satisfaction and productivity lens, IT can prioritize service quality and user experience. This is important because as technological dependence increases at most organizations, so does the impact of poor employee experience – a metric that isn’t t accurately captured by SLAs. By using XLAs to customize end-user services, IT can ensure that users are not only happy and productive but also working toward making their organization always-on and agile.

Beyond Keeping the Lights On

XLAs represent a dramatic shift from quality of service (QoS) to quality of experience (QoE), which positions users at the center. Getting there requires IT to have complete visibility into users’ actual experience in their interactions with all IT products or services. Measuring the quality of the employee experience requires enterprise-class tools that look at metrics across end-user device performance, application response and behavior, as well as accessibility to corporate resources.

We recommend that businesses formulate an experience management office (XMO), whose primary responsibility is to create, maintain, unify and provide beautiful and meaningful experiences by creating and updating XLAs, analyzing, measuring and automating activities, etc. A holistic view of the end-user experience can be gleaned by using various tools, such as Microsoft desktop analytics and other ITSM tools, to collate operational data and experience data.

Operational data can include applications and device performance, response and behavior, and accessibility of corporate resources, while experience data can include survey feedback on devices, survey pop-up notifications following issue resolution, and proactive issue identification. By combining operational and experience data and deriving rich analytics from it, enterprises can shift their support model from SLAs to XLAs and track end users’ quality of experience across the enterprise.

Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure

The measurement of the employee experience is based on a combination of sentiment analysis with hard data retrieved from the digital workplace across critical applications, collaboration tools and hardware devices. There are two ways to capture experience details:

  • Manual approach: Businesses can interview end users and send surveys to create an employee satisfaction/employee effort score. Survey questions could include, “How would you rate your end-user satisfaction with the product or service on a scale of 0-10?” These surveys can be sent out via email or through a chat tool.

    While the manual approach can provide insight into employee perceptions of product or service quality, it doesn’t offer a robust, unbiased data stream for continuous improvement or allow IT service providers to easily identify which resources are causing the low service quality.

  • Automated approach: In a tool-based approach, device-monitoring tools collect real-time performance data on resources that the end-user leverages. Sentiment analysis tools with natural language processing (NLP) capabilities classify the end-user experience as excellent, good, fair and poor.

Making the Move to XLAs

Shifting to XLAs can’t be done overnight – it is an ongoing process that will evolve to achieve the desired outcome for all services. Key steps include:

  • Benchmarking: Create a baseline for understanding the current user experience with services/tools used across the organization. Example baselines could include: tools are used by 40% of users, infrastructure availability is more than 97%, first call resolution/mean time to resolve is more than 80%, interactions with the support team are neutral-to-negative, etc. This will help establish a target to work toward.
  • Create a multi-touchpoint digital experience: Enable interactions across a variety of digital touchpoints using a combination of interaction modalities, including touch, voice, vision and gesture, in support of a seamless and consistent digital user journeys.
  • Understand and define user personas: Understand end users’ business and functional requirements and define the persona models for each. Doing so enables the business to segment the environment to efficiently meet users’ needs based on their actual work styles, informed by user-centric data (devices, applications, business requirements, etc.).
  • Apply tools and services: Configure self-help tools for deployment and support (e.g., application deployment, ordering hardware, resolving issues) to reduce reliance on local IT teams and combine these with an instant feedback survey with no more than two to three questions. This will provide a more accurate view of the user experience after issue resolution.
  • Invest in AI-driven tools: Deploy user experience monitoring tools with AI capabilities to obtain real-time, actionable insights into all devices and user activity across devices, operating systems and workplace location. These tools will provide contextual recommendations based on precise findings of issues across users, devices and infrastructure and hence drive a better employee experience.

Real-life Benefits of XLAs

We helped a large U.S.-based oil and gas client define and deploy user experience-based tools to analyze data based on net promoter score, hard inputs (device, application and network performance metrics) and soft inputs (customer satisfaction and user sentiment scores) by integrating with Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services. Key outcomes from these XLAs included:

  • Effective measurement of success and failure based on sentiment analysis, with hard data retrieved from the user IT estate. This enabled the company to establish clear goals and set thresholds, which it says Increased end-user experience and net promotor score by 30%.
  • Clear understanding and demarcation of areas that needed improvement. This allows the business to create different sets of personas based on their business and technical requirements. By doing so, the company says it reduced its overall licensing and procurement costs initially by 5% because it could provide resources according to known end-user needs.
  • Operational and strategic benefits. The company said it reduced help desk costs by deflecting 20% of its overall incident/service requests; improved employee productivity by 15% using proactive issue resolution; and enabled easier and cost-effective management by leveraging our WorkNEXT Digital Platform.
  • Shifted focus from standard service reporting to measuring, tracking and reporting on continuous service improvements. Doing so boosted the overall CSAT score by 45%, according to the company.

XLAs can help organizations understand their 360-degree digital experience, enabling IT teams to accurately measure and enact continuous improvement.

By shifting from quality of service to quality of experience, organizations can gain more meaningful insights into user experiences that inform major and minor IT infrastructure and/or applications adjustments that allow employees and the business to thrive.

Mortha Venkat Naidu, an Associate Director in Cognizant’s Digital Workplace Services Practice, contributed to this blog.

Amresh Singh

Amresh Singh

Amresh Singh is a leader for the global Digital Workplace Services practice in Cognizant Infrastructure Services. He has more than 18 years of experience working... Read more