Using an eXperience Level Agreement (XLA) to improve employee experience

Us IT people sure love our TLAs: CPU, DNS, LAN, WAN, SLA… The list goes on! But there’s one new acronym that’s wormed its way into our minds and could well be the key to providing great IT support – the eXperience Level Agreement, or XLA.

I only heard about XLAs a few months ago and since then, the team have probably gotten sick of me talking about them. It’s become a new favourite topic of mine that is really resonating with CIOs and senior IT professionals who are passionate about improving employee experience.

What is an XLA?
A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is all about numbers – it sets minimum standards that an IT team needs to meet (for example, 99.99% uptime, 80% of service desk calls resolved at Level One, a one hour response to P1 incident etc.). It’s about ticking boxes and meeting numbers.

An eXperience Level Agreement, or XLA, on the other hand, swings the focus onto the employee experience to discover how employees actually find the experience of utilising technology. It shifts the focus from service reviews and penalties to continuous service and improvement, using employee feedback and hard data to drive ongoing improvement and
boost overall satisfaction.

For organisations to outperform their competitors, they need to nail the employee experience across every part of the business. When it comes to IT, a big part of that is ensuring that employees get a great experience no matter where they’re using technology. After all, the modern workplace requires a digital workspace that enables employees to be productive and secure from anywhere. XLAs can improve employee experience by focusing IT on improving their digital workspace service.

Aren’t Service Level Agreements enough?
SLAs are an essential part of making IT work. They turn quite vague concepts like uptime, system availability, and application performance into measurable outcomes. While I truly believe SLAs are a key aspect of successful IT support, the CIOs I’ve been talking to recently understand that Service Level Agreements (SLAs) just don’t cut it by themselves in today’s modern workplace.

SLAs are important – but they don’t necessarily tell you what employees are actually experiencing from their IT. Email might be available 99.999% of the time, but if email performance is terrible for 20% of that time, that doesn’t bode well for employees being productive and happy with their experience.

SLAs are what I would call a safety net – an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff that ensures issues are solved relatively quickly, and makes sure there’s a minimum level of service on offer. While that’s really important, and certainly shouldn’t be thrown out, what they don’t do is proactively look at how to improve IT to avoid those issues in the future, or consider how to better provide employees with a great IT experience.

Since IT success is usually measured against service levels, it’s clear that IT will focus time and money on meeting service levels. But what if IT was motivated and rewarded differently? In a way that places the focus on the people who are your organisation – a focus on improving employee experience? What behavioural changes would that drive within IT and what impact would that have on employee experience?

Creating an XLA could drive the change needed to improve employee experience.

Why we need to do better
With digitisation (I struggle to use the term ‘digital transformation’!) occurring everywhere, people are becoming more and more reliant on technology to be productive. As this reliance on technology increases, the impact of poor employee experience also increases. Your people will be impacted by any system outage or slow performance resulting in a hit to productivity, and to profitability.

It’s estimated that at least half of IT issues aren’t even submitted as tickets – which means that even more employees are getting frustrated by issues. The problem with poor employee experience is probably bigger than you think.

You can do better.

The data you should be collecting to measure employee experience
Employee experience seems like a pretty intangible concept. It’s no wonder that organisations struggle to measure it. And while IT teams can have large amounts of performance data available, that doesn’t mean that it’s obvious what would help to improve employees’ experiences with IT. So what data should you be collecting to track performance against an eXperience Level Agreement (XLA)?

Let’s break it down into two key areas:

  • Hard data: This is the easier part. Collect analytics from all devices used – standard performance data such as CPU, memory, and disk and network usage, along with app performance data, including SaaS apps.
  • Soft data: Here’s where you’ll need to capture the more intangible aspects, such as user sentiment. Survey the organisation’s employees – how do they actually feel about their experience with IT? How happy are they with their devices or specific applications? How happy are they with other IT services, such as printing and meeting rooms? What’s their experience like when working from home?

Pulling these two types of data together from across the organisation will enable you to form a Digital Experience Score – this can then become the basis of your XLA and help focus your IT team on what’s important.

It’s early days when it comes to XLAs – most organisations are still relying on SLAs to provide ‘good enough’ services. But is ‘good enough’ good enough for your organisation? Or are you ready to think differently – to push beyond what has always been used? Consider what effect it would have on your IT team if they were to complement SLA targets with real insights into how people experience IT within your organisation. How would that change the way they think, operate, and prioritise?

Download our eBook ‘Your Digital Workspace: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Digital Experiences Your Employees Will Love’ – and get in touch to talk more about improving employee experience with an eXperience Level Agreement.

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