Greater Expectations in IT Services

“My MSP reports all SLAs are great, but my users still aren’t happy.” How do IT leaders escape the Green Hell of meaningless metrics? asks Steve McCorry.

Celebrating our daughter’s 21st birthday with friends and family, I was proud to see our children have grown up into confident, communicative young adults. “What a delight <offspring name> is,” was a phrase often proffered. Surely, I can be content knowing our parental work is done and all is good.

Except I’m not content at all. The problem is they just cannot find it in themselves to unload the dishwasher. After 21 years of doing it for them, surely I deserve a break? Nice kids SLA = good. Day to day experience SLA = tirelessly challenging.

This moves me to think about the long-standing end user frustration of IT outsourcing, making use of services meant to make life better.  Yep, the SLAs indicators are all green, but for some reason, users are still left wanting – the all too familiar Green Hell. “The service is up, but we are not working smarter.” “My call has been responded to in 2 hours, but I haven’t got a mouse.” *sigh*

Welcome to the new and still being defined world of XLAs – eXperience Level Agreements.  XLAs represent a shift from traditional Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and aim to measure and improve overall satisfaction. While SLAs typically involve quantitative metrics like response time and uptime, XLAs take a more holistic approach by incorporating qualitative aspects of user experience. They are user-centric meaning they focus on things that really matter in a working day and evolve and continuously improve over time.

Embracing the ethos of XLAs can lead to better collaboration across teams, achieving positive UX by thinking about the entire journey a user experiences to become productive or satisfied in their role.  They can also align to broader business objectives, driving loyalty, brand reputation and ultimately future success, internally and externally.

XLAs require a cultural shift both as an enterprise and as a service provider. Prioritising user and stakeholder experience as key drivers of success requires commitment to ongoing monitoring, feedback and most importantly adapting to meet ever-higher expectations.

XLAs offer the chance to release clients and users from the green hell of SLAs they are often subjected to, tied up in largely compliant but often meaningless metrics that offer little to improve the day to day performance and productivity of an organisation.  It’s a welcome change and in my opinion worth putting some effort into to inspire collaboration and joint success between suppliers and customers.

In my working life as CIO at Creative, I am excited about the journey we are on to formalise XLAs into our own operating model – something the company has subconsciously been trying to deliver to its customers for years. Moreover I am also quivering at the thought of finally reaching an agreement about how my dishwasher might be more consistently emptied – and in the spirit of continuous improvement, thinking about what it will take to get the hoovering done in the future.