The IT industry has long spoken of the need to improve IT-business alignment, albeit with very mixed results. Strategic efforts, such as ensuring that IT strategies and goals align with those of the business, have made inroads into the required improvement. Other efforts have worked to ensure that IT employees know more about business operations rather than just the potentially limited scope of their role.
But another important part of the process is to understand how the actions of IT departments help or hinder their business colleagues and processes. To do this, your IT organization needs to be able to understand and measure the employee experience. Too often, there’s a disconnect when the traditional IT metrics tell us one thing, then business stakeholders tell us another.
Here’s a quick overview of why there’s commonly a disconnect between an IT organization’s view of performance and that of the people they serve and support:
- IT metrics often focus on the “mechanics” of IT service delivery and support – measuring time and volumes, with an emphasis on outputs rather than outcomes. For example, the number of tickets handled means little in outcome terms to an employee struggling with an IT issue.
- Performance is often measured at the point of service creation rather than service consumption, which can lead to different opinions. For example, a service might consistently show as being available, but for the end-user the performance it’s periodically unusable.
- The IT metrics usually miss what’s most important to employees. Instead, they focus on what the IT service provider deems to be most important. For example, the speed of ticket handling means little if the issue isn’t successfully resolved to end-user satisfaction.
Many would argue that the use of customer satisfaction (CSAT) questionnaires is a safety net for such disconnects. In some ways they are – in that they give employees a voice to feedback on IT performance. However, the questionnaires also have issues that allow both issues and disconnects to remain hidden. That may be because:
- A low survey response rate and feedback skewing, biased by only great and/or poor service experiences being reported
- An operational focus, measuring the “IT mechanics” rather than what’s important to employees
- Limited context, with no extra detail on the feedback provided
- A delay in feedback receipt that might affect recollection and the associated response.
- The results can be that CSAT scores might, as with the other traditional metrics, show that all is well for end users and the disconnect continues to go unaddressed.
- This is why the use of experience-level agreements (XLAs) and experience-related targets is growing in popularity as a much-needed mechanism for understanding the business impact of IT operations – and the success of IT-business alignment improvement efforts.
Using XLAs and employee experience to assess and improve IT-business alignment
This needs to start with understanding the expectations of key business stakeholders, recognizing that different stakeholders will have different perspectives as to what’s most important to them. For example, while organizations have traditionally looked to revenues, profit, and risk, what matters most to employees using IT services is usually related to maintaining their productivity. This is true whether this is the IT services they use to do their work or the quality of the IT support they receive when they’re unable to do their work.
A quick way to demonstrate this is to share some of our latest experience data. The table below shows the level of employee lost productivity across different IT support channels. Here, it’s important to note that this is for HappySignals customers who have already invested in identifying and addressing experience-related issues rather than IT service providers per se.
HappySignals, The Global IT Experience Benchmark H1/2021
Now imagine that your IT organization is actively moving employees from the traditional telephone channel to your self-service portal. After all, the portal was sold into your organization based on its ability to speed things up, reduce costs, and improve the employee experience.
But is the reality that such a strategy will adversely affect employee productivity – because employees lose twice as much productivity with the portal than the telephone channel? The best-case scenario answer here is that your organization doesn’t know. As with any of the areas of disconnect, the current performance metrics aren’t giving the right insights on how IT is performing related to what matters most to employees.
So XLAs and experience data will allow your organization to measure what matters most at the point where IT’s performance matters most. It allows the level of IT-business alignment to be more accurately viewed through an employee lens.
Sami Kallio is CEO and co-founder of HappySignals. Before starting HappySignals, he worked as the CEO of Palmu.exe, a service design company. Before that, he was responsible for the service design unit at Tieto Corporation. He believes happiness and productivity are the keys to transforming business IT culture for the better.