Digital Experience firm analyzes employee sentiment on the IT service they’re receiving
IT experience management software company Nexthink is revving its efforts to help companies measure and improve how employees feel about their IT environments with a new release of its platform.
The Lausanne, Switzerland / Boston, US dual-headquartered company started that journey when founder and CEO Pedro Bados pondered the conundrum that although IT is central to our working lives, CIOs tend to know precious little about their customers. That led to Nexthink, a company that provides the tools to enhance what it calls the “digital employee experience”. Having swollen its ranks to 600 employees, the company is this month pushing out a significant upgrade that brings together all the necessary dashboards and prescriptive actions for IT leaders to take the pulse of the service they’re providing to users.
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“People want to feel productive and IT plays a very important role,” says Samuele Gantner, Nexthink’s Chief Product Officer. “IT has been sold solutions to monitor what happens in the data center but they’re missing the point of view of the employee.”
For Gantner, the digital experience conversation has changed over time as more employees who are used to the superb experiences offered up in their consumer lives via Apple, Amazon, Spotify et al, question corporate IT and hold it to a higher standard. “When you look at the past the importance of getting a good digital experience, it has dramatically changed. Fifteen years ago, what people were getting from IT was what they were given.”
A new catalyst
Of course, a lot of us are growing accustomed to spending even more time with our devices as the pandemic forces us to work from home.
“Look at what’s happening in the current crisis,” Gantner urges. “I went from three hours a day in front of a screen to 10 hours a day in front of a screen.” But it’s also a broader shift in expectations at play here in the age of the consumerization of IT: this is “a generation of change with more expectations and more savvy”, he adds. Fail to delight the employee and the employee might well walk to a company with higher standards of provision and empathy.
That represents a scary proposition in the battle for talent and the three-cornered hat of people, processes and technology is key here: unless we understand all three, we are suffering from only partial vision as to what’s really going on among employees. Recent research commissioned by Nexthink and carried out by Vanson Bourne found that 45% of issues are never reported to the IT team by employees. So, for half of the problems, IT has no visibility that they even exist. “In the end, we’re talking human beings and people have frustrations,” Gantner argues persuasively. And how to discover and address those frustrations is at the hub of what Nexthink does.
Understanding the end user
Nexthink addresses user dissatisfaction both by asking human questions and looking at clues. Ultimately, it is offering a form of sentiment analysis and then optimizing experiences for happier outcomes. Using the “hub” of dashboards and consoles provided by Nexthink, IT departments can create scorecards to analyze levels of satisfaction, causes of annoyance and best-practice approaches and AI-fueled analytics to improving matters. Drilling down by country, department, persona and other factors helps to deliver a holistic view of what’s occurring.
Some causes of dissatisfaction are obvious: long, painful login processes and regular blue screens of death will try the patience of even the most forgiving staff members. But others can be harder to get to. The recent research found a major disconnect between IT and employees, with 84% of employees believing that their organisations should be doing more to improve the digital experience at work. However, a staggering 90% of IT leaders believe that workers are satisfied with technology in the workplace.
In my own experience, this is particularly true in areas where IT leaders are measuring the wrong things. Remember the famous case of Dell measuring service calls and concluding that all was well because service call times were short? This generated high scores for the company’s contact centre but the KPI was all wrong as customers were effectively having calls curtailed and were understandably furious. This is a classic case of businesses acting empirical, but being tone deaf to prosaic reality.
Nexthink does the opposite, zeroing in on being employee-centric and focusing on their all-round experience and then provides appropriate counsel. “We give them the recipe [to be better],” Gantner says.
So, for example, if a file-sharing tool is disappointing users, Nexthink can investigate by collating feedback, show that this is probably because the service has become slow to respond at certain times or in certain locations and it can recommend a fix, whether that’s an adjustment to network parameters, cleaning out a pile-up of old files, a replacement software package or cloud service, or something else entirely. Or if the issue is clear it can automatically remediate, often before an employee has even noticed the problem. You might think of Nexthink in high-concept terms as the destination where classic digital experience companies meet the makers of software for troubleshooting complex ICT processes.
From SLA to XLA
But if Covid-19 is shining yet more light on the user experience then, for Gantner, this is also about a broader change where companies are focusing on employee and customer experiences: we can’t all be Apple but we can at least be smarter in diagnosing issues and faster in going about fixing them. For CEOs, experience management has become a contender for the most important challenge they face and Gantner says that we are moving from a world of SLAs to “XLAs”, measuring experiences rather than service levels. This is also leading to new roles: Chief People Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, VP of Workplace Experience, Chief Digital Officer and so on. In business, delivering great experiences is key to success.
In this brave new world, IT leaders can’t be left behind and Nexthink offers a way for CIOs to be smarter and to impress C-suite peers with their knowledge of how to serve staff.
For Nexthink’s VP of Technical Services, Jon Cairns, this is a case of history coming full circle.
“If you think about the history of IT, it has always invested all this money in the back-end, and this is where the whole concept of SLAs comes from – everything is green so everything must be fantastic.”
IT “only inspects what it expects” and while it can identify a bug that’s slowing down a process, there’s precious little effort shown in getting to the bottom of what’s bugging users. “It’s a mindset change for IT to look at the front-end because it’s hard,” Cairns says.
By shining a light on one of the most neglected areas of company operations, Nexthink can deliver “Eureka moments” of revelation that change the way employees interact with IT systems. Cairns says that Nexthink is effectively pushing at an open door when he can show how companies can improve the IT they’re providing to users. “They understand immediately: we’re solving hard problems customers didn’t know could be solved. There are hard and soft costs if staff aren’t productive.”
With over 1,000 customers from Western Union to Hugo Boss, Lufthansa and Blackstone, the message is surely getting through: if IT is important then digital experience matters.
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