The 1980s was a period that set the ball rolling for many aspects of the technology that we are using today. Personal computers, such as the BBC Micro and similar devices, introduced the world in general to the power and potential of IT – a capability that has grown massively in sophistication and capability, to the point that it has become fundamental to many aspects of life at work and at home.
Around about the same time, we saw the introduction of frameworks of best practice – such as ITIL – to help to ensure that the IT services were delivered at the right level of quality.
Since then, an interesting ITSM conflict has developed between technology and its underpinning processes: while the former experienced lightspeed evolution in the way we use and depend on IT for work, the latter has remained practically unchanged. In other words, most companies still use the same old metrics, KPIs and reactive processes to manage new and modern technologies.
Engaged or Enraged?
With this rapid evolution of technology, the modern employee demands—and expects—a high standard of IT services. Forrester research shows how this stems from employees’ increase in device usage, digital-physical integration, access to information and their technology-enabled ability to be self-efficient and experimental.
It is clear that accommodating to these expectations is easier said than done, adding a fair share of complexity for IT. Indeed, the reality is that most enterprises simply cannot keep up with modern expectations, leaving them uncatered for. The result? Employees getting frustrated when things don’t function as they are supposed to. Organizations then feel forced to increasingly invest in reactive-oriented incident management methods.
Beyond the Data Center
Reactive ITSM glorifies the data center: as long as all the lights are green, everything is fine. In other words, IT’s visibility is limited to a technological perspective centered on the data center. And here lies the core issue of SLAs: if a tech issue visible to IT is solved, then there is no more issue.
While technological visibility is critical, it only provides an incomplete picture by overlooking end-users’ experiences. With the majority of security, performance and support issues stemming from the end users themselves, it is no wonder that paying more attention to them can have immense benefits. And here lies the main difference: XLAs take the interactions into consideration, not just the resolution of a problem.
SLA vs XLA Visibility Enablement
What this means is that by broadening the scope of metrics towards XLAs, organizations gain a new holistic visibility of not just technological performance, but also end-user experience and their routine interactions. New visibility leads to new understanding which enables the possibility to address issues at their root, often before it even impacts the users. This benefit of proactive IT management is more commonly referred to as “shift-left”.
Additionally, it prevents the overoptimization of current tools. That is, continuously investing in the same tools that have been used for the past decades and expecting different results even though the technological and cultural workplace environment has irrevocably changed. True service improvement lies not in staying on the same old comfort zone, but rather shifting focus to an ‘outside-in’ view of how services are consumed, from the end-user all the way to the datacentre.
XLAs at Nexthink
Based on a Digital Experience Improvement Cycle, Nexthink approaches XLAs through in-depth scores and analytics, most notably through its Digital Experience Score – an XLA-based metric sourcing both technical and experiential data to provide a holistic overview of end-users’ experiences with the overall services. This is represented in a single digestible score, which can then be used to drill down all the way to a granular level to identify where issues truly lie. The score can then be benchmarked across various industries to help users position themselves and set realistic improvement targets.
Making the move from SLAs to XLAs is the logical next step for organizations looking to move beyond tech-oriented monitoring tools and starting to include user sentiments in their analytics, diagnostics and indices. With such insight, organizations have the ability to align end-user’s digital experiences directly with business outcomes by increasing employee engagement and tech wellbeing which benefits overall productivity, risk management and reputation.
XLAs in the 4th Dimension
The importance of the end-user’s perspective has had the added benefit of influencing the evolution of ITSM best practices.
With ITIL 4, which will be launched officially at the end of February, we can expect to see a significant overhaul in the form of an increased focus on holistic corporate culture and business value. This manifests itself, in part, by paying far more attention to feedback from business users to get clearer and more accurate insight into what works and what doesn’t in the services that users are consuming – and ultimately paying for.
Nexthink, with its unique capabilities to correlate the performance, behavior and compliance of IT infrastructure with a rich understanding of the end-user’s real-life experience, is ideally positioned to enable this new philosophy.
We will shortly be publishing a more detailed discussion of how Nexthink can support Enterprise IT in their journey to ITIL 4.
Could it be that the secret formula for proactively managing IT services is “ITIL3 + XLA + NX = ITIL4”?
Watch this space!