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Coming in Hot: XLAs Fire Up Business Results as User Expectations Rise 

Written By Ari Stowe
Aug 24, 2023

User expectations — those of employees and customers alike — are turning up the heat for businesses and their IT departments.  

Could the demand for nonstop, fast, and basically flawless digital services be any higher?  

Service Level Agreements (SLA)s have been practiced for a while now, ensuring that downtime and uptime stay within the confinements of carefully laid-out contract terms. Organizations deploy automation to maintain SLAs and avoid a detrimental breach, which could equate to consumer loss, a stained brand reputation, and legal troubles. Automation handles the overload of manual tasks that are all part of meeting SLAs, and gives IT staff the time and opportunity to be more productive and complete the heavy-lifting work for upholding the contract.  

Although still important, users are demanding more than just SLAs, which simply equate to satisfactory user experiences. Experience Level Agreements (XLA)s are emerging as the “shiny red ball,” gold standard for ensuring stellar experiences for employees and customers. Meeting XLA requirements is more than complying with set terms, as it locks in user retention and loyalty, directly impacting business goals and outcomes.  

XLAs: Explained but Not Yet Clearly Defined 

The internet houses a multitude of XLA definitions, but here at Resolve, we start with the fact that XLA is a mindset shift, rather than a shift away from SLAs that leaves them alone and stranded. SLAs target services, and for IT, they’re associated with holding down the fort and keeping the lights on. XLAs are made up of SLAs, and they target experiences. When working with XLAs, IT tracks and measures end-to-end experiences – and that’s where the magic happens. 

XLAs “promise to quantify employee tech experience, monitor it, and link it to business outcomes.” 


SLAs help measure steps that are taken leading up to an experience. Automation that enables teams to meet SLAs will do the same for XLAs.  

IT plays a significant role in XLAs, and they’re quickly gaining hype. Thought of as core elements of employee and customer experiences, IT applications and infrastructures must work properly to meet XLA requirements. XLAs are all about performance, value, and outcomes in regard to evaluating the experiences a company provides.  

What Makes Experiences Matter? 

Organizations aim for short- and long-term competitive advantages, and for more than a handful of years, they’ve worked to better understand, improve, and provide benefits through their employee and customer experiences.  

Employee experiences are critical for business operations, growth, and success. A company’s staff, in order to be happy, values making progress each day toward jobs they feel are important and impactful. It’s the fuel for employee retention, which accomplishes many things for businesses, especially with costs related to turnover, lost productivity, disengagement, and more. Voluntary turnover costs U.S. businesses an estimate of $1 trillion, Gallup finds. (Yep, that’s “trillion” … with a “t.”) 

No business can survive without customers. Their experiences impact, if not determine, revenue generation, brand reputation, and even total customer loss. According to an Accenture study, more than half of global public companies suffered material reputational damage, causing them to lose up to $180 billion in revenue.  

Shifting to XLAs: Now’s the Time 

Employees and customers are unwilling to wait for services, much less IT assistance. Their expectations for continuous, reliable services and system access have climbed so high that they’re laser focused on their end-to-end experiences and the emotions felt during and after the process. It’s a “whatever it takes” customer attitude toward reaching desired outcomes and goals.

As users become increasingly accustomed to great experiences, they expect consistency across the board, from business to business and industry to industry. IT; therefore, has to deliver the same level (or higher) of service quality that leading top dogs provide.  

They might deal with a forever-long list of metrics, but IT teams have to measure what matters. XLA metrics tell the whole story, while those of SLAs represent more of an abstract, or omit some of the chapters. XLA metrics, for example, include the health and performance of devices used by employees and customers, whereas those of SLAs measure things like the length of time a PC is inaccessible. 

An XLA mindset is proactive. Instead of IT addressing a problem after a user reports an issue, it means automation runs in the background to monitor the health and stability of a service or system. Automation can detect user patterns that don’t seem right, anomalies, and other potential threats before they become issues. It means users would never know about a potential problem, and their service continues without a wrinkle, meeting the expectations they have today. 

Companies are changing things up operationally, and have been since the pandemic. These transitions, and establishments of new best practices, set an ideal stage for shifting from SLAs to XLAs. Organizations can use the time when a lot is being tweaked and revamped to create and refine experiences. 

XLA Best Practice: Build on Existing Systems 

XLA might be the buzziest concept being talked about right now, but forward-thinking organizations are taking action – identifying where and how to start, as well as what’s needed to achieve end-to-end experiences.  

Before anything begins, leaders across multiple businesses should understand that “shifting” is not a complete overhaul of what’s already in place. There’s no need for demolition, as working toward strong XLA practices is about building on what exists and works well now.  

Automating self-service processes, like those needed for password reset requests, employee onboarding, and employee offboarding, is an ideal place to start. Doing so puts automatic, pre-built workflows in place and sets an L1 engineer free from low-value manual tasks and enables them to spend their time on strategic, business-boosting work. Automation in this case comes with an added bonus: increased organizational productivity in a time when cost optimization steals the show. It can prevent lost productivity, and regarding employee engagement, Gallup says for a company of 10,000 employees with an average salary of $50,000 each, runs about $60.3 million per year.

Employees and customers can use self-service to start the process of submitting a ticket without the help of IT staff. For instance, SaaS-based text messaging and chatbots can fill plenty of ITSM-related requests independently. A Resolve residential services customer saw a 60 percent drop in IT tickets as a result of automation.  

We’re Just Getting Started  

As if the focus on business outcomes couldn’t get any greater, XLAs are becoming a huge enabler of results. The experiences employees and customers have with the technologies a company uses and provides give leaders important data to indicate what’s working, as well as what’s not, and a plan to set their organizations up for success.  

Looking ahead, an average experience won’t satisfy consumers. XLAs are, and will be, essential for obtaining and continuously providing experiences that meet user demands. Exceptional experiences are the new currency when it comes to employee and customer loyalty, which drives businesses forward and seals the trajectory for growth.  

Watch our recent webinar, “From SLAs to XLAs: The Necessary Shift and 5 Practical Ways IT Automation Gets You There” on demand to dig deep into rethinking IT processes by focusing on experiences. 
About the author, Ari Stowe:

About the author, Ari Stowe:

VP, Product

As VP, Product, Ari Stowe leads Resolve's product organization. He is a resourceful product management professional and highly driven individual, continuously looking to further his skills and knowledge through constant learning. Ari's primary role as a Senior Product Director has allowed him the opportunity to navigate emerging technologies and drive innovation across multiple product lines. Along with his passion for product management, Ari has a strong passion for mentoring others. He takes great pride in seeing others succeed and in reaching their full potential.