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Starting the XLA Journey: A Next-level Perspective for Enhanced Experiences

Written By Joanna Smartwood
Sep 22, 2023

There’s a profound shift happening today that is taking businesses in a fresh, new direction.  

Outcomes are at the forefront of IT leaders’ minds, and they’re rightfully becoming a core business accelerator. It’s clear that employee and customer experiences are critical for growing businesses.  

The trend stems from a shift in priorities. As leaders become laser-focused on making a real difference for those their company serves, it’s the success in doing so that drives the business forward.  

According to Gartner, 76 percent of executive leaders say the customer experience is critical for meeting organizations’ business goals. 

Defining XLAs: The “Why” Behind Shifting to Tracking and Measuring Experiences 

Yes – Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) are creating loud and proud hype, capturing the attention of leaders everywhere. And while the early bird catches the worm, it’s important to start by defining how XLAs have become such a big deal for so many industries.  

XLAs are the next iteration of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and many organizations are well into working toward defined, strict SLAs and tracking them. As the IT business shifts toward experience-based outcomes, the idea of measuring SLAs and compiling them together to measure the customer’s interaction with IT services becomes the next logical progression. As a result, SLAs are being used as building blocks, and organizations are seeing a new focus – well beyond things like server uptime and ticket resolution, and further into the impact they have on the employee and customer experience.  

A real movement is happening in business, generally speaking, in which leadership priorities are transitioning away from outputs, as it’s less about things like the number of features or detailed KPIs. Leaders care more about the experiences they’re giving employees and customers, and what they want to achieve.  

Businesses, along with this change in perspective, are becoming much more inclined to ask IT for help in providing the best experiences possible, all while XLAs are top of mind. For instance, employees are a company’s most valuable assets, and so there’s an ever-growing need to optimize their workdays, give them tools to be effective, and keep them engaged. On the software side of things, technology is the core of every business and it’s the backbone that enables efficiency and effectiveness in what they do every day.  

The Roles IT Plays in Driving and Measuring XLAs  

SLAs have been important to IT leaders for some time, and now XLAs are emerging as a new goal.  

So what roles does IT play in XLAs?  

IT is foundational for every department of the business, from NetSuite for finances to an inventory management system for manufacturing, and beyond. At the end of the day, IT is incredibly important for XLAs as IT drives the base of those experiences, such as software availability and meeting customer needs quickly. Fundamental in delivering the infrastructure and pieces to individual services and departments, IT is at the center of XLAs, including those they’re not directly responsible for.  

Measuring XLAs is difficult because it moves into a qualitative realm. There’s yet to be a great way of measuring systems like Net Promoter Scores (NPS), surveys, and others, to get the type of feedback needed to impact the business – “the how” or the diagnostics. Any measurement system for XLAs has to have a component that generates outcome-driven information and metrics. With XLAs, the foundation of thinking about the outcome and experience — rather than the customer journey — focuses on all the technology pieces behind the journey that create the experience.     

5 Practical Ways to Make a Difference Today 

Some organizations are building on top of what they’ve achieved with SLAs in order to get to XLAs. In doing so, there are five ways to move the XLA needle forward.  

1. Self-service: Freeing up L1 Staff to Enhance Organizational Productivity  

Self-service tools drive employee and customer experienced-based outcomes by supporting the long-lived principle of meeting the customer where they are and designing experiences accordingly.  

Tools like ChatOps can kick off builds and actions directly, from that same tool, allowing the user to “stay in one place” while getting the service they need, which makes for a remarkably good experience. Leveraging technologies like ChatOps and Conversational AI, for example, keeps employees and customers from having to learn and access a different tool, which directly impacts service. Automation is the fulfillment piece in these cases, building on top of the ChatOps self-service tool and fulfilling requests faster.  

Meeting users where they are, from an automation and backend SLA perspective, eliminates the need for them to actually know the technology, like VMs and other systems. It can produce great SLA and XLA outcomes because users can request a need, and have it met faster, easier, and better.   

Additionally, automating tasks handled by L1 staff means there’s no wait to serve employees and customers, because they can serve themselves. Automation scales to impact the effectiveness of the organization. The more processes there are, the more automation kicks off, with the right security and principles secured.  

2. SLA ++: Take the Concept of SLAs Further  

Key SLAs help organizations build into experiences. From starting with quantifiable core metrics like uptime, response time, and network latency, organizations can take another step, where they measure things like first call resolution, time to resolution, number of escalations. Progression gets them closer to measuring experiences that are associated with the organization’s products.  

The concept of understanding SLAs and Operational Level Agreements (OLAs), as well as the experiences that build to an XLA, creates an “SLA++” elevation that challenges IT to also look at metrics beyond those typically seen in SLAs.  

It’s not about whether a website is available. It’s about entering information, hitting submit, and starting the process – and kicking off the right automation. There can be never-ending noise from alarms, alerts, and more, and using automation for running health checks, ruling out false positives, and other processes allows IT to work on what’s really actionable. For example, leveraging the correlation of AIOps in a particular process and building it out with tools IT has, and then using automation to validate the events saves an incredible amount of time and money on deploying technicians and other human-delivered services, ultimately delivering an amazing customer experience.   

3. Self-healing: From Toil to Business-Critical Processes 

Minimizing service disruptions with full-stack automation for self-healing processes can achieve greater employee and customer experiences.  

Self-healing is often a starting point for organizations to automate away IT pain points that teams have to do daily. Knowing what causes bad experiences and failures, organizations can start putting triggers around them and allow the self-healing event to begin. They can be recognized, reported, and then resolved without needing busy IT staff, which can jumpstart improving XLAs.  

Automation will eliminate toil that inhibits productivity, and at the next level, proactively minimize the number of events that come to IT. Building blocks are put in place to address micro-problems, and then they’re leveraged to solve the issues. Each automation step leads to the next level of complexity and generates more ROI for the business.  

READ MORE: Resolve Automation Capabilities Framework: From Tactical to Strategic End-to-end Automation 

Starting small, with a focus on toil, and then building toward IT, organizational, and business processes enables a constant view of a quicker and better resolution of customer issues.  

4. Proactive Automation – Finding and Fixing Potential Issues First   

Proactive automation gets rid of noise like alert storms and gets after the actual problem. Still handled mostly by humans, automaton can convert the tribal knowledge into a decision tree by sifting through alerts based on past experiences, and deciphering between what’s real and what’s not. From there, automation runs health checks so the problem can be identified and the proper remediation action taken.  

The push many organizations have taken with AIOps, with consolidating and correlating alerts, is a great place to start, but IT has to deal with thousands, if not millions of alarms every day. The idea of automation teeing up IT to keep the usual balls moving, like ping a device, complete a trace route, check firewall rules, and more, means automation provides a knowledgeable point to kick off important work, immediately reducing the time to restoration. Automatically remediated processes for self-healing, from an SLA and XLA perspective, maintains exceptional employee and customer experiences.  

5. Orchestration of Workflows – Unifying Silos Using Process Orchestration 

More and more organizations are realizing the power of not only bringing automations they already have to the table, but orchestrating them into larger processes, ultimately to solve problems more efficiently and effectively, which in turn supports better experiences.  

Orchestration and Service Blueprinting go hand-in-hand, enabling organizations to fully understand the holistic process they’re delivering to the customer, as well as all the touchpoints that happen underneath.  

The technology ecosystem will naturally become more complex over time, and so there will be more solutions to manage that impact employee and customer experiences. Service Blueprinting, as opposed to a basic service design or architectural template, starts with the customer’s experience – what they want to accomplish. Next, it moves into supporting it, including human and technology interactions.  

Organizations can start with the customer journey and its impact, and examine the human touchpoints, as well as technology touchpoints along the way. From there, they can travel down the tech stack required to provide a desirable experience. Even for simplistic processes like employee offboarding, there can be as many as 70 systems to ensure the right access is shut off, logs and audits are filed away and more. Automation, in employee onboarding, gets employees access to systems quicker. As an experience, it’s about giving them what they want to see, and what they want to feel when joining the company, and tying them together with orchestration. It’s an intricate web of systems that create a higher level of experiences.  

The experiences organizations provide to employees and customers are critical for meeting demands and keeping the business running during times of challenges and changes. Shifting to an XLA focus will help your organization reach its desired outcomes and thrive in an unsettling landscape.  

Ready to embrace your XLA journey? Request a demo to learn more.  

About the author, Joanna Smartwood:

About the author, Joanna Smartwood:

Head of Demand Generation, Content & Creative

Joanna Swartwood is Head of Demand Generation, Content & Creative at Resolve Systems. With 20+ years’ experience in developing and running high-performing marketing campaigns, Joanna is passionate about curating demand gen strategies that deliver pipeline and revenue growth. Demand gen in the B2B SaaS tech space is Joanna’s career calling.