“Death By Watermelon” – How Will Your IT Organization Avoid It?

Will your IT organization be able to avoid what could be considered “death by watermelon” – where the continued failure to meet business expectations results in greater business discontent and perhaps a change in service provider capabilities (such as outsourcing)?

Watermelon SLAs

On a personal level, you might have heard the phrase “death by chocolate.” On the one hand, the term is used to describe various desserts to emphasize the chocolate employed in their creation. On the other, the term “death by chocolate” can be used to describe how consuming too much chocolate, or similar “sweet stuff,” can be bad for one’s health (and life expectancy).

This blog leans into the latter of these “death by chocolate” meanings from a corporate service level agreement (SLA) perspective and the use of what the IT industry has termed “watermelon SLAs” and the “watermelon effect.” Will your IT organization be able to avoid what could be considered “death by watermelon” – where the continued failure to meet business expectations results in greater business discontent and perhaps a change in service provider capabilities (such as outsourcing)?

What are watermelon SLAs?

If you haven’t heard of “watermelon SLAs,” here’s a quick explanation. If you know what they are, please jump to the next section.

When an IT organization consistently achieves agreed-upon performance targets, including its service level targets, but employees or end-users are unhappy with IT’s performance, there could be a watermelon SLA issue.

As to why this term is used, if you imagine what a watermelon looks like – green on the outside and red on the inside – watermelon SLAs (or watermelon service level targets) are the same. The IT performance dashboard is filled with service level targets that are met and reported as green. However, end-users still have issues with their IT services, so their view of IT performance is red. Ultimately, two different and opposing views of IT’s performance are caused by issues with the employed measures.

The causes of watermelon SLAs

There can be many reasons for the difference between IT’s perception of its performance and end-users’ thoughts. These include IT focusing on what it thinks is important rather than what’s important to end-users. For example, in the case of the IT service desk, metrics are often focused on the operational aspects or “mechanics” of IT support, covering how long things take to do rather than the outcomes of what’s done. Plus, IT might measure its performance “at source” while end-users experience that performance at their point of consumption.

The bottom line is that the metrics IT employs and reports on don’t always reflect what’s important to end-users, their experiences, and their productivity.

What your IT organization can do to avoid “death by watermelon”

The first step to avoid “death by watermelon” is to appreciate that there’s likely a difference between the IT and end-user views of IT performance. This can be a challenging first step for an IT organization that has consistently met SLA targets, perhaps increasing them over time. To help, the HappySignals Global IT Experience Benchmark Report shares some examples that highlight “watermelon SLA” issues.

In the “Full Year 2023” version of the report, examples of this disparity include that:

  • End-users report high levels of perceived lost productivity. This will likely be eye-opening for many IT organizations (for ticket handling and IT services) – for example, the average lost time per incident ticket is 3h 12min. This is likely much higher than the IT service desk view of average handling time (but 80% of the perceived lost time with IT incidents comes from only 13% of tickets).
  • People are unhappy with their IT equipment and corporate applications. Enterprise Applications, Mobile Devices, and Laptops and Computers are the lowest-scoring IT areas in the Overall IT Experience.
  • When end-users provide a poor feedback score for incidents, 51% say it’s because “My ticket was not solved” (despite the ticket being closed to invoke the feedback survey).
  • With each ticket reassignment, end-user happiness decreases by over seven points, and end-users perceive they lose an extra 1h 46min of work time (per reassignment). When a ticket is reassigned four times, an end-user can perceive a total loss of 9h 8min.

These figures are just an aggregated snapshot of the experience data captured by our customers as they strive to deliver the IT services and support capabilities their end-users need.

Only a focus on outcomes will help an IT organization avoid “death by watermelon”

Ultimately, mitigating the watermelon effect requires a focus on outcomes – by understanding the experiences end-users and business stakeholders have with IT. This is a shift toward a human-centric IT approach that focuses on:

  • The end-user experience
  • The efficiency of IT services in supporting day-to-day operations
  • The impact of IT services, including support, on the productivity and motivation of employees.

The experience data, captured via experience level agreement (XLA) metrics, and its associated insights allow an IT organization to identify and rectify the issues in areas where IT services fail to meet the needs of end-users and business operations. This means that IT performance measurement accurately reflects the true health and effectiveness of IT within an organization.

Having this experience-based insight to drive IT improvements, decision-making, and strategies is the proactive way to avoid the aforementioned “death by watermelon,” with the IT organization no longer “blind” to the end-user issues missed by traditional metrics.

Of course, your IT organization might survive with traditional IT performance metrics in the short term. However, given technology's ever-increasing importance to business operations and employee productivity, failing to address the watermelon effect and its impact on perceptions of IT might eventually be the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back” and the death of the IT organization in its current state.

Please take a look here to learn more about the importance and value of experience data and how to fix the watermelon effect in your organization.

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