IT Experience Management Framework
HappySignals ITXM™ and introduction to leading human-centric IT operations with experience as a key outcome (Nov 2021)
The HappySignals IT Experience Management Framework
This overview explains what IT Experience Management (ITXM™) is, introduces the HappySignals ITXM™ Framework and its key elements, sets expectations on how long the introduction of experience management takes, and offers guidance on increasing your organization’s experience-management maturity using the ITXM™ Maturity Model.
What’s ITXM™ ?
Experience Management is a practice that has been used in external customer support and management – via the concept of Customer Experience (CX) Management – for well over a decade. Whereas in IT operations IT Service Management (ITSM) best practices have been employed for process operations and wider management – but this has never focused on the delivered experience or, more specifically, with the experience as a key outcome of the employed ITSM processes.
ITXM™ brings experience management principles into IT operations. To allow IT teams to focus on the outcomes of the work they do and to provide data-driven insights to fuel the Continual Improvement – which was called Continual Service Improvement (CSI) in ITIL v3/2011 – needed to improve these outcomes. This includes making end-users happier with IT services and support and more productive in their daily work.
Importantly, ITXM™ applies to the whole IT organization and not just the IT service desk and wider ITSM capabilities.
The ITXM™ Framework
The ITXM™ Framework helps organizations of all sizes – and whether they’re HappySignals customers or not – to be successful in their experience management journey. Providing a proven way to transform your organization’s corporate IT capabilities, whether internal or outsourced, from process or technology-centric to human-centric. Allowing it to focus on the experiences its end-users receive from IT services and to improve the factors that matter to end-users most.
Using the ITXM™ Framework’s continuous cycle (as shown in Figure 1 below), end-user experiences are measured and then shared with various business stakeholders (including IT) and third parties such as partners, vendors, and shareholders. Issues and opportunities are identified using the real-time experience data – with this highlighting where people are frustrated and losing the most productivity with IT services and support. This is in line with the DevOps “second way” of amplifying feedback loops such that “corrections” can be continually made.
Finally, improvements are made, based on business value, such that IT operations and outcomes start to bring more smiles and less wasted time for both end-users and IT personnel in their daily work. This aligns well with the ITIL 4 Guiding Principle of “focus on value.”
As improvements are actioned, the measurement continues and both the absolute state and the achieved progress can now be shared – with an organization continuing around the Framework cycle, tackling more end-user issues and opportunities as the benefits of experience management permeate the organization.
Each of the Framework’s four sections is explained below.
1. Measure Experiences
This is where teams start on the ITXM™ Framework, with the measurement delivering both a baseline starting point for improvements and providing the data-driven insight needed to drive early positive change. This is in line with the ITIL 4 Guiding Principle of “start where you are.”
For measurement to be successful, the following elements need to be in place:
- End-user feedback needs to be continuous, with data captured every day not twice a year or in an ad hoc manner
- Feedback needs to be captured at the right time – when people are having their experiences, not much later
- Experience measurement needs to be in context such that it relates to what an end-user uses
- Feedback questions need to add value – so don’t ask about what you already know (such as where people are located, their role, and the service they’re giving the feedback on)
- Start to measure experience before changes are made, not after them
However, measuring doesn’t affect anything; it just shows the experiences end-users are having today. But if your organization doesn’t measure experience and simply starts to make improvements, it won’t fully understand the current state and will act based on people’s gut feelings rather than data.
Key measurement areas
HappySignals measures end-user experiences across multiple IT areas (as shown in Figure 2 below), with the captured data showing how end-users perceive each of them.
Figure 2: End Users Have Experiences Across Multiple IT Areas
Importantly, it’s not about measuring the IT process or the technology involved but instead understanding how people feel about the tools and services they use, and the support they receive, every day. This point is key because it doesn’t matter if you measure process performance, say, and improve it if it has no impact on end-user happiness or productivity.
There’s also a need to have reliable, repeatable, and consistent surveys for all of the areas being measured. Because if each IT team has its own metrics, then you can’t compare the impact on productivity and end-user experience holistically. Making it difficult, perhaps impossible, to continue to the next step in the ITXM™ Framework – sharing the captured experience data.
2. Share the Experience Data
The second step in the ITXM™ Framework is where organizations often struggle. This is in being transparent in the sharing of the captured experience data with stakeholders. This includes everyone in IT, third-party partners and vendors, and all the business stakeholders.
This will seem daunting at first, especially because the experience data will likely tell a different story to years of traditional IT performance measurement. However, your organization needs to understand that it’s the sharing of the data that creates trust between the interested parties and a common focus for the improvement of IT to drive better business operations and outcomes. It’s very much in line with the ITIL 4 Guiding Principle of “collaborate and promote visibility.”
This step applies to both internal and outsourced IT service providers. For example, if your organization is a Managed Service Provider (MSP) and it tries to hide how its customers’ end-users really feel about its services, then it can never make those customers fully trust it or be focused on improving what matters most to end-users. Ultimately, making it vulnerable at contract renewal time.
Importantly, capturing experience data isn’t only about identifying issues because it also highlights what’s being done well. Thus IT organizations can now not only communicate, or share, with the rest of the business where the gaps are in employee experience but also where people are really happy with their services.
Experience-data sharing good practicesOver half a decade of working with our customers on their experience improvement initiatives has highlighted a number of good practices for sharing experience data. For example:
- Show the real-time experience data directly in the reporting tool, not in PowerPoint slides or Excel spreadsheets – because these mechanisms are not as believable as showing the real-time data directly from the source.
- In each meeting that discusses IT services and performance, open up the real-time view and show it to everyone. Have them express their opinions on where they see the issues or problems lying such that, based on the data, everyone can agree on the necessary improvement areas.
- Make the experience numbers visible to all employees using company information screens or digital signage. Or share them via the intranet. This is often referred to as “You said, we did” communication and end-users can see how their feedback is actively driving IT improvements that positively affect operations and outcomes.
- Share focused experience data with different business stakeholders. For example, if discussing IT performance with a Human Resources (HR) “champion,” even though you have the whole experience data set available, you should proactively discuss what HR employees feel about IT services and support. Plus, importantly, what’s most important to them in IT experience terms – such that the conversation can be focused on the things that will deliver the most value to HR operations and outcomes.
3. Identify Improvements
Without data-driven insights that highlight both the current issues and what matters most to end-users, any improvements will be chosen based on:
• Gut feelings
• Personal beliefs
• Vendor sales tactics
• The perceived needs of whoever shouts loudest
Instead, it’s important to recognize not only the need for experience data but also that experience is multi-dimensional. Such that there’s a need to be able to drill down into different areas of IT service delivery and support. For example, a country manager will likely need to see where their employees are losing productivity, or a service owner will likely need to see which factors contribute to the performance of their service(s) so they and their team can focus on the right improvement area(s).
Improvement needs to be about people, processes, and technology
Your organization probably already has great tools to run its technology and to create the ITSM processes to support its IT operations, but how does it know what the outcomes of these are for end-users, i.e. the employees of your company (or the employees of customers for MSP organizations)?
Figure 3: People, Process and Technology
Figure 3 above shows three of the traditional dimensions called out by ITIL best practice guidance (along with HR’s role) to highlight that the focus of IT can easily be overly focused on processes and technology at the expense of end-users and the experiences that influence their level of productivity.
A different view of this is shown in Figure 4 below – this starts with the human feedback such that IT organizations are no longer misdirected to process or technology issues, and potential improvements, and can address what’s affecting end-users most.
Figure 4: Why human approach is so important?
As Figure 4 shows, better understanding the real issues your organization’s end-users face every day quickly allows IT teams to identify and address the possible process and technology factors that contribute to the issues. Your IT organization might have already known about some of the issues, maybe with a gut feeling about them, but now the real-time experience data shows what is actually the case. Learn more from this Happy in 15 -episode.
Deploying experience-based KPIs
When experiences are continuously measured organizations can start to set experience-based targets for:
The latter of these three opportunities is likely to be the most valuable to organizations – with the right experience-based key performance indicators (KPIs) offering the ability to both better motivate IT staff and to provide a sharper focus on what’s most important to IT in meeting business needs.
Importantly, with experience-based performance measures and targets, IT staff can start to see the value of what they do rather than their behavior and actions being guided by traditional IT metrics that focus on the mechanics of IT operations. It’s in line with the ITIL 4 Guiding Principle of “think and work holistically” given that they can now rise above knowing how fast they did something, and how many times, to – more importantly – understand how they’ve made a difference to business operations and outcomes. When IT personnel can see how they’ve helped others, in real-time, it’s a far more motivating target than anything process-related.
In terms of how projects can benefit from experience data, especially projects that are being delivered via an Agile approach, the insights provided allow project staff to better understand how the changes they’re making are affecting business operations and outcomes – both positively and negatively. This elevates the ability to measure the success of project delivery from the traditional parameters of quality, time, and cost to gain insight into the business value of the delivered solution – whether the anticipated additional value is being created and/or if some value is being destroyed, with course-correction applied as needed.
For example, if an organization is applying the ITIL 4 Guiding Principle of “optimize and automate,” experience data will help to ensure that any process and/or technology enhancements are not to the detriment of the end-user experience and the ability of employees to get their work done.
The experience data also provides critical input into decision-making related to project priorities – whether this is rescheduling planned activities and deliverables based on feedback or freezing the execution of a stage until unanticipated issues have been addressed.
4. Improve What Matters Most
As your organization continues around the ITXM™ Framework cycle, it’s better able to prioritize what matters most and to successfully deliver the changes necessary to improve the end-user experience and, with it, employee productivity and business operations and outcomes. But these are not the only improvements – with both employee motivation and trust levels improved too by the sharing and celebration of successes.
Importantly, as an organization progresses around the cycle and the experience-measurement data starts to reflect the improvements that have been made, IT personnel can see the increasingly positive impact that their work has on their business colleagues, the end-users (or customer employees for MSPs). This quantification of improvements allows the IT team to celebrate their work, to feel motivated, and to start on the next improvement challenge. As with the personal motivation benefits of real-time experience data mentioned earlier, finding meaning in one’s work is a key factor for employee engagement, and this allows IT leaders to further elevate the performance of their teams and individuals.
The communication of successes to business stakeholders is key too – with it both increasing the level of trust in IT capabilities and performance, and motivating end-users to continue to provide the feedback knowing that it will benefit them through the improvement of IT service delivery and support.
More “how-to” information on the ITXM™ Framework will be made available soon but it’s also important to understand how Framework implementation will be dependent on the starting maturity of your organization – from the required timeframe to achieving a human-centric culture for IT.
ITXM™ is a journey that your organization needs to start now
The quickest way to explain the need to start early is by stating that there’s no magic switch that can be flicked to turn an organization into one that benefits from experience management data and the insights it provides.
Instead, ITXM™ is a journey that takes time and if your IT organization wants to be human-centric in one-two years’ time, then it needs to start its transformation today. While the mechanics of experience measurement can be implemented pretty quickly, changing how people think and work takes time – it’s a culture change and this is covered in the ITXM™ Maturity Model section below.
Thus, the required journey affects more than the employed performance measures and, importantly, how experience management data is used will evolve. For example, the initial use cases will likely be in line with everyday IT tasks, identifying the most obvious issues and making quick wins based on data-driven improvements. But this can be considered the initial firefighting role of experience management, where the data is leveraged to help fix the most obvious issues and pain points.
Longer-term not only does experience management become part of the organizational culture (as shown in Figure 5 below), but the approach also becomes more strategic too – moving from reactive to proactive identification, decision-making, and improvements. This aligns with the DevOps “third way” of fostering a culture of continual experimentation and learning.
The ITXM™ Maturity Model
The ITXM™ Framework is an ideal starting point for the introduction of experience management but organizations need to appreciate that this only makes up the first three steps in the ITXM™ Maturity Model shown in Figure 5 below. Where, as with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, each step allows your organization to climb to the one above. So, as in the ITXM™ Framework, the sharing of experience data needs to follow its measurement. And the identification and actioning of improvements should follow the sharing of the measured experience data.
The apex of the ITXM™ Maturity Model has already been mentioned as both a key factor in, and demonstrator of, experience management success. The step below it, however, is an addition to what has been shared above – the introduction of Experience Level Agreements (XLAs). These are a reimagining of traditional IT service level agreements (SLAs) that instead focus on what’s most important to the end-user – with experience-level targets end-user-centric metrics and KPIs that focus on the perceived quality of IT services and support. More on the benefits and use of XLAs can be read here.
Figure 5: ITXM™ Maturity Model
Guidance for improving your organization’s ITXM™ adoption levels and maturity
It has already been stated that successful ITXM™ takes time. We also advise customers starting with experience management that it’s best to “go slow to go fast.” This “small-steps” approach involves:
- Measuring every IT touchpoint from day one
- Starting with small changes, keeping data-driven decision-making focused by sharing and identifying issues in one specific area with one team
- Making improvements in that area and proving the value of ITXM™ to your organization through these small wins – this is in line with the ITIL 4 Guiding Principle of “progress iteratively with feedback” and it also helps with creating the appetite for ITXM™ in other areas
- Taking the early experience management learnings to all areas
- Setting experience-level targets and moving to XLAs, adjusting these as performance and expectations change in line with improvements
- Starting to make budget decisions based on the captured experience data and insights, as the IT organization transforms from being technology or process-centric to being human-centric
A “simple rule of thumb” to help with the organizational plan for rolling out the ITXM™ Framework and Maturity Model is to allow three months for the six guidance steps above. The ITIL 4 Guiding Principle of “keep it simple and practical” is also applicable to this approach.