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The Practical Guide to XLAs

There's a lot of 'talk' about experience level agreements (XLAs), but very little in terms of practical guidance for IT service managers and directors on how to successfully bring XLAs into your own organization. This is where that changes – this in-depth Practical Guide to XLAs provides actionable advice from how to get started, through to common mistakes to avoid.

What are XLAs?

Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) are a reimagining of SLAs that focus on what’s most important to end-users. Within these, XLA targets are end-user-centric metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that focus on the perceived quality of IT services and support. They measure the performance of IT by quantifying the end-user experience and IT service outcomes. Ultimately, XLAs measure performance in outcome and value terms, whereas SLAs usually focus on operations and outputs.


XLA end-user happiness
ln this extensive guide you will learn what an Experience Level Agreement is and what the key differences between XLAs and SLAs are. This practical guide to XLAs also explains the key benefits of XLAs as well as the most common mistakes to avoid when implementing XLAs. Furthermore, we'll uncover some of the most important things to consider when implementing XLAs in practice. And last but not least, you'll learn why Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) should be the leading star of your IT Decision Making process, and why you need to be focusing on a much bigger picture - IT Experience Management.

No single agreement can help you and your partners to create and deliver amazing experiences or increase end-user productivity, unless you utilize experience management.
In this extensive guide, we explain everything you need to know about XLAs and IT experience management including: 
  1. How to measure your end-users experiences, to gain rich experience data
  2. Why sharing experience data with your teams and partners motivates the whole of IT
  3. How to identify problem areas where your end-users are having bad experiences
  4. Ways to improve your end-user experiences from the three steps above.
This approach will create an end-user centric culture that motivates the whole IT department.
You'll also find a selection of real-world customer case studies at the end of this guide, detailing how HappySignals customers have started their journeys with XLAs, and the achievements they've made through experience management. These customer case studies show in-depth stories and data on the successful changes implemented within their organizations. 
You can also download this guide as a PDF and share it with your colleagues.

Table of Contents

  1. What are experience level agreements?
  2. Why is experience management in IT needed?
  3. How can IT implement experience management?
  4. Download this guide

What are Experience Level Agreements?

Chapter 1

Looking at data (resized)

Definitions of XLAs

The term experience level agreements’ has been widely used and defined differently by many. So instead of giving you a biased view, we've summed up key definitions from industry thought leaders, to provide an overall view of what an XLA is.
Some of these industry definitions include:
  • Giarte – a research and consultancy company – defines XLAs as being less of a traditional agreement (such as SLAs) and more focused on working to achieve desired outcomes.

  • Alan Nance – from XLA Collab – defines XLAs as putting outcomes that determine the consumer experience central to design efforts.

  • Hannah Price – from TOPdesk – explains XLAs as how the customer feels about how they were treated.

In short, XLAs should focus on the measurement of outcomes and the value given by a service, instead of having judicial agreements on metrics – which is why we recommend you to take into practice IT Experience Management.

XLA metrics in comparison to SLA metrics

SLAs vs. XLAs

SLAs measure the process or the completing of an objective. XLAs, on the other hand, measure  the outcome and the value of the service provided.
Currently, most organizations are using Service Level Agreements as their key performance metrics. However, relying solely on SLAs can cause something called the Watermelon Effect which is a common phenomenon in IT organizations where the KPI's and Service Level Agreements indicates that everything is going well, but end-users report they are having poor experiences with IT. Find out more on how to Fix the Watermelon Effect in IT here!

XLAs don’t have a universal formula that companies should follow. Instead, XLAs should be tailored to an organization’s IT problem areas, and the outcome and value they want to achieve.

To help show you what XLAs look like, we’ve drawn comparisons against its predecessor - SLAs.

SLA - Service Level Agreement XLA - Experience Level Agreement
Measures the output of IT. Measures the outcome of IT.
Measures the processes. Measures the added value and productivity of services.
SLAs focus on high level objectives, that can easily be met. However, they don't paint an in-depth picture of what is really happening within IT. Brings focus directly to end-users' experience and needs.
SLAs show if IT is delivering projects within the right time frame and budget - ignoring the true success measure(s) of projects. With XLAs you can bring business value and increase productivity of end-users.
Focus on sanctions. Focus on rewards.
Measurement stays the same. Measurement target levels constantly change.


It's also worth mentioning that you can use XLAs and SLAs in tandem with each other, you don't have to simply rip and replace SLAs with XLAs. The important thing to note, however, is the need for the capabilities and metrics that measure success where outcomes occur and value is created. 

There also needs to be the ability to adjust the target levels set in XLAs – which we cover in later chapters – due to business and end-user expectations constantly changing, as well as unprecedented phenomena occurring, which no one has no control over.

This is important: Not just performance-based sanctions, but rewards as well

One key difference with XLAs, which leads to a totally different culture in IT, is rewarding performance and not just using the agreement to define and invoke punitive sanctions (as often happens with SLAs). Putting performance-based rewards into an XLA highlights the need for all parties to work together to make improvements for end-users.
The reason for doing this is to have common goals that will benefit all parties - because if your IT department or external service provider helps to increase the productivity of your organization’s employees, then your company will be more profitable. Please check out some of the customer case studies at the end of this guide to learn how our customers have successfully used this approach. 

What is the best method for introducing
XLAs between customers and service providers?


Both customers and service providers have compelling reasons to embrace XLAs and experience management. And it's no wonder why - XLAs offer a host of benefits that surpass traditional SLAs. XLAs and experience management are still new, and they are also a change to the IT organization. For these reasons, we recommend taking a step-by-step approach to both. Don’t try to jump from zero to a perfect world. Instead, a step-by-step approach will help guarantee that your organization gets quick results and the wider team behind the change to a more employee-centric way of working.

XLAs and experience management should be seen as an IT leadership tool - helping the IT organization to make better decisions and deliver more value to the business.

The main recommendations related to using XLAs in contractual agreements can be summarized as:

  • When driving XLAs and experience management, focus on changing the way of working compared to focusing on reaching a certain target level.
  • When agreeing on the way of working, include both the responsibilities of the customer and the responsibilities of the IT service provider.
  • Agree on how priorities and XLA targets are set continuously (every six months). Targets for improvements should be set, but not with penalties.
  • If possible, don’t use penalties for SLAs or even for XLAs. They just force the IT service provider to optimize the average numbers, and that won’t drive the preferred outcome.
  • Use XLA rewards only in cases when both the customer and IT service provider are experienced in using XLAs.
  • When calculating your official XLA scores, we recommend that you use the last two months to get the score.

Discover invaluable insights on incorporating Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) into your IT supplier contracts from our white paper on How to Incorporate XLAs into Outsourcing Contracts, authored by Neil Keating from Bright Horse and Sami Kallio from HappySignals. Discover invaluable insights on incorporating Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) into your IT supplier contracts for an enhanced employee experience. 


Benefits of XLAs

Even though the definition of XLAs can vary from person to person, the benefits don't. In our blog, we wrote an article about the benefits of XLAs, and have summarized the key benefits below:
  1. XLAs measure the business value of the service desk
  2. XLA measurement increases co-operation
  3. XLAs motivate service desk teams
  4. XLAs drive business value

The benefits of XLAs differ greatly from the benefits you’ll be familiar with for SLAs. However, when adopting XLAs in your organization, some teams will struggle due to a variety of common mistakes.

Common mistakes when taking XLAs into use 

Unfortunately, XLA adoption is not always smooth seas and plain sailing, there are many potential mistakes to avoid. These mistakes can be placed into one of two categories:
  1. XLA mistakes in comparison to SLAs
  2. Common issues when adopting XLAs

XLA mistakes in comparison to SLAs

1. Avoid positioning XLAs in the same way as SLAs

The purpose of your SLAs may be wrong. You cannot measure experience with an SLA metric, nor use it as a measurement for improvement. SLAs also may only be in an organization because:
  • ITIL says so
  • IT departments use them to defend their performance to stakeholders
  • They've been inherited from previous teams or tools
  • IT believes “we need them” to be able to control our providers

Positioning SLAs this way creates no real direction for IT, won't create a positive change for end-users or service desk agents, or give you a true insight into your IT service experience.

Therefore, you also need to apply this to XLA positioning. Create a goal and meaning behind each XLA you design and define how it's going to add value to your end-users. Setting up an XLA just because industry experts (or this guide) say so, isn’t enough to do it. Discover what you want to solve or improve for an end-user with XLAs before you set them.

You can still use SLAs in conjunction with XLAs, however, make sure you're measuring the right things - i.e. XLAs to measure experiences and outcomes, SLAs to measure outputs.


2. Avoid creating XLAs in the same way as SLAs

SLAs have likely had no, or barely any, involvement from end-users. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when devising XLAs.  Experience level agreements should be directly linked to end-user experience, therefore it is pivotal that you involve them in XLA discussions.

Another common mistake is using a “one-size fits all” approach, similar to what has been found in SLA usage. XLAs need to be tailored to experience and an organization’s problems or needs. Furthermore, SLAs focus on what you can physically measure: time, budgets, tickets, etc. This completely misses the most important thing - the end-user’s experience.

Make sure that XLAs are measuring the most important and valuable outcomes instead of traditional operational data.


3. Don’t use XLAs the same way as SLAs

SLAs have traditionally been used to show targets being hit, not as an indicator for improvement. This tends to be down to what SLAs are set to measure. XLAs should be the driver for change and the springboard to act on your end-users’ pain points within their service experiences.

Another negative use of SLAs has been that they've remained the same, measuring the same outputs over time. This means they're rarely reviewed or updated to reflect changing business needs and priorities. With XLAs, you need to be continuously measuring your end-users experience and then updating your XLAs according to the received experience data. End-users’ experiences will change over time, therefore different goals and targets will need to be set in order to meet end-users’ needs.

It could even be said that the most important usage of XLAs or any experience-related measurement is to identify areas to improve. SLAs might help you to understand what is wrong with the process or service itself, but they can't be used to determine where the experience is lacking.


Common issues when adopting XLAs

1. Confusion-based issues

As already stated, experience level agreements are different to service level agreements. Even though only one word is different and it's still a three letter acronym, they're not the same and it's important to differentiate them.

HappySignals CEO Sami Kallio, differentiates the two as “SLAs measure the process, XLAs measure the outcomes and value.”

In order to differentiate XLAs from SLAs, as well as not to create confusion among your IT team, start to define what experience means within your organization.

Experience is not just an organizational change or new way of measuring, it’s a cultural change. We recommend reading up on organizational change management for maximum success in getting your end-users on board with XLAs.


2. Common Adoption Issues

Instantly swapping SLAs for XLAs is something we don’t advise. Yes, we’re pioneering for a change in measurement and experience, but we don’t recommend scrubbing out SLAs completely. In fact, our customers generally run both in tandem with each other.

Make sure you go through the necessary organizational change management process to introduce your end-users to this change. This is not an overnight procedure, therefore take time with the process, introductions, and transition to XLAs.

The biggest thing to adhere to, and something that has been mentioned above, is that XLAs are not a set-in-stone set of metrics that can be left here forever. You must adapt them, change them, and keep track of them.

Experience is a continuous evolution.


3. Common Usage Issues

Now this is probably the biggest point for you to follow. Using XLAs without experience management misses the big picture. 

As stated in the introduction – XLAs are just one piece of the puzzle. In order to understand the rest of the puzzle and to truly integrate XLAs you need to have experience management. 

You may have already started to wonder how your XLAs can measure experience. Or how you find out what your end-users feel about your services. Perhaps how you can identify problem areas? Or even how you can gather actionable data around the impact XLAs will have on your IT services and processes for your end-users?

 Download Guide as PDF

Why is Experience Management in IT Needed?

Chapter 2


Businesses now have much higher needs and expectations of technology that IT providers must respond to. You only have to look to the global pandemic to see how quickly everything changed; IT and service departments were forced into rapid digital transformation in order to keep their organizations’ workforces active, let alone productive.

Furthermore, end-user wants and needs are also changing, with an increased demand for better and greater experiences with technology and services.

In many large-sized organizations, there is the belief that IT does not understand end-user needs, and simply just does “what it thinks is best.” To be able to serve businesses proactively, IT needs to understand the employees of its business. By doing this, IT can create and present improvements to the organization based on real end-user needs, as opposed to simply “gut feelings.”

So, how does this tie into experience management? In order to respond to business needs, deliver positive end-user experiences, and drive productivity and business value, you need to constantly monitor, manage, and maintain experience.

Experience management for IT consists of the measurement and sharing of experience data to identify key areas where experiences can be improved for end-users and external stakeholders, resulting in increased business value for an organization.

But let’s not “eat the elephant.” We’ve broken this down into bite sized chunks in an ITXM Framework to help you digest the concept more easily.

Process of Experience Management

HappySignals brings you the process to manage experiences and set experience level targets.

Learn more about our IT Experience Management (ITXM™) Framework.


The ITXM™ Framework Explained

The ITXM™ Framework helps organizations of all sizes –and whether they’re HappySignals customers or not – to be successful in their experience management journey. The Framework provides a proven way to transform your organization’s corporate IT capabilities, whether internal or outsourced, from process or technology-centric to human-centric. It allows it to focus on the experiences its end-users receive from IT services and improve the factors that matter to end-users most.

Using the ITXM™ Framework’s continuous cycle (as shown below), end-user experiences are measured and 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, highlighting where people are frustrated and losing the most productivity with IT services and support. This approach 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 – which aligns well with the ITIL 4 Guiding Principle of “focus on value.”

XLA targets
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 ITXM™ permeate the organization. 
Each of the Framework’s four sections is explained below.

1. Measure Experiences

This section is where teams start on the ITXM™ Framework. The measurement delivers a baseline starting point for improvements and provides the data-driven insight needed to drive early positive change. This approach aligns 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 have 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 have 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.

2. Share the Experience Data

The second step in the ITXM™ Framework is where organizations often struggle. This step is being transparent in sharing the captured experience data with stakeholders. This group includes everyone in IT, third-party partners and vendors, and all the business stakeholders. 
This step will initially seem daunting, especially because the experience data will likely tell a different story from 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 improving IT to drive better business operations and outcomes. It’s 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 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 it also highlights what’s being done well. Thus IT organizations can now not only share with the rest of the business where the gaps are in employee experience but also where people are really happy with their services.


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. There’s, therefore, a need to be able to drill down into different areas of IT service delivery and support. For example, a country manager might need to see where their employees are losing productivity or a service owner the factors that contribute to the performance of their service(s), so they and their team can focus on the right improvement area(s). 

Importantly, improvement needs to be about people, processes, and technology. Your organization probably already has great tools to run its technology and create the ITSM processes to support its IT operations. But how does it know what the outcomes are for end-users, i.e. the employees of your company (or the customer employees for MSP organizations)? 

Better understanding the real issues your organization’s end-users face allows IT teams to quickly identify and address the possible process and technology factors that contribute to them. Your IT organization might have already known about some of the issues, maybe via a gut feeling, but now the real-time experience data shows what’s actually the case.


4. Improve what matters most

As your organization continues around the ITXM™ Framework cycle, it’s better able to prioritize what matters most and successfully deliver the changes necessary to improve the end-user experience and employee productivity, operations, and business outcomes. But these are not the only improvements – employee motivation and trust levels are also improved by sharing and celebrating successes. 
Importantly, as an organization progresses around the cycle and the experience-measurement data starts to reflect the improvements made, IT personnel can see their work’s increasingly positive impact on end-users. This quantification of improvements allows the IT team to celebrate their work, feel motivated, and start on the next improvement challenge. Finding meaning in one’s work is a key factor for employee engagement, allowing IT leaders to elevate the performance of their teams and individuals further. 
The communication of successes to business stakeholders is key, too – it increases the level of trust in IT capabilities and performance, and motivates end-users to continue to provide feedback knowing that it will benefit them through the improvement of IT service delivery and support.

As you can see, Experience Management is a continuous cycle, and relates directly to ITIL 4’s statement on the importance of adopting continuous service improvement.
For more info, get a deep-dive into our IT Experience Management (ITXM™) Framework.

Digital Transformation and the Importance of Experience Management

Digital transformation is an area where companies spend and end up wasting a lot of money every year. In 2018, $900 billion was wasted on digital transformation projects, and this is due to a cultural problem within IT departments, with them focusing their measurements on outputs, schedules, and budgets, instead of outcomes and the employee experience.

When approaching digital transformation projects, your organization needs to start at the end first, figuring out what outcome is to be achieved. This outcome should be centered around your end-user needs and how it will bring value to them and the business.

Experience management is a vital part of reaching your organization’s desired outcome because it enables you to successfully approach digital transformation projects in three key ways:

1. Measurement and Metrics

As you now know, SLAs are not the right metric to measure experience. In order to successfully measure your end-user's experience and whether projects or services are delivered successfully, you need XLAs.

2. Data-Driven Decisions

Through constant feedback loops, you can access high levels of real-time data relating to many areas of your end-users experience. This enables you to make data-driven decisions on where teams should focus their efforts to improve experience and create business value.


3. Culture

In order to embrace experience, there’s a need to adapt your culture to welcome and embrace change and new innovations and understand the reasons for digital transformation in the first place. This should be led by the IT department and not by individual business units. Culture is often a C-level initiative and, hence, we suggest you head over to our CIO Guide to Employee Experience Guide.

Another key part of reshaping your culture is introducing rewards for great results, not just having the sanctions that are commonly present with SLA metrics. By including rewards in your experience agreements you’ll motivate your service provider to deliver a great service.

Benefits for IT Roles, how Experience Management Changes your Work

Experience management has multiple benefits for the IT department and, as such, it makes sense to divide these benefits into different role groups within the organization. Listed below are how different role groups benefit when moving away from measuring the output of IT to managing the outcome of IT.
Role Output focus (SLA) Outcome focus (XLA)
CIO / IT directors / IT management team

SLAs are needed to control what we and partners do. When they are green, we're doing well.

I give focus and direction to my IT department and empower them to deliver good experience to our end-users. This is how we prove our value to business stakeholders and increase the productivity and happiness of our end-users.
Service owner for
service management

SLAs need to be met, because that is what my management team is looking for.

I analyze the experience data together with my vendors and bring solutions to life that improve happiness and productivity.
Service owner for
end-user services

It's the service desk’s responsibility as to whether people are unhappy with the service. I just run the service based on uptime and availability.

I monitor and analyze the experience of my end-users to make sure the service provides what they're expecting. They are my colleagues and I want them to be able to do their jobs productively.
Service owner for
end-user devices
I optimize the cost structure of our devices and make policies for them. A dollar saved is a dollar earned, right?

I understand different end-users and their device needs. I try to save their time, which saves the company money and makes our workforce happier and more productive.

Service owner for
service desk outsourcing

I outsource to an external provider and make sure sanctions are in place if customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) are not at the level agreed two years ago.

We add experience metrics into our contracts as XLAs, with rewards if they exceed the expectations of our end-users. I work with them to make sure this happens too.
Service desk managers

I bring escalated cases to our team meetings and make sure the whole team meets the SLAs that are set. My concern is not the end-user.







I share all the experience data in real-time with everybody on the service desk, 75% of it is positive and I know that I make a positive impact on the motivation of my agents. Agent satisfaction correlates directly to the end-user experience and I can prove it with data. We can also talk with service owners about how their service is experienced, showing it isn’t totally the responsibility of the service desk.

IT department employees
(including agents)

I “keep the lights on” and systems running. I hate end-users complaining when they don’t understand that I can't help them.

I come to work every day to provide the most productive IT solutions to our employees so that they can serve our external customers well. This makes me happy.

End-users -
the employees of your company

They just want to get rid of me. It's always my fault.

They’re here for me and help me as a colleague. The feedback I give is appreciated and used to improve IT services. This makes me happy.


How Customers and MSPs Benefit from IT Experience Management

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) might look at the concept of experience management and XLAs and wonder how much these relatively new service management capabilities matter to them. There might be confusion too. For example, is it employee experience or customer experience (CX) that’s relevant to MSPs, or is this differentiation irrelevant to the end-users that simply expect and need a certain level of end-user experience from an MSP’s services?

MSPs have traditionally focused on delivering to agreed-on service levels. Where when a service level agreement (SLA) target is turning red, there’s a focus on remedying the situation. However, if an SLA is green, people won’t necessarily look at it – because they think the service is operating well. But just because an SLA target is green doesn’t mean that the customer, or the end-user, is happy with the service and the MSP. This disparity might be seen via people-centric metrics such as customer satisfaction (CSAT). But it might not.  

Experience measurement and management and XLAs, on the other hand, allow MSPs to better understand what’s working well and what’s not (and to address the highlighted issues). This is because there’s an improved understanding of how end-users actually feel about the services they receive and the business impact of any issues. This insight allows an MSP to put the customer at the heart of delivering services and improving them.

Experience Management for MSPFor years, traditional MSP SLAs have pushed the service providers to work – and think – in a certain way, but, at some point, most people eventually understand that there’s a conflict between the MSP and end-user view of service performance. Take CSAT questionnaire feedback as an example. The feedback requests tend to be delayed, there’s usually little response, and the questions asked might be removed from what’s actually important to end-users. Ultimately, the CSAT data offers a limited and perhaps skewed view of what end-users think of their MSP’s performance. 

For MSPs to really understand their customers’ issues and challenges, they instead need to provide end-users with the opportunity to submit real-time feedback on services based on what matters most to them. This capture of experience data, in high volumes, allows an MSP to see where and why there’s unhappiness or a poor end-user experience with certain services or products they’re providing.  

It might, for instance, identify that a new or revised process brought in to help the service provider has caused end-user issues with the service and experience degrading as a result. For example, there’s now a lack of contact or the end-user is asked the same question multiple times. However, despite the issues, the SLA target could still be met, and the MSP views the service as good while the end-user experience is poor and the customer’s – or customers’ – employees are unhappy. 

With experience management, MSPs can work together with their customers – using more and better data to have a common understanding of how well services are delivered. This insight identifies the priority issues to tackle, and the MSP can apply corrective measures more quickly (with the affected end-users seeing the services they use getting better through the changes the MSP applies). 

Importantly, these improvements don’t stop with a single customer’s issues – because MSPs provide services to multiple customers, relevant learnings and improvements can also be applied to other customers. The issue could again be a process or a particular way of working that’s causing end-users problems no matter the customer, and instead of changing it for just one customer it can be changed for the others too.


How can IT Implement Experience Management?

Chapter 3

Smilling women

Creating an Experience Management Culture for IT


Experience management should become the centerpiece of any IT culture, however, getting there is not an overnight process.

We’ve created a way for IT to start adopting an experience management mindset today. Following the concepts of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we’ve created the experience management pyramid. In order to successfully achieve an experience management culture, your organization must transition through each stage in order.

Continuous Measurement 

The first level of the pyramid begins with continuous measurement, something that has been reiterated throughout this document. Continuous measurement is the foundation of experience management because, without it, there’s no suitable data from which to gain actionable insights. In this step, your end-users give continuous feedback on the services they receive. You may be thinking “Oh great, a load of negative feedback,” but we‘ve found that on average 75% of feedback is positive.



Experience data should not be owned by one person – it's important to share it between your teams, employees, and partners. This creates transparency of any issues and makes it everyone’s job to improve by creating combined goals to reach together.


Set Experience Targets

From the collected experience data – now that teams and partners are aligned – it’s time to set targets based on the outcomes you want to achieve. Following the advice given above, make sure you set targets that are focused on your end-users and their experiences, as well as the value that these targets, when met, will bring to your end-users.


Steps to Happiness - How to Make it Happen?

As mentioned earlier, the key is to start by measuring the experience data, and the sooner your organization can start measuring the better. In addition, sharing your experience data with the whole of your IT department and partners allows smart people to start making data-driven decisions. So make sure all stakeholders can easily access the data. Once the first two steps are done you can start to identify the challenges you might have.

Below we've outlined our experience management process, to show you the necessary steps to happiness, and essentially an experience-driven IT culture. Next up, we’ll walk you through the process of measuring and sharing experience data as well as setting XLAs.


Measuring Experiences from End-users

It's not your average CSAT questionnaire

Customer satisfaction is often confused with customer experience because they sound very similar. There are, however, key differences between the two.

In short, CSAT measures the transaction that happened and how satisfied an end-user was with the interaction between them and the service provider. So you could be satisfied with the service you got, but not the end result of that service or how you initiated it. Experience metrics measure the end-to-end experience, everything that happened before, during, and after.


How to measure?

Traditionally, experience in IT has been measured via a once-a-year survey or through random surveys after some tickets have been handled by the service desk.

The issue with a once-a-year survey is that they’re very generic and they don’t react in the same speed that the world does (you only have to look at the global pandemic to see that). Generic survey questions also mean that you’re potentially asking end-users to rate something they've no experience with. For example, perhaps they don’t use a particular service that is mentioned in, say, question 36.

A better way is to have focused audiences and ask for regular, daily feedback from a small group of end-users. This way you’ll get a continuous stream of responses and see the effect of changes made instantly. For example, having a big enterprise resource planning (ERP) project for multiple years, rolling out to one location at a time, would allow you to learn as you go and improve the experience after each rollout.


What to measure?

You need to measure all aspects of IT, not just the IT service desk. This means topics like devices, enterprise applications, remote working, the office environment, support services, and so on. Each measurement will have its own consumer in the IT department. It’s also likely the IT management team and CIO will want to see them presented in one view or report.

Companies can start with a small selection of topics and then expand to more topics as they start to learn the new ways of thinking about service development.


When to measure?

Today, or in reality you want it yesterday”, because having the data as soon as possible allows you to understand what end-users are experiencing today.
The biggest and most common fear is thinking about what the scores will be like, which leads to “should we fix it first and then measure?” pondering. The point of measurement is not to look good, but to understand where you are and how you can make it better. Understanding this highlights the need to have the data today.

Setting Experience Level Targets

In order to set goals for IT, we need to be able to measure and manage the targets we set. That is why you can set targets in HappySignals. 

Basically, after setting targets, you’re highlighting all aspects of the end-users’ experiences in all the views you see in HappySignals.

Sharing the targets is important, which is why you can use the live screens (our digital signage tool) to display the real-time tracking you have in your office or remote locations.

Experience level targets should be reviewed regularly because end-user expectations change over time. These targets are inputs for your continuous improvement process, or even for your DevOps process.

Find out how to implement XLAs in practice:

How to implement XLAs


How to follow-up experience levels and identify focus areas?

When using a real-time analytics tool, like HappySignals, you can instantly understand that experience is multidimensional. Meaning that depending on the person who looks at the data, they need to be able to drill-down based on the data they’re responsible for.

For example, a country manager will click on a specific country to see how the experience is with different services, channels, or assignment groups. But a service owner for email services will just click on “Office365” and see how it’s being experienced in different locations, by different business units, and so on.

IT management teams should treat experience data as the business intelligence (BI) data they use to run their operations. Just like in sales, the sales dashboard is regularly looked at to lead and manage the sales team, this is the equivalent tool for modern CIOs.

Listen to how the CIO of Campari Group describes the importance of this.


What can Experience Management do for IT?

Taking experience management seriously will lead to tangible results and change your IT culture. On average, HappySignals customers have been able to make a 26% improvement in productivity, when the first two months of measurement are compared to the last two months of their experience management journey.

Basically, these companies are focusing solely on the happiness of end-users, which has brought them alignment and huge returns in end-user productivity.

But enough from us, we’ve gathered an excellent list of customer cases so you can learn from real-world examples.


Practical examples of using XLAs

Below we've collected some real-life case studies that show practical examples of how XLAs are being used by some of the industry pioneers in IT Experience Management and XLAs.


150% increase in End-user Happiness

Image: Screenshot from HappySignals Analytics
In 2018, Ahlstrom merged with Munksjö and started working with HappySignals to get feedback from its IT end-users. 
They quickly found that they were experiencing the "watermelon effect", where SLA metrics were reporting positive, green results, but end-users were not happy with IT services and "seeing red".
Previously, Ahlstrom-Munksjö had only conducted annual surveys. However combining this information with HappySignals experience data, they were able to work closely with our team to create an action plan on how to solve end-user satisfaction problems, through a continuous improvement program called ‘Project Happy’.
HappySignals data has now been a key part of operational management meetings and it enables Ahlstrom-Munksjö to immediately see results. The data is made transparent, so all management and service owners are able to access it, as well are their managed service provider - Tech Mahindra. This has led to an increase in motivation for their service desk agents to deliver a high quality service.
From October 2019 to 2021, Ahlstrom-Munksjo saw a 150% increase in end-user happiness, as well as a 57% decrease in lost time for its end-users.
Read about Ahlstrom-Munksjo's success story here

52% increase in happiness

Reckitt wanted a solution to help them move from CSAT and ad-hoc surveys to a systematic use of IT experience data. Since 2019, Happiness has been the key driver for Reckitt's IT improvements. They introduced formal XLAs to its IT service providers to create a common, shared focus on Experience.
Using HappySignals has allowed Reckitt to increase response rates to IT surveys from 4% to 25%, increase happiness by 52%, and reduce lost time with IT incidents by an average of 51 minutes per ticket. For an organization that registers over 300,000 tickets annually, that's over 250,000 hours of employee lost productivity saved in a year.
To date, they continue to use experience data to provide their employees with an IT experience they could not have imagined before.
Find out how Reckitt saved 255,000h of lost time from their end-users

55% Increase in Happiness in 12 months

Wilhelmsen decided to outsource its local IT departments from multiple countries to a global MSP. Before doing this, it had already collected experience data from its end-users as a baseline measurement. They could hence say with confidence how employees felt about IT support before the outsourcing agreement started, and work together with their MSP to improve from the baseline.
Wilhelmsen increase in Happiness Score
This highlights how working together with your MSP can create huge gains for the whole enterprise. Going from a +51 Happiness Score to +79 Happiness score does not happen by accident.

See the Wilhelmsen case webinar here

Interested in learning how to make the shift from SLAs to XLAs?



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