Vincent Bieri, Chief Product Evangelist & Co-Founder, Nexthink
Ok, so we know about digital transformation. Whether it’s creating a competitive advantage, stimulating new sources of revenue or optimising costs, there’s no getting around the endless march of progress. An entire company’s value chain can be swept along with the effective implementation of digital technologies.
But where do employees feature in all this?
With lots of changes in working methods, organisation and tools, is constant digital transformation really working for employees? On the surface, it is. Everything suggests that digital tools, in the broad sense – connectivity, mobility, video conferencing, intranets, the latest collaborative applications – make employees more efficient while providing greater ease of use. But there’s a catch. Digital transformation can only deliver on its promise if digital tools work 24/7 and employees adopt and use them optimally. And that’s another story.
What the IT department measures is not what the user feels
A slow laptop start-up, Skype crashing repeatedly, Outlook not functioning correctly – these are all events which IT management is not always aware of despite them disrupting users and directly affecting productivity. Why? Because IT management mainly uses service level agreements (SLAs) to measure the quality of the services they deliver to the business. An SLA can show the state of business systems to be good (applications, network, servers), while not necessarily being indicative of the actual user experience. Network dashboards might display a 99.9% uptime while a user can at the same time, notice a slowdown in their inbox that has nothing to do with a network problem.
In other words, IT teams only see the tip of the iceberg. Problems are only discovered after issues are reported to the support service, which they not always are. Any attempt by users to resolve the problem themselves affects productivity. Once contacted, it may still take hours for the service desk to solve the issue. All these delays result in lost time – Robert Half estimates that up to 22 minutes of employee productivity are lost a day to IT issues.
The employee has become a consumer
To make matters worse, the profile of IT users has changed. More autonomous and more demanding, today’s employee is above all a consumer. They make full use of digital technology in their day-to-day life to get their shopping delivered, book a ticket for a show or do their banking, and they expect a similar experience when they use the digital tools available to them in their professional environment.
This phenomenon is even more pronounced among the young talents of Generation Y. More than ever, employees are the internal customers of IT management who must be understood and provided with tailored services and digital tools. A standardised approach to IT is no longer appropriate because there are almost as many IT experiences as there are employees. Each employee has their own expectations and preferences according to the requirements of their job, their work habits, and even their personality. The time has come to tailor IT services according to the needs of differing users.
The importance of the human factor
Ironically, while IT management is introducing transformation initiatives to improve business functions, the side-effects of these changes are undermining users’ ability to manage their IT. If new IT resources do not function as expected, or are difficult to use, employee frustration can grow quickly. Furthermore, some tools might not be adopted as intended by management, or not utilised correctly.
This matters because your people can have a marked impact on the success or failure of your digital transformation projects.
In light of this, what can IT management do to ensure that employees are supporters of digital transformation projects, and not the major obstacle to its implementation?
Placing user experience at the heart of the IT value chain
For Nexthink, measuring the user experience is based on two strands: firstly, measuring the workstation’s technical health (boot time, latency, memory used, position compliance score) and secondly, measuring users’ perception. As we have discussed, SLAs provide a solid way measuring and responding to technical matters, but are inadequate when trying to qualify the second category. To truly have a 360-degree view of the quality of user experience in an organisation, we must also analyse in terms of XLAs: ‘Experience Level Agreements.’
All too often we forget that behind each workstation is a person whose feelings and motivation set a company culture which can have a huge impact on the success of your business and your ability to retain valuable employees. Take the example of a print job that suddenly takes ten minutes rather than thirty seconds. From a purely objective point of view, this increased response time may seem alarming. But for the user, it is also a frustrating distraction
In order to collect subjective data from users about how employees are utilising technology in their work life, employers must deploy simple feedback and engagement tools similar to ideas seen in the B2C sphere.
It’s all a question of timing
Engaging employees starts with unobtrusively giving them the right information at the right time.
A common example that combines the focus on XLAs and SLAs is a pop-up message that informs the user that an issue with their workstation has been detected. From this the user can be asked if they agree to the IT department implementing a fix which will require a computer restart. The user can choose whether the time is right or not. As another example, imagine that a user has had more than 5 consecutive Skype for Business crashes in the last 24 hours. Once the incident is resolved, the IT team can trigger a pop-up on the user’s workstation to ask them to check that everything is in order. This type of interaction has two advantages. Firstly, the IT department confirms that the actions taken have indeed produced the desired effect by asking the user directly. Secondly, as the interaction is quick and in the right context, the probability of a response from the user is much higher. Bingo, the employee is ‘engaged’!
Engagement: the cornerstone of success in digital transformation
Interacting with users at the right time and in the right context accelerates the take-up of new tools introduced by digital transformation. It is one thing to roll out new software, it is quite another to make sure they are being used to their full potential. Digital Transformation is only transformative if employees use the upgraded resources. Achieving this is about adequate support and teaching best practice. It is also making them aware when a specific behaviour or misuse risks affecting the performance of a service, such as using Skype through a VPN.
It’s time for IT management to put user experience at the centre of its value chain, just as brands have made full use of digital technology to put the end consumer at the heart of theirs. Engaging employees helps to create the conditions for a quality digital experience which increases productivity and employee satisfaction. Management solutions for the digital experience, help support the company’s digital transformation trajectory and position IT management as a contributor to business growth.