What is experience management in IT services and why does it matter?

On a basic level, service is about delivering something to a customer or user; experience is what it’s like to receive it. And while service should be about realising value and outcomes, the experience element is also an integral part of that.

In other industries – retail and hospitality for example – the concept of understanding the customer journey has been around for a while.

In IT services, however, this has new impetus, because it’s vitally important to understand what it’s like for a customer, user, or employee to experience the services – and this should influence how these services are delivered.

So, the service provider should be measuring the experience of the service and the outcomes it helps to generate.

Who needs an experience to manage?

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that many IT departments aren’t famous for caring about their consumers’ experience – or perceived to be…

But they should care and ought to focus on experience management because their role – via technology – is about supporting people. For some in IT, that’s a new way of thinking and it needs to be incorporated into the general portfolio of service activity.

Can IT teams afford to be dismissive of experience management? Today, the managed service providers whose business model is often transactional and based solely on service level agreements won’t last long. Many outstanding managed services companies are already embracing experience management. Also, internal IT departments that don’t keep up also risk being outsourced.

Why has this taken on a new level of importance?

In the past 10-15 years, with accelerated personal use of technology, people have come to expect better IT service experience in the workplace.

For example, if companies want to hire and retain new staff, they need to give them a good experience – such as equipment that works and enables them to excel in their jobs – while a bad experience will have a negative impact at some point in the relationship.

For some organisations, this is already part of their DNA and “bottled” in their management culture. Companies such as Disney have, for a long time, seen the value of equipping their people with high-quality technology tools. They understand how this affects their reputation as employers and are willing to take it seriously and invest.

Experience management – whose responsibility is it?

Experience management now has a much wider mandate and awareness – and is being taken more seriously outside the service desk.

There’s an argument to say that experience management crosses into enterprise service management (ESM) and therefore should be a company-wide rather than IT-only responsibility. To be clear, it’s not just another IT project.

While it does – from an IT perspective – require support and sponsorship from the top (CIO, for example) its adoption needs to involve relationship and account management professionals, linking with service delivery and service architecture. Most of all this is an organisation-wide approach including, but not necessarily driven by, IT.

It’s important to recognise that experience management doesn’t necessarily need major change; rather, you can build it into day-to-day activity. Its success depends more on mindset changes and how people interpret the data generated.

This ensures experience management is not treated as a separate entity but an integral part of IT service management, baked into what everybody does.

Monitoring and measuring success

Measurement is key to understanding how well experience management is working and this needs to be done in a structured way.

There are two main approaches to this – and combining both is very powerful.

  • The “let’s ask people” approach: using survey tools to ask the right questions and bringing together the data to interpret.
  • Direct, technical measurement of what people are doing using tools that track the real experience – such as speed, performance of technology, or how easily users find their way around websites. In other words, looking at what people are doing and the technical capability behind it.

These approaches give companies the ability to predict experience levels before asking for user feedback; allowing them to pre-empt and address issues.

At an enterprise level, these can involve some significant platforms and investment but the data they provide is invaluable, giving a new level of understanding about user experience within a relatively short time.

While it’s not necessarily cheap to do, it’s essential to know how people feel about your organisation’s services and how you need to improve – priceless…!

 A business case for experience management

Some organisations are reluctant to invest in understanding customer/user/employee experience; maybe it doesn’t fit with their ‘culture’. Others are doing it, but only at a modest level.

What I think is necessary is getting it on the agenda, getting started, and aiming to do it with transparency.

Building a business case for experience management is not dissimilar to doing this for anything: clarify the “why” and identify the risks, opportunities, security issues, and costs. You also need to agree on how ‘value’ is defined and managed and what your goals and metrics look like. Your metrics also need to be related to business or organisational goals and be understood and relevant to people outside of IT.

While there is something new and ‘shiny’ about experience management, some of it is new and challenging for some. However, it’s a great opportunity to move to another level of maturity and self-awareness for IT – I definitely don’t believe it’s a fad.

Caring about how well your organisation does things and how you engage with people is perennial and a good sign that IT is really, finally ‘getting it’ and working at a business level.

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