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XLAs: why you need them and how to start implementing them


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Experience-level agreements (XLAs, sometimes known as ELAs) are a variation of service-level agreements (SLAs) that focus on the end-user experience. Whether that end-user is your employees, your customers, or both, the way they engage with – and feel about – your solution is critical.

XLAs aren’t simply an exercise in gathering sentiment. The most effective agreements combine the telemetry of your service with the feedback you receive on it and the emotional impact of it.

There are three key questions XLAs look to answer: How reliable is my service? How well does it perform? And how do my users perceive it?

An XLA use case

Imagine you’re at the supermarket, and there’s been an update to the company’s loyalty app. You open it up to find the barcode that registers your account has moved. Now, instead of it being on the home screen, you need to click into another section to find it. You finish your shop and head to the checkout. It takes you three more seconds than usual to grab that barcode and complete your transaction, which might not seem too disruptive.

However, as you walk away, a queue of 10 customers forms behind you, each taking those three extra seconds swiping to their barcodes. That’s 30 seconds added to the cashier’s processing time. Multiply it by the 1,000 shoppers the store might see in an hour, and an entire 50 minutes is wasted.

At head office, the IT team is celebrating their success as the update’s rolled out, the interface looks fantastic, and everything’s running as planned. If only they knew what was going on for the employees and customers using their app – and they could, had they implemented XLAs.

The importance of XLAs

Most organizations will use performance management software, setting telemetry SLAs that are usually met. IT management teams are tasked with ensuring users can access the systems they need, when required – but that’s often where their line of visibility ends. They can’t see what’s going right or wrong, or what could be made better.

While it would be too arduous and time-consuming to ask every employee and customer how they’re feeling, you can give them a platform for their thoughts – then combine this with your telemetry data to find trends, remedy issues, and make the people you serve more satisfied and productive.

This combination is vital, because if your employees consistently and collectively rate one of your systems negatively, you may assume it’s because it isn’t functioning, or working to standard. In reality, it might purely be taking everyone too long or requiring too much effort to do what they need to get done.

Strategies for XLA success

When setting XLAs, it’s advised that organizations:

• Work to shift their IT experts’ mindsets to journey-based services rather than those that only perform their necessary function

• Consider the time it takes people to access the systems they need, how the platform looks and feels to use, and what behaviors users display

• Collect data-based insight to make informed decisions on prioritizing investments, identifying skills gaps, and improving policies and processes

• Look for ways to drive efficiencies – for example, by adding shortcuts on journeys that users follow the most

There are tools available from companies like Riverbed that can gather all the information you need – qualitative and quantitative – and perform many of these tasks automatically.

These tools go beyond basic surveys and sentiment collection, allowing you to use human-defined or department-agreed thresholds to establish what a positive end-user experience looks like for your business and your service at a granular level. For example, completing a process in three seconds might feel too slow for some users, too fast for others, and perfect for a small minority.

Not only can digital experience management solutions flag specific issues like this, but they can also measure input across every stage of the delivery chain. That includes telemetry data from your entire IT platform, feedback from your employees, sentiments from your customers, and more.

So, you get a complete picture of how different elements perform in different scenarios throughout different journeys for different people – and what those people would ideally like to change. Sometimes, it’s an action as small as moving your loyalty app’s barcode back to where it used to be.

In conclusion

In today’s increasingly digital, ever-demanding world, quick response times and slick branding aren’t enough. To achieve your goals, stay competitive, keep your employees, and satisfy your customers, you need to transform and innovate. But that transformation must be based on authentic user experiences rather than IT’s assumed outcomes.

XLAs are one powerful metric that can empower you to do exactly that, and by selecting the right unified observability solution, you can assess not just how well your systems are working, but how well they’re working for the people that matter.

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