Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Value of Measuring IT End-User Experience

Experience is often described as being “expectation minus reality.” That’s fair as long we recognize that, in this context, “reality” is subjective. Experience implies a point of view and a perception. Some executives say this subjectivity means that measuring experience is not valid or valuable. Taken to its logical conclusion, that line of thinking would lead us to throw out every survey result we’ve ever received. We constantly ask for—and are asked for—our opinions and sentiments about products and services. We do surveying, focus groups, and the like because we believe that subjective opinions taken in aggregate can influence our decisions in the right direction. Unfortunately, in many cases, we’ve made up our minds and simply want confirmation that we are right. If our survey results disagree, we pull out our objection that “these things are subjective” and follow our intended course of action.

For many years, CIOs and other IT leaders were puzzled because their service desks were reporting customer satisfaction (CSAT) in the 90% range, but their own conversations with business executives around the organization were telling a very different story. This bred a sense of distrust in the data, whereas the problem was more complicated:

  • Satisfaction was being measured only at the service desk
  • Surveys were gathering only transactional data
  • There was an assumption that those who had not interacted with the service desk were not having any difficulties
  • IT metrics in other areas were being reported in terms of time to repair, downtime, number of incidents, and the like with little regard for the effects these were having on employees and customers

As CEO and author Ben Brennan has said, “IT has been very good at measuring everything all the way down to the keyboard, but nothing beyond that,” and it is beyond the keyboard where all the human stuff happens. That’s where experience lives, and experience data can be of immense value.

In a recent webinar, I presented the case for using employee experience data—specifically IT end-user experience data—to arrive at far better (if rather unpleasant) conclusions about the real costs of interrupted IT services. I contrasted experience data with the traditional “fully-burdened cost per ticket” method, which measures only the costs of the service desk, its people, and its overhead without taking into account the effects of interruptions on the rest of the organization. Here are some “back of the napkin” calculations on the financial consequences of interruption from each point of view:

The organization has 3,000 employee end-users. According to data from MetricNet, the service desk handles cases at a volume of about 1 per user per month, and the fully-burdened cost (i.e., IT salaries, equipment and systems, software licenses, office space, and so on) is about $25per ticket. According to the latest data released in HDI’s The State of Technical Support in 2022, 52% of the cases raised are for unplanned interruptions (incidents as opposed to service requests); that means roughly 1,560 unplanned interruptions per month are reported in our 3,000-person organization, on average.

$25 per ticket (fully-burdened cost) X 1,560 = $39,000 per month, or $468,000 per year

But that is not the real story. If we look at the Global IT Experience Benchmark: H2/2021we see that the end-user experience of an unplanned interruption is a 3-hour loss of productivity on average. Trading Economics reports that the average US hourly wage in 2022 is $27.68, so:

1,560 X 3 hrs= 4,680X $27.68 = $129,542.40/month or $1,554,508.80/year

$468,000 fully-burdened service desk cost + $1,554,508.80 lost productivity = $2,022,508.80/yr

There is an additional piece here as well. According to the previously cited HDI report for 2022, “Over half of tickets are being resolved by Level 1 techs without being escalated.” That’s a mixed blessing because the Global IT Experience Benchmark data tells us that each time a ticket is passed or reassigned, the result is an additional hour of productivity for the end-user. If nearly half of the cases are being escalated, that’s a lot of additional lost productivity and hence additional cost.

This all sounds like I am the bearer of terrible news for IT, but that’s not the case. Experience data can also save us a substantial amount if we are paying attention. With the velocity required for business improvements and the continued constraint of IT budgets, an understanding of which specific initiatives will have the best effect is imperative. Asking open-ended questions such as, “What is slowing you down? Which applications or systems are you having trouble with?” can give IT organizations priceless intelligence. Some areas we can explore for improvement are:

  • Which communication channels are working best for end-users?
  • Which IT systems and applications are/are not meeting expectations?
  • Which processes are working well and which are not?

These questions serve to eliminate guesswork and direct IT investments in time and money to where they will do the most good. Continual improvement initiatives have a much firmer grip on what, precisely, is needed to achieve progress.

This all tells us that experience data gives us a far more complete picture of what is actually going on in the organization, end-to-end, or as current parlance puts it, “holistically.” We can discover the power of end-user experience by:

  • Measuring end-user experience using carefully designed tools and/or surveys
  • Sharing the data openly with all stakeholders both inside and outside of IT
  • Making improvements based on experience data
  • Measuring again to gauge success

IT has slowly come to terms with the fact that its reason for existing is not just to buy and manage technologies, but to enable and accelerate the work of others. If we are not enlisting those others to help us assess and prioritize the work we do, we’re not being good colleagues.