Why Your Digital Transformation Needs XLAs

Posted on Monday 29 November 2021.


While it might be easy to think of digital transformation simply as the introduction of new technology and the better use of data, the reality is that it’s actually about better business, in terms of both operations and outcomes.

Ultimately, it’s about transforming the corporate status quo to increase value creation. Plus, it’s also not just a technology change project – because it affects the traditional ways of working and is, therefore, a people change initiative. These both take digital transformation initiatives into the realms of employee productivity, employee experience, and eXperience level agreements (XLAs).

Why employee experience management matters to your digital transformation success

To succeed with digital transformation, your IT department not only needs to add new or improved technological capabilities but also needs to:

  • Be end-user (or employee)-centric
  • Make the right improvements in the right places
  • Motivate IT staff to deliver better experiences and outcomes
  • Make its performance measurement effective, including identifying and remedying both old and new issues.

The better front-office operations and outcomes, sought through digital transformation, are dependent on better back-office operations, with that back-office success highly dependent on the productivity of employees. Such that it makes sense that employee experience and the ability to monitor and improve it are key to ensuring your organisation’s digital transformation success.

But playing “devil’s advocate” for a moment, before continuing to explain more about employee experience management, the addition of new technologies might make for digital transformation success in its own right. After all, that technology will speed things up, save costs, and potentially offer a better customer and/or employee experience. But will this technology-driven success be everything it could be without insight into employee experience? Plus, would you know if and when the addition of technology made things worse for employees, either in terms of their productivity or something else? It’s a scary thought.

What’s at risk without employee experience management?

Without employee experience measurement and XLAs, your organisation’s digital transformation investments will miss out on the opportunity to optimise business operations and outcomes. This can manifest in a number of ways, for example:

  • The business value of transformation-based changes might be both lower than expected and hard to quantify
  • Employee productivity improvements might only be marginal (again, if they can be quantified with existing performance metrics)
  • The opportunity to better motivate IT staff, to deliver better experiences, through real-time feedback is foregone
  • Potential future improvements – because digital transformation is an ongoing need, not a one-off project – might be missed.

It’s why more and more organisations are employing employee experience management and XLAs to help ensure the best possible outcomes from their digital transformation investments (and their day-to-day operations). Importantly, this is a transformation in itself – to the current corporate culture and performance management approach – that brings about improvements to both more-productive employees and more-motivated IT service and support staff.

How to measure your back-office digital transformation success via employee experience

To best understand the success of your organisation’s digital transformation initiatives, there’s a need to measure performance as close to the point of value creation as possible. Hence, for back-office transformation that’s improving business operations and outcomes, and better-enabling employees and their productivity, it’s about measuring success as close to the employee as possible. It’s also about measuring what’s most important to them and other key business stakeholders. There’s a need to measure the employee experience.

Thus, and importantly for an IT department and its IT service desk, there’s a need to appreciate that the many traditional performance metrics contained within service level agreements (SLAs) are likely neither measuring success at the right points nor in the right way. For example, does an employee who’s struggling to meet an important, business-affecting deadline care how many incidents your IT service desk handled last month? Or that while 95% of end users are satisfied with their IT, they are personally struggling to get the help they urgently need?

Thankfully, employee experience management and XLAs will help your organisation to better measure what’s most important. And, in the context of digital transformation, allow you to understand whether the changes are pushing end-user experience, productivity, and business outcomes in the right direction.

Assessing your current performance measures through a digital transformation lens

An important question to ask pre-digital-transformation is whether your current SLAs and service level targets are fit-for-purpose in terms of ensuring that:

  • Any digitally transformed capabilities are delivering on their promises of tangible business benefits
  • Employees and other business stakeholders are receiving the services and support they need to deliver the outcomes and value expected of them
  • Future opportunities to improve operations, experiences, and outcomes are identified and acted on.

If nothing else, by using your current set of performance measurements (potentially including end-user customer satisfaction), will you be 100% certain that all of this is being achieved? Especially in terms of being able to help optimise the productivity of employees as they try to contribute to better business outcomes. You’re going to need to use employee experience management and XLAs to better measure and improve your organisation’s digital transformation success.

Thinking about digital transformation in people and employee experience terms

Unfortunately, the importance of people to digital transformation might be hidden behind the fact that much of what has been written about, and talked to, has focused on the two “front-office” elements of digital transformation and technology:

1. The introduction of new or enhanced products and services that exploit the available technology and data.

2. The improvement of customer engagement mechanisms, again through the increased use of technology and data.

Whereas too little airtime has been given to the less sexy need for “back-office” digital transformation – the optimization and automation of back-office operations to better support the front-office transformation. This third element is a critical piece of the digital transformation jigsaw, as concluded by World Economic Forum (WEF) research which stated that:

“Customer engagement is essential, great product and services are mandatory, and an innovative economic model may be table stakes, but without operations all of that fails. Operations is the critical last mile in translating business strategy into reality.”

It’s also something thing has been elevated in importance during the global pandemic – with many organizations needing to introduce digital workflows to better enable their now-distributed workforce. This, along with the need to be innovative in product and customer engagement terms, has been part of the rapid acceleration of corporate digital transformation initiatives.

For many organisations, the key question needs to move from “When are we going to digitally transform?” to “How are we measuring our digital transformation success?” This is where employee experience management plays a critical role.

Assessing your organisation’s existing and future digital transformation success

Your organisation’s back-office operations should ideally be the perfect blend of people, processes, and technology plus third-party services. But, in reality, how great are they performing and the business outcomes they contribute to?

What do your performance metrics tell you? And, more importantly, what do your organisation’s employees tell you? After all, it’s their ability to “get work done” – their productivity – that the current, and then transformed, back-office operations either help or hinder. It’s likely that this employee view, and the impact on their productivity, isn’t captured by the performance measure presently employed.

So, when you next speak with colleagues about your corporate digital transformation initiative(s), question the measurement of success. This will hopefully be more than whether any new technology is being delivered against time, budget, and spec targets, but how well-equipped are your performance measures to truly understand the employee and business impact of digitally-driven changes? Unfortunately, I imagine that the employee experience, and digital transformation’s impact on it, is currently being overlooked to the detriment of both initial and ongoing business improvements.

If you would like to learn more about the importance of employee experience management and XLAs to your organisation’s digital transformation success, plus how to get started, then please take a look at the Practical Guide to XLAs on the HappySignals’ website.



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