If you work in the IT Sector, you likely have heard of the service level agreements (“SLA”). SLAs, with underlying KPIs, can be great tools to articulate expectations in a service provider – client relationship. In other words, they can avoid disputes or confusion about things like the objectives and performance metrics as part of the engagement. SLAs have been around for ages and not providing real value anymore when it comes to end-user and customer and user experience (“UX”) in the new Digital world. Simply put, experience is critical and getting more critical everyday.
Don’t get me wrong, SLAs are still important as a basis, but by itself outdated when it comes to real experience. Take the example of an application in the cloud, delivered by an provider eco-system. Most likely you have a (public) cloud provider with SLAs, a WAN provider with different SLAs and an Workplace (laptop/desktop) provider, again with different SLAs. The entire service chain could consist out even more providers. If one of those SLAs break down or cause an outage, the end user (customer) will most likely be disrupted in his/her daily work with an bad user experience (“UX”). Two of those providers will claim that their service was running as agreed, but ultimately that doesn’t matter, IT failed due to the experience.
All of this is important and many companies have experienced stress – or even damaged customer relationships – before the invention of the SLA. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that SLAs have their flaws, but still needed. Many of them center on the fact that they are overly technical and focused on one element in the entire service chain. They don’t necessarily guarantee a satisfied business environment or user experience (“UX”).
Luckily, there is another way. An Xperience Level Agreement (“XLA”) can solve this issue. In this shift into human-centric experiences, XLAs will be increasingly important, regardless of the size of your organization. Ultimately, it is likely in your best interest to consider switching from only a standard provider SLA concept, to an holistic XLA approach, especially with growing partner eco-systems, complexity in the service chain and strong focus on customer satisfaction (“UX”).
XLA can help to shift the mindset to real end to end outcomes shaping user experiences across different SLAs. However, it’s critical for success that SLAs are reported more often than simply once a month. Making SLA reporting more dynamic and transparent across the service chain, will support XLA to enable real collaboration, openness and visibility to ensure the highest level of experience, rather than the myriad of technology.
The XLA was first created by the research and consultancy company called Giarte.
At its core, an XLA is an overarching mindset and methodology that is used to redesign human-centric IT services and processes. In essence, it records goals from the perspective of the end user. It then connects those goals with the improvement and delivery of IT products and services. According to Marco Gianotten, who played a large role in the development of XLAs, “an SLA is a contract, but an XLA is a commitment.”
Speaking more practically, creating an XLA starts with looking at the end state that it is targeted from an user / customer point of view. It’s mission critical to understand what really matters from their point of view. From there, take that end result and reengineers back to a relevant, efficient way of working toward that goal across the entire service chain. As just one example, CitrusCollab is essentially a consulting firm that leverages XLAs to help bring a fresh and optimistic approach to businesses and digital transformations. In a blog post explaining how it uses XLAs in its business, CitrusCollab uses patterns, possibilities, pathways, and some added design thinking to achieve positive outcomes for their clients.
” There is an execution gap between technology and the business outcomes desired. Technology is simply an enabler not the end result we as IT technologists have seen it and ourselves for decades. Business outcomes are aspirational and shape all experiences with the product or service. This execution gap is bridged with XLAs. “
While it may seem a bit fuzzy, XLAs put the human at the center of client relationships. Instead of religiously following a set of technological guidelines or standards in an SLA, XLA practitioners choose a different path. They marry the content-rich expertise of technology teams with aspirations, emotions, and interpretations that exist outside of that technology.
Why It Matters
XLAs are a relatively new phenomenon, but they have already made an impact in the world. This is due to several reasons, but one of the most prominent is shifting trends in the digital age. Simply put, there is this shift from measurement to human-centric experiences (“UX”). Instead of being a slave to certain metrics or standards promulgated by different providers or a corporate leader, XLAs help companies get to the root of the problem. There are no vanity metrics here.
What XLAs do is get to the root of customer priorities that they expect from a service. To help in this task, Giarte has developed 37 so-called “Method Cards” that apply XLAs within existing organizations. These cards provide methods and tools across the crucial design thinking phases of dream, discover and design. They are mission critical for educating the need for an user experience (“UX”) focus, the understanding and appreciation of the importance of empathy and right/left brain thinking differences. Supported by different techniques and methods to collect and categorize the information required to design appropriate and meaningful XLAs that are not only ideas, but eventually can be implemented in organizations. You can find more details on these Method Cards by clicking here.
Ultimately, XLAs are designed to help users implement digital empathy into their organizations. This is much easier said than done. Often, it is simply faster to meet your SLA metrics or requirements and move on. Doing this, however, usually doesn’t solve the underlying problems or issues that customers experience (“UX”). While they aren’t perfect yet, XLAs can be an extremely valuable tool that can help you meet your business goals while making your internal and customers happier. Especially when considering the shift into more and more Digital providers in your partner eco-system, a consistent customer (end user) experience has to be guaranteed as shifting and switching from existing providers to new disruptive providers has never been easier then before.
The XLA Revolution
Many organizations have not yet heard of or implemented XLAs. Unfortunately, they are missing out. XLAs can take your organization to the next level in the digital age. They can improve the relationships with your internal and external clients and can help your organization develop bolder, more effective experiences which in the end increases satisfaction and much more.
You want to know more about XLA? How to start with it? I can recommend to visit the CitrusCollab website and start a dialog, they have already redrafted sourcing agreements to implement XLA.
Please note, Xperience Level Agreement (XLA) is a registered mark of Giarte Media Group B.V. used under permission of Giarte. All rights reserved.