Beyond SLAs: Why You Need Experience-Level Agreements (XLAs) in the Digital Workplace

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Coastal highway bridge

Service-level agreements (SLAs) are the long-standing gauge of IT performance. The problem with them, however, is that they leave out one critical question: Are users satisfied with the result?

This shortcoming has recently given rise to a new concept called experience-level agreements (XLAs), which measure success based on the quality of experience delivered versus the processes that went into it. According to many, it more accurately reflects what counts in a relationship and business outcomes.

An XLA considers the fact that 99.99% uptime may still be unacceptable if outages occur during critical periods, for example, or that a quick answer to a support request is insufficient if it doesn’t fix the user’s problem.

“The SLA measures whether the circuit breaker is hooked up and wired to a light,” says Dennis Perpetua, CTO of Digital Workplace Services at Kyndryl. “The XLA asks whether it’s a warm light that invigorates me and gets me motivated in the morning.”

SLAs have great value in measuring technical performance, and they’re familiar and comfortable to IT veterans, but efficiency doesn’t always equate to user experience. “If I get my new laptop quickly but it takes forever to boot, that’s what will define my experience,” Perpetua says.

Value beyond IT

XLAs have value beyond the IT environment. Customers today control business relationships to an unprecedented degree, and they speak with their feet. A Salesforce.com survey found that 80% of buyers believe that customer experience is as important as product quality. Shepard Presentations asserts that 96% of customers will abandon a business because of poor service.

Employees may not have the same latitude as customers, but at a time of skill shortages, bring-your-own-device policies, and self-service applications, they find ways to express their displeasure.

There is evidence that employee satisfaction directly relates to the bottom line. In a recent IDC survey, an overwhelming 85% of the participating executives said engaged employees create better customer experiences and higher revenues for their organization.

How to measure XLA

Calculating XLA performance is less a matter of aggregating metrics than of finding the metrics that count. Calculating a net promoter score is one tried-and-true tactic. It asks people to answer a simple question on a 1-to-10 scale: “How likely is it that you would recommend [brand/product/service] to a friend or colleague?” People who assign a score of less than 7 are considered to be at risk and require immediate attention.

Kyndryl is embracing XLAs across the board in its client engagements. It’s applying meaningful end-user-centric metrics through customer cocreation and key experience performance indicators (XPIs) to deliver better business performance and value for its customers.

Kyndryl also applies digital experience management (DEM), which is a more technical metric that looks at such factors as response times, page views per visit, abandonment rates, and completed transactions to determine the likelihood that a user of a website or an application had a positive experience.

And the company is going a step beyond measuring its performance to include user experiences with platforms the company doesn’t control. “This holistic approach is a key differentiator for us,” Perpetua says. “We’re measuring the experience as a whole.”

SLAs have their place, but when it comes to measuring what counts, user experience is the bottom line.

To learn more about Kyndryl’s approach to XLAs, download “The future of measuring experience in the digital workplace” or visit kyndryl.com/services/digital-workplace.