Service Level Agreements (SLAs) have long been used for quick and accurate views on overall performance. They provide technical, input-based metrics (uptime counts, downtime, response time, etc.) that highlight areas of strength and weakness. But what do these SLA metrics really mean to your business? Do the outcomes direct actions that result in a happy customer?
Not necessarily. SLAs are most of the times technical. They don’t directly relate to your customer and so, measuring them alone is an outmoded practice. To understand what is happening with your business and what it means to your customer today, you need to focus on monitoring business services AND experience. This means measuring the user experience, or eXperience Level Agreements (XLAs) and correlating the results back to your technical SLAs. For example: Is your shopping application still available for customers? How long does it take to connect with iDeal and finish the payment? Is the content on your website still loading fast enough?
By focusing on XLAs, the user experience and business outcomes, in addition to SLAs and key performance indicators (KPIs), you can take your IT Service Management to the next level. Why? Because once you've achieved your SLA goals, your job is done. But XLAs challenge you to improve yourself. For example, let’s say this year you've reached your 99% uptime goal. That’s great! But how did your customers experience your business services? Do you have any idea what their state of satisfaction is, overall? Probably not. Measuring XLAs provides this insight, as well as an opportunity to continuously improve your services and your business.
Here’s an overview of some of the other differences between SLAs and XLAs:
- are hard and technical related KPIs
- are from a technical perspective inside your organization
- relate to a finger-pointing culture - "that's not my problem"
- are based on soft and business impact related KPIs
- are from a user perspective outside your organization
- relate to an involved culture within your organization - "I want to improve"
So, should you stop measuring your SLAs all together? Definitely not. You still need to capture these important technical metrics. But it’s important to go one step further and correlate all this data to your desired business outcomes for a more accurate, holistic picture. Now is the time to transition from traditional SLAs and redefine new ones based on business requirements that meet customer needs.
In other words, ”SLAs are dead, long live SLAs!”
So, where to start?
According to a report on user experience management and business impact, there are five key categories to measure, ranked by priority:
- Business impact: optimize business outcomes of IT delivered business services based on user interactions.
- Performance: monitor and optimize effective delivery of business services to end consumers regarding performance and security.
- Service usage: understand frequency and other usage patterns that leverage IT delivered business services.
- User productivity: optimize end-user interaction with business services.
- Design: optimize effective design and business services content for end consumers regarding navigation and relevance.
This goes way beyond Application Performance Management (APM). Measuring the user experience is a shared investment across all IT teams, throughout the IT landscape and requires a whole new way of thinking in IT service management.
With this in mind, we developed StackState. StackState gives you the ability to correlate technical SLAs to your desired business outcomes by providing a real-time overview of your full IT stack. This includes all the business processes, services, software systems, applications and hardware/cloud infrastructure components you use to facilitate the business services that are vital to your customers’ experience and your revenue.
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