Tag Archives: Service Management

Did You Leave Some Value Along the Road?

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Let’s start off with a scenario. Let’s say you are preparing for a cross-country road trip. Before you head out, you are responsible and change the oil in your car. You prepare your playlist, grab your road trip snacks, and hit the road. You drive for a day or two and you make it through a few states before that pesky “check oil” light pops on. You’re annoyed because you just changed the oil and you’ve only driven a few hundred miles. But you don’t want to risk losing your engine, so you get off the highway, find the closest gas station and change the oil and hit the road again.

Now let’s say that happens every few hundred miles for your entire trip. My guess is that after the first or second time that “Check Oil” light went on, you would ask a mechanic to look at it to examine why you’re leaking oil, even if it meant extending your trip a few hours or a day to get it fixed.

Now, what if I told you that much like a car leaking oil slows down a road trip, IT services that leak value can slow down business growth. The difference is that CIOs don’t have a handy light that goes off to let them know an IT service is low on value. They have to look for the signs themselves.

If you’re wondering why your IT services aren’t delivering the way you planned, it’s time to check if you’re leaving value along the side of the road.

Understanding The Value Of IT

Before you check to see if you’re leaking value, you have to understand how you are creating that value to begin with.
The difficulty with value is that it is a perception. There is no one single definition of it. Value needs to be defined by every stakeholder in the organization — customers, partners, suppliers and internal stakeholders. Business leaders should be working with these stakeholders to define value and ensure that value is understood across the organization.

Once you have a definition of value inside the organization, you can begin to understand how IT co-creates that value with other stakeholders.

For IT leaders, this means understanding how the outputs IT delivers connect to the larger outcomes the organization is achieving. This will require you to work with other stakeholders in the organization to understand their projects, initiatives and goals, and how IT supports them. If you are able to connect how IT helped marketing hit its revenue goals, then you’re understanding where IT co-creates value and you can optimize your work, investments and priorities to increase that co-created value. If you are able to do this for every project you work on, then you’ll be running a value-driven IT organization.

Are You Consistently Delivering Value?

Now, many organizations may already do this. They already define value and IT has already worked with other departments to ensure they co-create value through their services.

But your job isn’t done.

Business doesn’t operate on a consistent basis every single day. No matter how tight our processes, how smooth the services are; there will be evolutions in services, products, and how the organization operates.

And sometimes, those evolutions are forced upon a business due to forces outside of their control. For example, a global pandemic can hit and everyday business life is turned on its head.

Other times, it’s not a major pandemic, but a slight shift in how a product is delivered, how an organization communicates, or the way technology is used.

Whether the reason is big or small, when undetected shifts within the value stream occur, IT services begin to leak value and IT becomes less effective. In other words, you have “value leakage”.

My friends at TaUBSolutions explain it this way; value leakage occurs when “solutions move from conception to customer implementation.”

Value leakage can occur when there is not adequate training, when there is poor management of organizational change, when we don’t retire services or products when we should, when there is poor employee and customer experience.

How to Avoid Value Leakage

Value leakage will always be a threat to IT’s effectiveness. It is up to the IT leader to be vigilant about delivering value and to look for the signs. Remember, unlike in your car, there is no “Value Leakage” indicator light.

Instead, IT leaders should regularly do two things:

  1. Talk with stakeholders about service delivery.
    Are they still seeing value from your services? When was the last time you checked with your stakeholders to confirm this? (Hint: if you haven’t done this since COVID-19 hit, now is the time!)
  2.  Review customer journey maps and value stream maps.
    These two tools were designed to help stakeholders understand how value passes through the organization and is realized by the customer. They will help you identify where value should be delivered or where it can be delivered.

Don’t leave value on the side of the road. Protect yourself from value leakage and check in with your stakeholders. I created a Value Leakage Indicator Tool to help IT leaders measure where they are and are not delivering value. You can download it for free here.

Additionally, if you need help identifying value, connecting IT outputs to business value or mapping value streams, please book a free 30-minute call for us to discuss how you can drive more value in your business.

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When In Doubt, Follow the Value Stream

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Every day, IT leaders address questions to help keep their team moving forward, which in turn keeps the organization moving forward.

Questions like:

  • Where should the IT team spend their time?
  • How should IT allocate resources?
  • How can IT justify larger budgets and more investments?

In the past, IT leaders have taken a straightforward approach to answering these questions. They have broken down each question and explained in technical detail everything their team has accomplished and completed, no matter how small or mundane.
In other words, IT delivered outputs.

But in today’s world, outputs aren’t enough. The old approach to making decisions based on outputs is over. Because today, IT must deliver outcomes.

If an IT leader was to list only outputs without connecting them to any business outcomes to the C-suite in the hopes of securing more resources or larger budgets, the C-suite will look at them and ask: “How did this drive business value?”

Closing tickets, upgrading technology, and troubleshooting technical issues are an important part of the success of an IT organization. But IT leaders must do more than just list outputs. IT leaders must show how these outputs connect to the organization’s bottom-line goals, and IT’s role in delivering needed business outcomes.

Before an IT leader can decide on how their team should allocate its time and resources or how IT can obtain larger investments and partake in bigger initiatives, they must answer these questions:

  • How did IT’s outputs reach the end customer?
  • How did IT’s outputs help the customer achieve their goals?
  • How did IT’s outputs increase revenue or decrease expenses?
  • How did IT’s outputs help the business achieve its goals?

To find the answers to these questions, you have to follow the value stream.

What’s a Value Stream?

Steve Bell and Mike Orzen, authors of Lean IT define a value stream as a “sequence of activities required to design, produce and deliver a good or service to a customer and it includes the dual flows of information and material.” According to Bell and Orzen, a value stream consists of “all processes, tasks and activities used to bring a product or service from concept to customer and includes all information, work and material flows.”

In short, value stream is the steps taken by an organization to meet customer demands and bring value through a product or service to that customer. The value stream is the big picture look at how value flows through the organization.

How To Follow the Value Stream

Following the value stream means exactly that – following how value flows through an organization and identifying where there may be improvements that can be made. It is about gaining clarity around how value is delivered to the end user, and how to use value streams to help you make decisions in your IT organization.

For every initiative or project, IT leaders must be able to step back and ask, “where and how does this fit in a value stream?” If you’ve followed the value stream and there is no fit for the initiative, then why is it a priority?

Often when you’re following the value stream to determine the importance of an initiative, you will end up involving other departments and stakeholders. As noted above, the value stream is how value flows through the entire organization, not just within one department. Value streams will cross departmental boundaries and a collaborative approach is mandatory. Working in a vacuum will simply waste time and resources — time and resources that could have been better spent contributing to the value stream.

Now, in this digital world, this means understanding how technology contributes to the value stream. IT manages technology and technology will always play a role in the value stream. Understanding this relationship will give you a context for certain services or initiatives.

Map your Value Streams

How do you know if a technology, a specific investment, or an initiative is contributing to a value stream?

The answer is simple: map that value streams. A value stream map is a visual representation of how value flows through the organization. This visualization enables you “follow the value stream.”

Mapping value streams will:

  • Identify cross-functional nature of work, which can avoid “siloed thinking”
  • Identify waste such as bottlenecks or delays (very important for IT!)
  • Allow teams to visualize the work and help the entire organization recognize how individuals and teams contribute to value.

How to Follow the Value and Map the Value Stream

No matter where you struggle with defining value or identifying the value IT drives, a value stream map is the place to start.

Mapping a value stream requires a cross-departmental team that includes IT. Silo thinking must not get in your way when you’re following the value stream, so include all stakeholders and make this an exercise in discovery. Map all the information including all the tasks being performed, who is performing them, and the technology involved with all of these tasks.

It’s also important to remember that value stream mapping is never a “one and done” activity. As new technology is introduced or customers’ needs change, your value stream maps will be revisited.

The next time you’re faced with a decision about an investment or project, take a look at the value stream. Using a value stream as your compass Following the value stream will always lead you to contributing value to the organization.

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Your Continuity Plan Still Isn’t Good Enough

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Continuity plans have been in the spotlight for businesses across the globe over the last few months. If your continuity plan wasn’t done or hadn’t been reviewed in months, then you probably felt that pain over the last few weeks. Even those with up-to-date continuity plans are refreshing theirs with their lessons learned from COVID-19.

“Continuity planning” has been topping lists of must-do’s for CIOs and IT leaders. But someone has to ask the question: even with a 2020 update, is your continuity plan good enough?

From what I’ve been reading and seeing, probably not. The good news is that you can still shore up your continuity plan so that it actually helps your business in the event of another disaster.

The Problem With Continuity Plans

For CIOs, continuity plans mean including the obvious things:

  • How many laptops does our team need to work remotely?
  • What needs to be moved into the cloud or onto a collaboration platform?
  • What cybersecurity systems need to be set into place?

These are important items to address. They will help your business continue in the event of an emergency. But they’re not the solutions to the real concerns. They are band-aids. These things only address the symptom but not what causes the symptoms.

A continuity plan needs to address what your business needs to do to stay running most effectively and how vital business functions can continue operating during a disaster.

On their own, none of the above components reflect how they connect to vital business functions or business needs. They’re just a list of outputs. They don’t tie it back to the business need or driver or requirement. They’re not outcomes. Our continuity plans should focus on the outcomes we must deliver to support vital business functions. Then we’ll know what outputs we need to produce in order to provide the outcomes that are needed.

I’ll use one of my favorite metaphors to explain the difference between outputs and outcomes. This one might feel familiar to you if you’ve been ordering takeout food recently. You probably have a favorite pizza delivery place that you choose over any other. What is it that makes that pizza delivery your favorite? Because the output from every delivery service is the same. The output is the pizza that you receive. But the outcome of pizza delivery is that the pizza was delivered warm, the driver was friendly, it was delicious and you enjoyed every second of eating it. The output is simply what you expect because it’s what you paid for. The outcome is the entire experience and value that was delivered.

To have a good continuity plan, you need to identify the outcomes that are necessary, not just the outputs that simply keep the lights on.

We need to start with the business impact analysis which quantifies the impact of the loss of service. A business impact analysis collects relevant data and analyzes the operational and financial impact of a disruption of business functions and processes. These can be as detailed as we need it to be. The more detail, the better because we’ll be able to make better business decisions.

The business impact analysis starts us down the path of identifying those outcomes because it assumes that every part of the business is dependent on the continued operations of the other parts of the business (which it is).

Is this starting to sound familiar? When we think of business impact, in particular the holistic approach to end-to-end value, we’re really identifying the value streams.

If you read my previous article this month, you know that I’m a proponent of Value Stream Management, which is the holistic approach that applies lean thinking – optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams across technologies, assets, and departments – across an organization’s value streams. Instead of just looking at functions and features, value stream management looks at and manages value streams from end-to-end.

In terms of continuity plans, if we reflect on the value streams, our plan has to become more than the technology that supports the value stream. It will encompass the entire end-to-end lifecycle of business value and the outcomes of each value stream.

This where you’ll begin to focus on things like the roles of the people involved and how they interact with one another and the end customers to deliver value. Your continuity plan becomes comprehensive and more impactful.

How To Make Your Continuity Plan Valuable

Now that you understand what really needs to be in a continuity plan, there’s a second piece that needs to be addressed.

You can’t just drop this plan into a drawer and cross your fingers that you won’t need it again anytime soon. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that unthinkable scenarios can occur. We may not see another pandemic in our lifetimes but we will see another disaster of some type.

Your continuity plan cannot be a one and done scenario. It needs to be reviewed, updated, and addressed on a regular basis. Each time you map your value streams or add new value streams, go back to your continuity plan, and evaluate that it’s still up to date.

We can’t know what the next disaster is awaiting businesses but we can be better prepared for any disaster. The best time to prepare for the next disaster is right now.

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No, Value Stream Management is Not the “New ITSM”

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Every few years it seems like there’s some new trend that seems eerily similar to ITSM. There are so many buzzwords and trendy practices in IT. It’s hard to determine what practices are worth evaluating and implementing.

This year, the newest contender in the digital space is Value Stream Management. Is Value Stream Management the new ITSM? Is it just another trend that will fade into obscurity in a few years or is it worth investigating?

What is Value Stream Management?

According to the lean.org website, lean thinking “changes the focus of management from optimizing separate technologies, assets and vertical departments to optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets and departments to customers”.

Value Stream Management helps organizations optimize and manage its value streams by applying lean thinking in a consistent way across the organization.

Value stream management identifies and examines value streams as opposed to specific “features and functions.” A value stream consists of the steps an organization takes to continuously deliver value to customers. Many IT organizations need to start identifying and understanding their value streams instead of their features and functions so they can demonstrate how they drive business value. Value stream management will help them to do that.

With value stream management, we can see where value is created and where it is lost so it allows an organization to optimize the delivery of products and services by reducing waste and improving efficiency. It’s truly a holistic end-to-end approach that many organizations need.

Since it is an end-to-end approach, value stream management also links technology efforts with the business outcomes to support better collaboration. For value stream management to be effective, an organization must understand how its products and services are related to business goals. For IT, value stream management identifies where it must collaborate with the rest of the organization on these products and services.

How does Value Stream Management relate to ITSM?

Value stream management is the superstructure and IT service management (ITSM) fits within that superstructure. Value stream management monitors and manages entire value streams. ITSM is one component of those value streams.

Value stream management can make your ITSM practice much better. Because it monitors entire value streams, value stream management will identify the opportunities and weaknesses in your ITSM approach.

But ITSM doesn’t just need value stream management to be effective. Value stream management needs IT service management, as well. While value stream management shows how workflows through organization including where there are delays and opportunities for improvement, it doesn’t provide specific details regarding how technology outputs contribute to valuable outcomes. That’s the role of ITSM.

Once value stream management has identified opportunities for improvement for each value stream, ITSM can then create the proper processes and services to improve those value streams, which in the end will deliver more value to the customer.

In short, value stream management illustrates the bigger picture that shows how ITSM contributes to the business, where ITSM can be improved, and why those improvements matter.

How Can You Incorporate Value Stream Management and ITSM into Your Organization?

Many ITSM implementations have gotten too far down in the weeds with how IT manages its products and services. Value stream management can help resolve that issue.

Value stream management will help leaders and the C-suite see the full picture of how and where technology is driving business value. They’ll be able to better understand why investments in ITSM should be made because value stream management shows where ITSM plays a vital role in delivering value to the customer.

To start incorporating value stream management in your organization, start by identifying the value streams within your organization and create a simple value stream map for each. A value stream map will help “connect the dots” how the different areas of the organization work together to deliver value.

Also, become an expert on the business of the business. This includes learning the language of the business; what the business does to deliver value to the customer; and understanding how the parts of the business interact to deliver that value to the customer. This will also help you gain the support and credibility you’ll need from your business colleagues.

Value stream management is not the new ITSM – but it will improve your ITSM and bring more value to your organization as a whole.

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IT Reset: How to Re-Prioritize IT Initiatives During COVID-19

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CIOs have had their work cut out for them over the last few months. The sudden shift to remote work has put pressure on IT to create solutions for remote workers using technology that perhaps was older or less capable, support overworked and stressed out IT technicians, and, in general, keep the business moving through the use of technology.

The priority at this time must be ensuring that technology supports essential business processes. But that doesn’t mean IT leaders should freeze any other initiatives until after COVID-19 has passed.

In fact, the worst thing any leader can do right now is “freeze” and wait until life “returns to normal.” There will be no return to the normal as businesses knew it before the pandemic. Even after the immediate threat has passed and businesses can resume working in offices, the way we work will be forever changed because of this situation.

There will be an expectation for the business to provide flexible work environments, more self-service options, tighter security, and better contingency plans for addressing future disruptions like this one.

All of these shifts provide IT with a rare opportunity to hit pause, take a step back, and reassess priorities. Adobe’s CIO Cynthia Stoddard advises, “CIOs now have to rethink priorities, or at least reorder them, and we must reinvent ourselves now as virtual leaders.”

Here are a few ways you can reset your priorities and identify what initiatives you should take on right now.

Cybersecurity

One of the first priorities should be your level of protection against cyber threats. Security is imperative for continuing essential business operations but this unique situation has increased the risk of cyber threats. “Zoom bombing” became a trend over the last few weeks as uninvited guests crashed virtual meetings and get-togethers, often disrupting the session with violent rhetoric. While Zoom quickly adapted to protect its users, this may be just the beginning of more frequent cyber-attacks and threats. As more of the world moves online, hackers will most likely increase the intensity and sophistication of their attacks. CIOs should review their cybersecurity protocols and ensure the proper procedures are being followed.

Productive Remote Work Environments

In addition to cybersecurity, CIOs need to make sure that every person in the organization is equipped to do their job remotely. This might mean you need to more heavily invest or leverage self-service technology or AI. Large investments or initiatives around new technology may have been on the back burner but now is an ideal time to reassess whether you need to make those investments now.

It’s also not just about providing technology. You may need to equip your team to handle and manage it. Are your knowledge bases relevant and up to date? Knowledge bases may not be seen as high priority, but techs will no longer be able to just walk down to an office to troubleshoot a problem. More of the organization could be turning to knowledge bases to navigate technology while they work from home.

Service Delivery

Another area to review is your service delivery processes. There are many facets of connectivity that are out of your team’s hands right now, including different hardware and software being used by team members with different levels of connectivity. Like I mentioned earlier, a service technician can’t simply walk down to an office to troubleshoot an issue. If there were any gaps in your service delivery processes before COVID-19, they are likely more apparent and problematic now. Take this time now to address those important issues.

Refocusing priorities will allow you to emerge from this situation more efficient and capable than you were. This will enable you to refocus on those more urgent tasks.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that CIOs and IT leaders need to focus on enabling outcomes instead of simply delivering outputs. Even though the way we work is rapidly shifting, this is a perfect time to reassess how IT can drive outcomes. We’ll never go back to work as before. So, instead of looking at this situation as a blow to current initiatives, look at it as the perfect time to re-prioritize and prepare for the new future.

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Outcomes vs Outputs: The Real Proof of IT’s Value

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The typical workday looks much different today than it did just a few months ago. Instead of driving to work and walking into the building, employees are going online and signing in to their messaging or collaboration tools.

Instead of physically taking a document to a client for a signature, they’re being sent digitally for electronic signatures.

Instead of popping into an office, managers are checking in with employees via texts, instant messages, and video calls.

As many businesses continue to work remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that technology is keeping the business together. Because of this, IT has to move into a more strategic role. For years, experts have been advising IT leaders to take their seat at the strategy table and be involved in the larger business decisions. Many IT leaders have jumped at this opportunity while others have struggled to figure out how to demonstrate IT’s ability to be more than a support function.

This shift of IT from a support function into a strategic partner can start with a simple shift. The shift from focusing on outputs to outcomes can make a world of difference for IT organizations.

Outcomes vs. Outputs

Let’s begin by addressing the difference between outputs and outcomes.

Outputs are the actions or activities that an IT organization completes. They are quantitative and easily measured.

Outputs could include:

  • Moving files and documents into the cloud
  • Closing tickets in record times
  • Installing new technology

Many IT organizations measure outputs as a way to illustrate their productivity and value. The thinking is that the more outputs they complete, the more the rest of the business will see IT as being valuable.

While outputs are important, outputs only tell part of the story. The real measure of value is the outcomes that are enabled by those outputs. Outcomes are the results that the business wants or needs to achieve.

Outcomes are business objectives such as:

  • Increased market share
  • Higher customer satisfaction scores
  • Increased profits

For example, the outcome of moving computing capability to the cloud is a more mobile and flexible work environment. The output enables the outcome. For every output IT is completing, the CIO must know and communicate what the business is now able to do as a result, or outcome, of that output.

That means before listing an output on a project list, IT managers must ask: “What outcome is this going to enable?

By doing this, you can cut down on the amount of busywork or projects that are not contributing to the bottom line. It will also show what outputs are ineffective. In some cases, IT delivers an output that doesn’t enable or deliver any real business outcomes. If this is the case, you’ll need to review the output and determine if it is truly needed.

This shift may also show that some of your metrics and KPIs are ineffective ways of measuring IT’s performance. For example, if your team has a high first-contact resolution rate but employees are still reporting poor service, then the first-contact resolution rate isn’t a good indicator of your performance.

How to Make This Shift

What do IT leaders need to do this to make this shift in their organizations?

Build Business Relationships
IT leaders need to understand the outcomes the business wants to achieve. They should seek out key stakeholders and have regular conversations about their technology needs and their goals and objectives. This will allow IT leaders to begin to see the end-to-end value of their outputs and initiatives.

Define and Map Services
Once you know the desired outcomes, you can map IT services to them. Map how the outcomes of your services connect to business objectives.

Measure Outcomes
It’s not enough to simply list off the number of outputs your team completes each month. Engage your stakeholders to identify outcomes and how an output contributes to an outcome.

The Future of IT

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that IT has no choice but to evolve now. The way we work will be changed forever. Even when businesses return to the office, there will be different expectations around flexibility and how technology enables flexible mobile workforces. The business will want to be prepared for the future, should anything like this happen again and they’ll be looking at IT to help plan and prepare for those possibilities.

CIOs and IT leaders must approach their goals and initiatives differently if they want to rightfully play a leadership role in their organizations. Connecting IT outputs to business outcomes enables IT leaders to help shape the future of their organizations.

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ITSM is More Than Just Numbers on a Spreadsheet

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This article was inspired by Mel Kerner, whose insightful comments on a recent LinkedIn post of mine started my wheels turning about the heart of service delivery.

Measuring and demonstrating the business value of IT is one of the biggest struggles for CIOs and IT leaders. There are thousands of articles, webinars, and commentary on how to demonstrate the business value of IT (I’ve even written quite a few of those articles!).

There are endless equations of metrics, KPIs, budgets, and technology that one can put together to demonstrate the value of ITSM. CIOs are hyper-focused on that bottom line. What does the IT line on the spreadsheet say about you and your organization?

That’s always the question, isn’t it? I’m not here to argue that CIOs don’t have to prove the financial sense behind their decisions on investments and projects, but I am going to pose another question:

What is at the heart of your service delivery?

I can see some of you rolling your eyes at this vague question that can’t be answered with metrics or financial projections. But I think we need to ask it because there is a goal of ITSM that can’t be measured with specific metrics or financial projections.

People, processes, technology… every IT leader has strategized over these 3 words. They are the 3 parts of every ITSM initiative.

We can measure how much technology is costing or saving the business. We can create baselines from which to measure the improvement of the effectiveness of our processes.

We can’t effectively measure the importance of people. We can capture metrics like call volumes and incident response times, but that doesn’t measure the service being provided. It doesn’t accurately demonstrate the importance of that service to the end-user – or to the organization.

This is important because sometimes everything adds up on paper, but IT is still struggling. Sometimes all of the financial plans make sense and the team is hitting its goals for all of its metrics, but users are still unhappy and service is still poor.

This is a very real disconnect occurring in organizations today. According to PWC, 90% of C-suite executives say their technology choices deliver what employees need. But 50% of employees disagree.

Is IT really delivering services if half of the organization don’t believe they have the technology for what they need? Even when the numbers on the spreadsheet are adding up, if the people in the organization are not satisfied and able to do their jobs, IT is not doing its job.

Impeccable service delivery starts with understanding how much that service delivery means to the most important part of service management: the people.

Do service desk agents understand the true value of solving a user’s technology problem? Do they fully grasp the frustration that arises when a piece of technology is getting in the way of someone doing their job?

Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between employee experience and company performance. It’s no wonder why employee experience has become one of the hottest topics in business today. For IT leaders, this is an opportunity. They can use this focus on employee experience to remind their teams what is at the heart of service delivery.

Consider author Simon Sinek’s famous quote: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Does your IT team understand the “why” behind their metrics?

For example, why is response time important?

Is it important because it’s a box to check off? Or is it important because a service desk agent providing a timely response is able to return a user to their job faster so that they can complete their own work faster. And completing their work faster may mean they are responding to a client faster, closing a sales deal faster, or they’re able to start another project. A timely response time helps a user be better, faster, and more efficient at their job.

Or why is recurring incidents an important metric?

Is it important because it’s annoying for the service desk agent to have to solve recurring incidents? Or is it important because recurring incidents damage the reputation of the IT organization and are a frustration for the user? It can cause their mood and productivity to plummet which can then impact their interactions with customers and colleagues. It can even impact their interactions outside of the office. If you’ve had a frustrating day at work, you may end up bringing that home. The service desk can impact that!

IT leaders must talk with end-users about their experiences with IT. They should investigate the pain points users experience when their service calls are poor and the satisfaction they feel when their work is uninterrupted and technology actually makes their jobs easier.

There needs to be a bigger “why” for IT beyond just collecting metrics and impacting bottom lines. There needs to be a heart to your service delivery and it may be as simple as this: Better service delivery improves the day to day lives of your end-users.

Why does all this even matter if you can’t measure it?

The work IT does is often misunderstood and unappreciated. Most service desk agents won’t be thanked by end-users. Feeling unappreciated and inefficient will lead to burned-out agents who deliver subpar service and that can create a ripple effect. Service management is directly related to employee experience, which is directly related to company performance.

The IT leader must constantly remind the IT team why good service delivery matters. IT leaders need to take the steps to dig into the true “can’t-be-measured” heart of service delivery and communicate that to their teams. Ask the hard questions, dig into how users use services and technology to enable business outcomes, and start capturing and pointing out those immeasurable wins, just as often as you count the measurable wins.

At the end of the day, the numbers at the bottom of the spreadsheet will still matter. But the real story of IT goes far beyond the numbers on the spreadsheet. The real story is the one that’s told and heard throughout the floors away from the C-suite. It’s the story that really matters- the story of the employee’s experience.

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Future-Proofing Higher Education With Employee Experience

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Higher education is facing many obstacles. The entire industry has shifted over the last few years and many higher education institutions are having to adjust how they operate to meet those changes. This article will explore how employee experience and good service management can help higher education institutions overcome those obstacles.

The Changes in Higher Education

One of the biggest changes in higher education is the shifting student demographic. Just a few years ago, student populations were made up of 18-22-year-olds, who lived on campus, went to school full-time, and were working toward a 4-year degree. Today, many students are adult learners, part-time students or taking classes completely online. Many individuals are questioning whether a traditional higher education degree is worth the financial burden and are opting out of traditional higher education altogether.

Additionally, students on campus are dealing with different struggles than past students. Many students are forced to balance multiple jobs while in school to make ends meet. This has resulted in students struggling with increased financial pressure and higher education has become plagued with mental health problems.

And on top of all of those changes, higher education is struggling with decreased funding, increased competition, and budget cuts. Higher education institutions must find innovative and cost-effective ways to engage current, prospective, and past students. The best, easiest and smartest way to do that is by engaging their employees.

The Need for Engaged Employees

Perhaps most worrisome among higher education institutions is that they are struggling with employee engagement. Simply stated – many higher education faculty and staff members are not engaged. Gallup performed a detailed study on employee engagement across several industries. After performing 258 million interviews including 75,000 with faculty and staff members, Gallup found that just 34% of faculty and staff within higher education are engaged at work. This engagement score is lower than most of the industries that Gallup measures.

Unengaged employees could be costing institutions at the bottom line. The faculty are often the institution’s frontline for their students. An engaged faculty can provide students with tools they need to overcome the obstacles they’re facing, which will not only help students stay at the institution, but can help create a dedicated and successful alumni network.

Also, engaged employees are more likely to stay at the institution. Studies have shown that focusing on employee engagement can result in better retention rates and cost savings over time. In fact, according to the American Council on Education, Iowa State University estimates an average savings of more than $83,000 per faculty member retained when engagement practices are applied. Employee turnover can be costly – so imagine how much that adds up over time when good faculty members are retained!

The Institution’s Role in Employee Experience

The question is what can the institution do to support employee experience? Mike Bollinger, global AVP of thought leadership and advisory services for Cornerstone OnDemand notes, “Faculty and staff members help create the student experience, and it’s up to the institution to provide their employees with the learning curriculum, professional development opportunities and recognition they deserve to help both higher education employees and their students succeed.”

Higher education institutions can leverage technology and services to create a better employee experience that includes professional development, learning opportunities, and better operational management.

Digital is an obvious choice for most of these experiences. Higher institutions are already successfully implementing digital-first experiences like digital workflows, online onboarding, training programs, and online learning management systems.

But future-proofing higher education with employee experience requires more than creating digital-first experiences. Technology alone won’t guarantee an exceptional employee experience. Good service management is necessary. The service management I’m referring to is not just IT service management. I’m referring to the holistic approach of delivering value through the use of services, based on the use of technology. Some refer to this as Enterprise Service Management. Whether you call it Enterprise Service Management, service management, or IT service management, one thing needs to remain the same: you must focus on how organizations can co-create value and then deliver that value using technology.

What can higher education leaders do to create exceptional employee experiences?

Institutions must acknowledge the silos that exist among their faculty and staff before they can begin to consider the technological needs. Silos are culturally embedded in higher education institutions. There are silos between faculty and staff. There are silos among adjuncts, full-time professors and tenured professors, as well as, silos among departments. Working to create open lines of communication and to empower the entire institution to collaborate to run higher education as a business. It’s important that both faculty and staff adapt their thinking and actions in terms of value and outcomes instead of activities and things.

This is where IT can take the lead within an institution. Higher education CIOs can work with the rest of the institution to understand the overall goals and determine how technology can help the institution meet those goals.

There are two steps a CIO can take to begin this process.

Identify, map, and manage value streams
When a CIO maps value streams across the institution and identifies where technology is used to support those value streams, they can begin to identify and eliminate redundant spending and waste. They can also begin to find process improvements that can support better employee experience.

Establish an experience center
An experience center is a little like an expanded IT service desk. It is a single point of contact for reporting and managing service issues. Successful experience centers have well-defined processes supporting defined value streams. The experience center can benefit both the student and the faculty and staff as it supports the entire engagement lifecycle of both the students and the faculty. It reduces any frustrations or problems using technology so they can be quickly solved.

Higher education is evolving and the evolution isn’t going to slow down any time soon. While there are many questions about the future of higher education, one thing that remains certain is that the time is now to engage employees and strengthen the brand, operations and bottom line of an institution. This approach of addressing and improving the employee experience of faculty and staff on the front line can create a ripple effect that will leave the end-users, the students, feeling satisfied, cared for and supported by their institutions.

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AI: The Key To a Human Employee Experience

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Employees expect a personalized experience in their use of technology at work. This is due to the proliferation of technology in our personal lives.

Think about how employees interact with technology at home. When they wake up, they ask Alexa about the weather. They use their smartwatch to track their activity and heart rate throughout the day. They program their lamps to turn on automatically every evening and save their most frequented destinations into Siri for easy navigation.

Since employees know the capabilities of technology, they expect to be able to use technology at work in similar ways. In other words, the employee experience has become “consumerized.” Every process must be digitized and personalized.

While most organizations prefer to focus on customer experience, employee experience is just as important, especially in today’s market. It costs organizations to frequently replace team members, both in productivity and cash. Employee Benefit News reports that it costs 33% of an employee’s salary to replace them. Replacing departing employees rarely happens within a 2 week time period and remaining team members are often overloaded with work in the interim, causing them stress and costing the organization productivity.

Additionally, employees are more likely to leave after shorter tenures with a company. Workers are now job-hopping more often, typically staying at a company for less than 2 years. 64% of all adults in the workforce favor job hopping, which is a 22% increase from four years ago according to a survey by Robert Half.

If organizations want to attract high-level candidates and retain their best workers, they have to prioritize employee experience. Luckily, technology, especially AI, can help provide a better employee experience and perhaps, even a more human one.

It sounds counterintuitive – the idea that machines and robots can create a more human, interconnected employee experience. But it’s true. I’ll examine a few ways that AI can create a more human experience for employees.

Let’s start with one of the simplest but most important parts of the employee experience.

Listening to employees is one of the most effective ways leaders can provide a quality employee experience. In fact, according to a 2016 study by the Center for Generational Kinetics, managers can improve employee retention 75% just by listening to and addressing employee concerns. In small organizations, it’s not too difficult to do this. You can gather everyone into the same room and have a conversation about needs and wants. However, for larger organizations, it’s difficult to listen at scale to what employees want without the help of AI.

Standardized employee surveys are helpful for understanding how your organization compares to others in your industry but they rarely provide insight into the individual employee experience. However, AI-enabled surveys can help managers understand the unique needs of each employee. AI-enabled surveys can present qualitative, open-ended questions and can provide deeper learnings by utilizing sentiment analysis. If an employee answers negatively to a specific question, AI can trigger a follow-up question that will provide deeper insight into why that person responded negatively. This gives the manager an opportunity to act on the feedback and follow up with all of the details.

There are several AI-enabled communication analysis tools such as ADP Compass and Humu that can do this on a regular basis. These tools review anonymized emails and Slack conversations and will analyze keywords and word patterns to give managers insights on employee morale.

Other tools can track job performance and employee surveys and create suggestions for managers on when to provide positive recognition.

Another area where employees can use a human element to their employee experience is training and professional development. According to Gallup, professional career growth is a top job priority of 87% of millennials and it’s just as important to 69% of non-millennials.

But employees need more than online courses or quarterly workshops. Everyone learns differently and organizations can provide personalized learning experiences with the help of AI and machine learning.

Machine learning can determine how every individual employee learns and can suggest specific learning methods to managers so the manager can create a personalized training. AI can also be used to gamify learning opportunities that can engage employees. AI will provide managers with results and insights into the performance of their teams and help with planning for future training opportunities.

We’re just at the beginning of an AI-enabled workplace, but leaders should be looking now into how they can tap into the data that AI/ML can provide about their employees. The use of AI provides management with continual opportunities to engage on a personal level in response to continual employee feedback.

Before you start deploying these tools though, HR, the C-suite, and IT must collaborate to learn how best to manage these tools. The introduction of AI may cause some concern among employees and can take on a “big brother” quality if it’s not managed properly.

Enterprise service management best practices such as identifying and mapping value streams, creating collaborative, inter-departmental processes, and determining the proper metrics for success will ensure that your employee engagement technology will deliver the outcomes you want to achieve.

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What Should Your Customer Experience Look Like & How Do You Get There?

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Recently, I’ve been sharing about customer expectations and while understanding those expectations is important, you also have to have a plan for how to meet those expectations.

I am referring to the customer experience, of course. The customer experience includes every touchpoint a customer has as they interact with a brand. Customer experience has always been important. But as the world grows increasingly digital, brands are tasked with understanding and mapping the multi-channel experience that customers go through with brands.

And there’s a reason companies spend time, money and effort on mapping and optimizing these experiences. In short: they matter. Forrester found that from 2011 to 2015, revenues for companies that scored near the top of the Forrester CX Index™ outgrew the group of companies that scored poorly by more than 5 to 1.

As brands become focused on the customer experience, they are turning to a new ally, who previously has not been involved in customer experience: the CIO.

The CIO & The Customer Experience

Historically, the CIO has had little to do with the customer experience. The business leaders like sales, marketing and business development would meet to map out the experience and then, they’d ask IT to build what they needed to create that experience. But times have changed.

In a recent KPMG Survey, more than half of the CIOs surveyed reported that enhancing the customer experience is the most important business issue that boards want IT to work on.

The fact is, the CIO needs to be involved with the customer experience these days. CIOs understand the technical limitations of new technologies as well as understand current in-house capabilities. Instead of the business guessing what is possible, IT needs to work with them to create solutions that are achievable.

What A Quality Customer Experience Looks Like?

The question is, of course, what does a quality customer experience look like? If we refer back to the emerging customer expectations that I discussed in this article, a few things become clear.

The first is that customers want a “contextual, intuitive and experiential engagement.” Another way to phrase this is to design a low-effort experience.

What’s a low effort experience? To answer that, let’s first look at a high effort experience.

A customer calls a customer service line. They have the option to wait on hold for an undetermined amount of time or to have the company call them back when it’s their turn. The customer chooses to wait on hold. They wait on hold for 17 minutes when a representative finally gets on the line, asking for the person’s information. The customer then waits another minute while the representative pulls up their information and asks what the problem is. The customer explains their issue. The representative provides a textbook response that doesn’t meet the customer’s needs. The customer asks for another resolution. The representative tells them they have to transfer them to a manager. The customer then waits another few minutes on hold. Once transferred, the manager again asks for the customer’s information and the customer again waits while the manager pulls up their file. The manager tries to provide the same answer the representative does but the customer asks for another resolution. After a few minutes of back and forth, the manager tells them they will try to find another solution and that they’ll email them with a solution within a few days after they have spoken to the appropriate department.

This may sound convoluted but it happens all of the time! I’m sure many of us have encountered similar experiences when dealing with customer service problems. Consider what the customer has to endure during this exchange: multiple wait times, hearing the same information repeated, resolution to be delivered in a different format than the initial exchange. In other words, it’s a high-effort experience for the customers. According to Gartner, 96% of customers who encounter this type of interaction will become disloyal to a company.

The trick to creating low-effort experiences is to lead with the benefits or solutions to customers’ problems over the technology.

For example, if your customers want faster issue resolution, then your organization should turn to real-time text or voice chatbot that is readily accessible for customers at scale.

If customers need more information prior to purchase, consider enhancing your mobile experience or incorporating augmented reality tools so customers can visualize products in their offices or homes.

If your customers want a more personalized experience, focusing on consumer data collection and organization will be your best priority.

There is no one size fits all to delivering exceptional customer experience. It’s about listening to your consumers, paying attention to their needs and then, creating services, incorporating technology and designing processes to fit those needs.

How To Get There?

To point you in the right direction of how to create exceptional customer experiences, I am going to end this article with a question:

How do you think employee experience shapes the customer experience?

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