Article by Elie Dib, Senior Managing Director, METNA at Riverbed
Today, the role of the CIO and IT department is more closely aligned than ever to business operations. This is because in order to ensure a seamless digital transformation, both CIOs and their IT departments have to be able to ensure that business objectives are at the centre of their strategies. In fact, this is critical if they want to drive innovation, deliver better customer satisfaction levels, increase workforce productivity and reduce bottom line costs during a new project.
There is one element of IT delivery that is, however, often overlooked within all these considerations. This is ensuring excellence in user experience. It is the most fundamental measure of success, as without measuring this before and after any digital transformation programme, there are no empirical metrics to help validate claims of any clear change in the experience with confidence. And user experience often determines increase of productivity, employee engagement, cost savings and can also result in better customer service being delivered.
There are four common barriers to digital transformation initiatives. Below, we explore the steps an enterprise can take to overcome them.
- Operational inefficiency
Business unit leaders and IT professionals, are often summoned to a war-room meetings to explain why an IT-related project or change aimed at improving business productivity or customer service resulted in so much negative feeling toward the initiative. Unfortunately, this is often because all parties are not aligned. More often than not, these situations can easily be avoided by first starting at the vantage point of the end user experience to see how IT services are being consumed.
Both business unit leaders and IT professionals need to sit down together and map out objectives and KPIs for technology changes. The plan could be tested with a small group of end users. But ultimately if both parties know what the outcome must be, there is no room for confusion in delivery – and it can help both parties to get back to their respective roles in supporting the business.
- Sub-optimal application performance
Organisations are using hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications. New applications are constantly being deployed, whether the new version are upgrades or replacements for old legacy applications. This all brings risk. Poor application performance can significantly impact competitiveness, and, in sectors such as healthcare, can directly affect patient care or put sensitive data at risk.
Application upgrades can be a key catalyst for issues that impact productivity. With so much variation in hardware, location, network, and user expectation across the business, it becomes an ever bigger and more complex task to thoroughly test every combination of how an application could be consumed by different users. Data centre monitoring solutions are partially helpful in reporting on the availability of centrally hosted applications, backed by reports and dashboards with lots of positive results. However, this information alone is rarely indicative of a positive experience for end users on the receiving end.
By contrast, effective end user experience monitoring allows benchmarks to be created over time which clearly show precise historic application performance metrics. Then, upon application upgrade or migration, any positive or negative deviation in performance can be viewed immediately with the analytics to show exactly where the change in response time and experience is occurring.
- Ineffective change management and user adoption
Adoption is key to the success of products and services. Within Riverbed’s collective frame of reference, users tend to only embrace change when they feel confident and experience an incremental improvement in their interaction with an application or desktop.
Users need to be brought on the journey of change. Reasoning behind the changes need to be explained, and effective training put in place to make any change in strategy or a transformation as positive as possible. In addition, for future change initiatives, empirical evidence in the form of data from monitoring can prove invaluable. Businesses must be able to measure system performance against end user productivity over time to ensure there’s no real negative impact, but rather only improvement.
- Poor visibility of the end user experience
The three previous topics can easily be combined within the one single category of poor visibility of the end user experience: in other words – the visibility gap. In short, this relates to the lack of insight into how IT services or change initiatives and digital transformations actually impact the experience of users, which ultimately impacts business performance.
The key thing to keep in mind is that any effect on end user experience can only be measured from the end user’s perspective of how they are consuming IT services – and with proactive alerting so when there is a deviation in performance, IT is notified directly, and doesn’t rely on the workforce calling their IT team or the CIO to complain.
So what has enables organisations to embrace IT change for the greater good of the business?
Close the visibility gap and overcome barriers to change
The bottom line is that no enterprise business can manage or improve until it can measure. Therefore, the recommendation is equally simple. Measure and benchmark your business’ existing user experience and instantly compare any variations when a change is made.
To conclude, whether the business is looking to change a specific IT component or to enable full-scale digital business transformation (in a positive manner) CIOs, IT professionals and their business unit partners need to ensure the experience for their end users is optimised as part of the project – in effect, treating them like IT consumers.
What’s more, no business can rely on IT end users as the primary source to the business to problems. To achieve this, the business needs easy access to real empirical user experience data that enables it to easily compare the before and after of changes. So, the first step in this approach, and for your next IT transformation task, is to start with end user experience to help ensure a successful outcome.