Any organization that has even a modest level of IT infrastructure does IT service monitoring (ITSM) to ensure that everything is operating within performance mandates codified in service level agreements (SLAs). If the IT organization is meeting its SLAs, it’s assumed that the experience the employee has interacting with this infrastructure is good. But that isn’t always the case, and the IT group might not even be aware.
For instance, an enterprise application might be working just fine for most users, but for one or a few users in particular, it could be especially slow. Unless those people call the help desk to complain, who would ever know that they are suffering? Sometimes people just accept that some aspect of IT functions poorly, and they carry on the best they can, even if it affects their productivity.
For an enterprise with 10,000 employees, an average of nearly 25,000 unreported problems that end users encounter and “live with” cost the company more than 900,000 hours in lost productivity each year. And the problem is growing worse as hybrid IT environments grow more complex.
A nascent discipline known as digital experience management (DEM) is gaining attention as the means to get back those lost productivity manhours and to reduce the burden of unnecessary trouble tickets coming into the help desk. Like ITSM, DEM involves monitoring for performance issues and putting in place “experience level agreements,” or XLAs, that define how promptly end users’ issues will be addressed.
Recent research by Enterprise Management Association shows that both IT and non-IT executives believe there is a strong need for DEM. The fact is businesses run on digital services, and understanding what’s going on in every worker’s computing environment is the first step to operational efficiency. Everything can be fine on the infrastructure side, but a user’s experience can be poor for a variety of reasons. Perhaps his Wi-Fi is slow, or he needs a driver update, or he has a browser plug-in that is causing conflicts. These things aren’t obvious unless they are measured and analyzed.
With DEM, the service agents staffing the help desk can gain visibility into each user’s contextual experience, so they can know what is going on even before they get a call from a frustrated user. They can be proactive rather than reactive — something that every CIO wants to achieve. The DevOps team can get feedback on how to develop or optimize applications. DEM can help with application portfolio planning, to know what apps are being used and which ones aren’t, what the business outcomes are, and what business processes need to be enhanced with better applications.
A platform for digital experience monitoring
The Swiss company Nexthink has developed a digital experience platform that combines monitoring, user engagement, analytics and automation — all from the emplyee’s perspective. The company claims that its modular platform provides the ability to manage the full employee digital experience cycle, from issue detection to employee engagement to resolution, all from a single console.
The process starts with a lightweight collector installed on users’ devices. This agent collects activities and metrics such as performance issues, unused software, browser requests, policy breaches, network connections, program executions, and hundreds of other pieces of information that, together, tell a story of what a user is doing and experiencing.
This full context of the user activity is fed to the Nexthink Engine where it is processed and interpreted in real time. From there, the data is aggregated for high-level consumption in a user-friendly portal, as well as for more granular and deep use in the Nexthink Finder. The data provided in these two facilities provides IT, support, operations teams, and executives with the visibility and intelligence needed to act on, engage with, and remediate the entire employee IT experience.
Nexthink uses employee engagement to help qualify a problem from the user’s perspective. This process engages users in conversations when they are experiencing a situation in order to gather unique contextual interaction and feedback and to send targeted notifications in real time. This conversation enables the help desk to understand if the choices they have for remediation or repair are the right ones to apply and if this is the right time to do it. For instance, if a remediation effort requires rebooting the user’s computer, the help desk can interact directly with the user to know when it is a good time to reboot the device.
The engagement process could solicit feedback relating to technical issues such as the stability and speed of an application, or to the user in particular, like whether he needs more training on a topic. The important thing is that the help desk can interact with users in a contextual way as they are consuming services, applications, devices, and so on.
Nexthink considers the user engagement feature to be a real differentiator from other digital employee experience management tools. The company believes that end user feedback, captured in the moment, is essential for understanding, resolving and verifying the resolution of issues.
The user analytics can use both factual information from the metrics collected, as well as subjective information from the user engagement process. The analytics process helps to understand not only what is really going on, but also what to do to resolve the issue, which Nexthink calls experience automation. It’s the ability to recommend an action based on findings, automate the action to execute the fix, and then verify the fix through user engagement again.
Monitor user behavior for suspicious activity
Naturally, there is a security element to these processes. Monitoring user behaviors and what’s happening around the user could possibly detect suspicious activity that is indicative of early stages of a cyber attack. In this case, the help desk can initiate a user engagement to inform the user that he and his device have been observed doing something that is out of compliance. At the same time, Nexthink integrates with popular security incident and event management (SIEM) tools to pass along details such as what happened in the history of the device so that security experts can quickly investigate the incident.
Nexthink also has connectors to service management tools such as ServiceNow. Nexthink is able to feed the configuration management database (CMDB) with the user information it has collected, which makes ServiceNow much more aware of the user’s activities and dependencies. When a ticket is opened on the service desk side, all the performance metrics that have been measured from the user’s environment get loaded to help the agent understand the full context of the problem.
Then the service agent can use Nexthink’s automation capabilities to resolve the issue. In this way, Level One support agents can address many more problems without having to escalate them, and if the problems are escalated, the Level Two analysts get more visibility and more information to help work the case. This lessens the cost of support overall.
IT systems in general are becoming more customer-centric or user-centric. This shift recognizes that IT systems exist to make processes better for the people who use them. Digital experience management is an efficient and effective way to ensure that employees can optimize their productivity when consuming IT services.