How IT operations can be more tied to end-user experience

IT operations have seen a substantial shift in the past year, made necessary by a rise in remote working due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These changes have included increased cloud tools for employees working from home, and adjustments to customer service initiatives to suit changing demands and more flexible locations. With this in mind, we explore how IT teams can ensure that operations are more closely tied to the end-user experience.

Introduce IT operations from the outset

Firstly, IT operations need to be integrated into projects as early as possible for the end-user experience to be truly optimised.

According to Richard Slater, head of managed services at Amido: “There’s an element of shared fate between IT operations and end-user experience, especially when it comes to site reliability engineering (SRE).

“Integrating IT operations too late into the development cycle can result in some very awkward end-user experiences. If stellar end-user experience is one of the goals of your project, IT operations need to be brought in as early as possible. Without early involvement from IT, bolted on security functions can impede functionality for users resulting in poor end-user experiences. If these issues were considered from the design stages, the marriage of IT operations with user experience performs far better than if one is an afterthought of the other.

“In terms of practical advice, applying metrics to measure the consequence of decisions to is a great way to tie IT operations to the end-user. The way to visualise this relationship is to think of the world of gaming. In this example, you can measure a user’s happiness by the amount of time it takes them to get into the game and model the impact that IT operations have on this figure. Does the user need to log in twice? Is this optimised properly?

“Using this approach allows you to factor in the impact of these decisions in the early stages of the project resulting in optimised end-user experiences.”

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Full-stack observability and data navigation

According to James Harvey, EMEAR CTO at Cisco AppDynamics, monitoring the whole IT estate at the organisation’s disposal can go a long way in remaining competitive and keeping pace with customer expectations.

“For IT teams the pressure is on,” said Harvey. “The pandemic has forced a rapid acceleration of digital transformation programs and cloud computing initiatives in particular.

“The recent Agents of Transformation report found that enterprise organisations implemented digital transformation at three times the speed of any previous year. This has created a more complex IT estate across which it is much harder to monitor performance and identify issues quickly. 78% of technologists reported that technology sprawl across a patchwork of legacy and cloud technologies had increased complexity over the last year.

“To respond to these challenges technologists need to monitor the full IT estate, from traditional, legacy IT systems through to new, hybrid cloud environments. This concept is known as full-stack observability – the ability to monitor the entire IT stack, from customer-facing applications down to core network and infrastructure, and it’s vital for technologists wanting to identify and fix performance issues before they adversely affect customers and the business. However, on its own, full-stack observability isn’t enough to tackle the layers of complexity now engulfing IT departments.

“IT operations teams need to quickly navigate through the data deluge to pinpoint the most critical data and contextualise IT performance insights with real-time business data. They need to observe what matters most by quickly understanding how it impacts the business, this will help them to prioritise actions, innovations and investments based on the direct impact to customers and the business.”

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Scheduling software and remote assistance

With end-users expecting technology to be simple and efficient, and sub-standard tech proving to lead to remote workers wanting to leave the company, it’s never been more vital for IT to keep employees and customers in mind when developing software.

Simon Gould, chief product officer at Totalmobile, cited scheduling software and remote assistance as two kinds of tools that can support remote workers and clients. He said: “It is more important than ever now to ensure that mobile workforces can carry out their jobs safely and quickly, and reduce the amount of unnecessary face-to-face contact with customers.

“Whether it’s maintenance workers out fixing boilers, or social care workers checking in on elderly and vulnerable individuals – having the most easy to use IT solutions to help ensure their jobs run smoothly is a must. Users today expect technology to be simple and efficient, and solutions like this are key to tech adoption and empowering frontline staff.

“Scheduling software is one such solution that is supporting these workers. These applications can identify the locations of jobs and schedule them for the day so that employees travel the most efficient route and don’t spend time going back on themselves. It is simple but effective. They also ensure that the right resources are sent to the right jobs, reducing the number of repeat visits that are needed for maintenance work, for example.

“Video-based remote assistance is another technology that is helping companies with remote workers to improve both end user and customer experience. An individual can attend a maintenance job, and should they require advice, they can use the video livestream to show a supervisor the situation they’re dealing with and complete the job themselves under guidance. In other circumstances, support can be given directly to the customer to enable them to resolve simple fixes themselves. This reduces the number of workers that need to attend a site, helping the business to deploy resources more widely than before whilst giving sometimes less experienced workers the support they need to develop their skills.”

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Digital supply chain management

Finally, Ian Waters, senior director of EMEA marketing at ThousandEyes (part of Cisco), recommends ensuring that the entire digital supply chain is managed, including any blind spots that may have occurred.

Waters explained: “Knowing how customers and employees experience digital websites, applications and online services is paramount to any business. Today, customer and employee experiences start with digital.

“To ensure that those end-user experiences stay always-on and always-fast, IT operations need the ability to manage the entire digital supply chain that delivers those experiences. But today’s digital supply chain is more complex than ever before, powered by a host of external services that lie outside of enterprise control.

“To overcome those blind spots, IT operations will need to implement monitoring solutions that go beyond today’s siloed approach, and deliver complete end-to-end insights from the front-end experience to the back-end infrastructure that impacts it.

“With access to that level of real performance data, IT operations teams can test out new cloud applications and online services before they go live, thereby minimising the risk of pushing out updates that negatively impact the end-user experience.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.