Is your IT Service Team hitting its agreed SLAs but still not delivering value for money?
You’re not alone.
It’s a common problem to experience the ‘Watermelon Effect’, and it’s why many ITSM teams are adding XLAs (Experience Level Agreements) to their usual SLAs, as they look to improve their user experience, efficiency, and the relationship they have with their customers.
This is Chapter 2 in Service Desk Improvement Manager Ron’s story. The other chapters can be found here:
This is Ron's story...
Chapter 2: The big meeting
A dissatisfied client
It’s now 9:05 and everyone is in the room, except for Nick. Two of his colleagues, identically dressed in baby blue shirts and navy suit jackets, are cheerfully discussing last night’s Champions League results. Ron couldn’t care less about football right now; he knows he is going to be on the frontline taking flack. If things go south today, it will be his head on the chopping block. His colleague Lisa from Account Management is also there – she will be in for it too.
Poole, a long-term customer, has had plenty of ups and downs with Ron’s Managed Service Provider (MSP) team in the last 8 years. However, Ron’s team at Crodwell has always managed to turn it around at the renewal; maintaining the revenue but losing out on more and more margin each time. In fact, based on his calculations, they barely broke even last year. And now, just one year from another renewal, he must deal with yet more ire from the customer. “Is it even worth it?” Ron thinks to himself.
“Alright, here you are,” says Poole’s Head of Service Delivery Nick, 8 minutes fashionably late, dropping his heavy backpack on the desk and swiftly removing his laptop. His tall frame is dressed in a white, slightly oversized shirt and dark blue jeans. Sweat is visibly soaking his attire, reaching the tips of his messy hair.
“I would apologise for being late but there’s obviously no time for that,” says Nick in a raised voice, firmly.
“Let’s call this what this is – a mess. I am not happy; I would imagine you are not happy. But here we are, almost a decade later, still doing this, failing each other repeatedly. Unless a miracle happens, we are not extending this contract.”
Words resonating around the room into an uncomfortable silence. Still standing, Nick clenches his fists, resting them on top of the desk in front of him.
“The way I see it, we have an agreement that is unfit for purpose. We pay you per ticket, which disincentivises you to care about preventing incidents. We get a terrible service, yet you report all of your SLAs to be hit…and I do not see you doing anything to make the situation better.” Nick stops, looking straight at Ron.
“You’re 100% right, Nick.” Says Ron, to the surprise of everyone in the room, especially Lisa, who is staring at him with worried, questioning eyes.
“From our perspective, this account has been nothing but pain and I am fed up with not being able to provide you the service you need,” he says calmly, looking to de-escalate the tension in the room by reaching mutual agreement. “The way the contract is built disincentivises us from problem management, whilst creating a Watermelon Effect.”
“So, what are you doing about it?!” spits out Nick, accusingly.
“Drawing a big thick line and completely turning this decade-old agreement on its head.” Ron replies in a calm, controlled manner. Curious where this may be heading, Nick takes a deep, sceptical breath, and a seat, as Ron continues, “Imagine a world where Crodwell, your MSP, is a partner rather than just a service provider,” whilst watching Nick roll his eyes as he has heard this a million times.
“To do so properly, we are going to build it on your desired value outcomes and introduce XLAs alongside your SLAs, with a 2-year roadmap and a continual improvement program in place. Let’s not kid ourselves that we can do this overnight. It will require a cultural, process, as well as technology change but, with the right mindset and stakeholders accountable on both sides, we will be able to set realistic expectations and targets. How does that sound?” asks Ron excitedly.
“Promises, promises – I want to see results, or we are out!” Nick’s dilated pupils and widened nostrils suggest this really is Crodwell’s last chance.
To divert Nick’s stare at Ron, Lisa suggests, “Why don’t Ron and I come to your offices next week and present the improvement plan to you?”
All agree times and dates, and the team from Poole leaves.
A Whole New Approach, or Overpromising?
As soon as the door closes, Lisa turns to Ron, “What the heck was that, Ron, you know we can’t promise what we can’t deliver! Where will we get all the resources and tools to pull this off?” But Ron is not looking to lose his calm this early in the day for the second time.
“Look, think of Poole as an account that is written off. Gone. Time to say bye-bye,” says Ron. “We are not getting it back with what we have been doing, until now. We now have an opportunity to fight for this account as if it was new. With a brand-new approach, applying the latest trends in the industry, we can even use it as a guinea pig for a POC to help us get ahead in the market.”
“Do whatever you want, Ron, but if this does not work out, I am not the one who is going to be responsible for this,” says Lisa, shaking her head.
“And if it does work out well? Are you taking the glory?”
“Would you not rather team up with me and make it work together so that you can be a part of this fundamental change in our MSP offering?”
“Show me the plan. Give me the numbers, the ROI. I will decide then if I want to be involved,” replies Lisa as she is leaving the room to go into another meeting. It is her reputation that is at stake.
Ron knows he has a week to come up with a completely transformative way to turn their whole MSP operation around. “A week! What have I done to myself?!” he hears himself saying out loud in an empty room; symbolically similar to his situation. He finds this morning’s notes in his pocket and thinks to himself: “Alright. Here we are. No time to waste. What are the immediate next steps?”
- Track down June – she seems to know stuff!
- Read up more on XLA and Experience Management – need inspiration!
- Find case studies and testimonials, speak to them – learn from their mistakes!
- Outline the customer’s needs and requirements (demand).
- Define what we need to deliver (value).
- Understand who will need to be brought on board.
- Calculate financial investment required (if any).
- Create a prospective timeline to implementation.
- Outline a roadmap for continual improvement.
- Create a slide deck for Poole.
- Pitch to June, Lisa, Tanya and Mick.
- Improve presentation based on the feedback.
- Pitch to Poole.
All of these go on top of Ron’s usual day-to-day workload; this will be no small feat. Just a couple more meetings to tackle before his quest to find June begins.
Service Experience Management (SXM) and the introduction of Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) have been topics widely discussed at various industry conferences in the last few years. This four-episode blog article takes us on Ron’s journey through an introduction of SXM and XLAs at an MSP. Identify where to start, who you need on board, and what it will take to kick such cultural, process and technological change at your organisation.
For more information about Experience Management please take a look at the below links: