Mind the gap: How business leaders and IT departments are growing further apart

In a new commissioned survey by Forrester Consulting, less than 2 out of 10 business users today think that IT is aligned with the needs of the business. Equally concerning is the fact that less than 2 out of 10 end users believe that IT helps reduce frequency of issues, offers updates to improve productivity or delivers projects on time. 

Customer satisfaction plays a pivotal role in most business models and in that sense, IT’s own model should be no different. The experience of the end user is a key indicator of whether both investment and effort are paying off as they should. But without detailed knowledge gathered at the coalface it is hard to determine where the greatest shortcomings are, and where time and investment are not only needed but most effective.   

IT teams needs to have visibility into the actual experience of the end user to fully understand whether that experience is up to par and capable of meeting the demands of the modern enterprise. Understanding the actual vs. theoretical experience is critical to ensuring the IT team has the real facts they need to quickly address and evolve experience to meet the demands of a dynamic, digital workplace – this a key factor that sets apart successful teams. In other words, customer satisfaction is a direct reflection of the effectiveness and success of the CIO and his or her team. But in reality, if end users are not as happy as they are perceived to be, then something is fundamentally amiss. 

The results below illustrate the scale of the current gap in perception: 

What these results show is a widening perception gap between what IT practitioners consider satisfactory levels of service delivery and performance compared to the evident dissatisfaction experienced by end users. In other words, end users are much less confident in IT than IT is in itself. 

Where the survey drilled down to specific services that IT delivers, the results consistently laid bare the same gap. Once again, where end users rate specific services negatively, IT believes that end users are satisfied. 

And if that is not food for thought, according to the same survey, only 34% of end users think their satisfaction is a priority for IT. Crucially, it is not the case that IT has stopped caring about end-user satisfaction, but rather the tools currently used to monitor it have not kept pace with user demand and the evolving complexity of what the business needs.  In particular, the answer may lie in the way end-user feedback is gathered.   

Current feedback channels are not enough 

The study also revealed that a staggering 80% of IT practitioners said they face challenges with any one of a number of feedback methods used by IT to collect information about user experience. This includes internal social channel monitoring, regular in-person interviews and meetings as well as surveys collected post-service request.   

For IT practitioners to better understand the issues and challenges that end users endure, they have to seek their advice. Doing so however, requires that IT departments address the problems with the feedback methods they currently employ.    

These methods are not only time consuming, but they lack standardisation, consistency and scale. Moreover the information is gathered with a distance of time and context, which contributes to an inaccurate picture. If an employee is highly frustrated with a slow machine or an application that repeatedly crashes today, an annual IT survey gathered eight months down the line is unlikely to provide sufficient or accurate feedback. 

Feedback is most effective when it is regular, ongoing, causes minimal disruption and above all, is gathered in real-time. At a time when so many elements of IT are increasingly automated, it may come as a surprise that an important area such as end-user feedback is left to ineffective and arbitrary manual collection methods. 

Where there is consensus 

The study however did not reflect a complete dovetailing of perceptions. Notably 50% of IT and users agree that IT is not currently meeting expectations for service. Similarly, 50% of IT and users were also in agreement that IT needs to be more pro-active in resolving issues. Moreover, 75% of IT and users said that IT needs to reduce MTTR (Mean Time To Resolution). 

Many studies have shown that employee satisfaction increases productivity, and most IT practitioners would agree that there is always room for improvement. A CEO would never be happy to know that less than half of his or her customers were satisfied with the products or services that their organisation provides, so why should it be any different for a CIO?   

How to close the gap? 

There needs to be a shift to a more proactive model that better serves end users’ actual and real-time needs. In addition there are instances where issues are not reported for various reasons, such as the user trying to tackle a glitch by conferring with colleagues for a faster resolution or not being aware that there is a simple fix for an underlying inefficiency. For instance, an employee might make up for a painfully slow boot up time by making a cup of coffee in the morning or similarly, leave a slow machine to shut down unattended in the evening, creating  a gaping security hole that is vulnerable to potential breaches and data theft. All this, not to mention the accumulative downtime that inefficiency creates, ultimately bruises revenue.   

Conversely, when end-user experience monitoring is automated the gap in perception is significantly narrowed by the availability of hard data gathered through continuous communication and feedback. This also helps IT align its business KPIs using contextual end-user feedback enabling it to proactively tailor and fine tune service delivery to the needs of the business.   

The key to tackling this gap is by understanding what matters most to end users. Establishing a system where feedback is collected as and when problems arise will increase not only reactivity but also the accuracy of the feedback. Effective understanding of end users’ needs requires that IT establishes a better line of communication—— seeking and receiving immediate feedback in the context of the activities end users perform in order to better provide proactive solutions. Improved overall visibility enables IT to pinpoint the exact endpoint and nature of a user issue before it has impacted the user’s experience or crucially, before a more critical event snowballs impacting the wider network.  

Vincent Bieri, Co-founder and Board Member of Nexthink 

Image Credit: SFIO CRACHO / Shutterstock