Survey-style measurement of IT isn’t effective, a ‘rigged lottery’

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This post is by Yassine Zaied, chief strategy officer at Nexthink  

“I feel like my job performance is based on a rigged lottery.” That’s what the director of end user computing at a large European bank told me two weeks ago. Every quarter, her company runs an NPS (Net Promoter Score)–style survey asking employees about their IT experience. If you work in a corporate setting, you’ve probably seen these questionnaires before:
How would you rate your IT department?
0 (very dissatisfied)–2–3–4–5–6–7–8–9–10 (very satisfied)
The director went on to say “The response rates we receive rarely exceed 10%, and yet our leadership still judges us heavily on this data. It’s a sham, but what can we do?” Anyone in the field of research could tell you, those who do respond to this type of prompt most likely have negative feedback and see the survey as an opportunity to air their grievances.

When it comes to IT, employees often think in very personal terms. They take a negative experience — a slow VPN connection, for example — and they attribute that one instance to the performance of their entire IT experience. On the surface, the problem the director described appears to be about unhappy users and a shoddy survey, but if you dig deeper, it’s always the same issue at play: Most IT teams are not comprehensively measuring and managing their employee experience.

Is a quarterly or monthly survey enough to gauge sentiment? Especially if your response rates are low? Surely there must be a smarter way.

No index, no baseline, no sanity

I see an immense amount of pressure being placed on end-user computing leaders to deliver fast, reliable digital environments for employees. But direction from the top is rarely based on reality, or the closest thing you can get to reality: indexing.

How many industries rely upon some sort of index to help rate and track success? If the Human Development Index (HDI) can tell us what the average standard of living, health and knowledge in a country is, and the S&P 500 can tell us the health of the U.S. stock market, then why can’t IT measure an organization’s overall Digital Employee Experience?

I recently spoke with a friend who works as the IT manager at a high-growth U.S. SaaS company. He told me that his team dedicates dozens of hours of work based on the whims of the department’s technology leaders. “You’d be amazed how many multimillion-dollar IT initiatives are based on gut feelings,” he explained.

I sensed his frustration came mainly from not having a single source of truth to work from. He explained, “It’s like the goal posts keep being moved on us.” His team feels pressure to fix a problem, they respond, but they don’t know what impact their work has across the user base. “Tomorrow could be a new priority and a new definition of success. That’s a crazy way to work.”

Taking back control

Far too often IT teams can get lost in their own technical metrics, unable to gauge what the average employee might be experiencing from a technology perspective. The strange thing is that we know a strong digital work experience contributes to business benefits like longer employee retention, organizational resiliency and higher revenue, but the crux of the matter lies in that first part.

How can IT even quantify an experience?  Indexing can help. If you compile the right mix of real-time technical data and employee satisfaction feedback, you can set a baseline that forces your department to live closer to reality and work off the same script. Your focus needs to be on understanding, as accurately as possible, each employee’s full digital work journey. You can measure and set a technical performance index score based on each employee’s device, business applications, connectivity, and productivity and collaboration tools—that will tell you the employee’s technical reality.  Then you can combine that information with user feedback that is statistically significant.

How do you collect statistically significant data?  Boost response rates from employees by sending them smart onscreen push notifications at the right time and in the right context. For example, if an employee is completing a particular transaction, say in MS Teams, and you want to receive feedback, ask a question immediately after they complete that transaction, not before or hours later.

Building an ‘experience’ culture

After I finished speaking with my friend in the U.S., I started thinking about a lesson from my old MBA professor at IMD Switzerland that has stuck with me all these years. The professor used to lecture the class on the difference between running a quality control procedure versus a quality control culture.

A company that operates under the former typically runs quality control checks and feedback after they’ve finished the work. That practice is far inferior to a quality control culture where a company runs real-time quality checks on every conceivable step in the production process, to the point where continuous improvement becomes embedded in the company’s culture and becomes part of its DNA.

The example that always comes to mind is the famous Six Sigma business philosophy. And that’s the same approach IT needs to take when it comes to Digital Employee Experience.

DEX is too important to manage by only running a brief survey every now and then on a small user group. You should measure it factually, based on sound technical metrics and sentiment data, and at every step of your employee’s digital journey. And whether it’s a major IT initiative or a day-to-day project, everything in your IT department should be judged and compared to the same overarching index or score.

Otherwise, what’s the point of all those hours enterprise IT dedicates to solving their company’s digital experience problems if the work isn’t being measured and treated in the same way?

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