How IT can Improve User Experience

Hacker sitting at laptop

MSPs live or die by whether they keep their clients, and the end users, happy. IT managers face the same circumstances at their shops.

The bottom line is that both sets of professionals must create a positive end-user experience. That takes IT efficiency, IT maturity, and then measuring to make sure the steps you have taken are working.

Do your Research

You cannot evaluate what you do not measure. There are two ways to get to the end-user satisfaction bottom line: The first is quantitative – or data-based. Here you can use tools such as Qualtrics survey software, Survey Monkey, as well as metrics such as support tickets, usage behavior information, and other measures you may have at hand. This is in addition to your regular network and application performance measures, which give a good view of the overall infrastructure.

Just as important is qualitative information, which can be based on interviews, observation, focus groups, and your personal interactions with end users.

The qualitative information can reveal specific problems encountered by users, and how worrisome these problems are to the actual employee. This level of detail is critical to remediations aimed at boosting satisfaction.

Turn Understanding into Action

Once you have a handle on actual user needs, you need a plan to address them. As part of this, define and describe technology and data needs. To do so, interpret user insight, and catalog needs and how IT can address them.

Here are three considerations:

  • Priority of all users (some are more special)
  • Users’ priorities
  • Importance vs. effort

This means that not all users are created equal. The CEO, for instance, is more important than a paralegal. You also have to understand what is important to the user – what tasks are essential to performing his or her job.

With old-style IT techniques, providing end-user satisfaction means a lot of handholding. Moreover, when problems occur, admins are forced to run from building to building to fix them. If this is still your process, you should focus on improvement. Here is how you do it:

  • Lay the groundwork for automation
  • Automate patching
  • Establish layered security
  • Prevent users from harming themselves
  • Provide basic monitoring (e.g., up/down to find whether systems or the network are operating

Automation brings efficiency, and allows you to take control, create predictability, and use your time wisely. That means that now you can begin to think strategically.

Transition from Reactive to Proactive

There is no shortage of IT maturity models, which are guidelines on how to create and optimize a progressive IT infrastructure. Kaseya developed its own maturity model that builds on top of earlier works and is tailored to the needs of SMBs and MSPs.

As you can see in the graphic, the lowest stage, Reactive, is the most stressful, least efficient, and produces the smallest amount of increased business value. It is as close to an ad hoc scenario as you can imagine.

This stage is characterized by IT departments and MSPs dealing with short-term reality and not having the time to think and act in a true forward-looking way. There is no blame here, but things can be done in a far better way. Without proper planning and processes, IT is too busy fighting fires that have to do with keeping the lights on without being able to focus on new services. The result is a constant struggle and scramble to fix problems.

These weaknesses become apparent as business leaders and the IT department or MSP spot the inefficiencies and have no choice but to confront them.

The solution is to aspire to a higher level. This is not for the sake of ego; it is for the sake of IT efficiency. While it is great to want to move to the very highest levels, so much can be achieved by moving from reactive to proactive. In fact, it represents a revolution in how IT tasks are performed.

With the Proactive level, you are really getting somewhere – somewhere good. The key is using IT automation to make operations safer and more efficient.

This way, a majority of IT grunt work is done away with as these tasks are automated and guaranteed to take place on a consistent basis – including patching and updating systems, installing new virus definitions, and more.

Maintenance can be automated and based on events. For example, if a disk is too full, it can be automatically cleaned up. Backups can be redone in the case of an earlier failure without admin involvement.

Even better, automation can be applied to problem solving. And not just in reaction to problems, but in order to proactively identify emerging problems and often solve them without significant IT staff intervention.

This stage is a huge breakthrough and those who have reached it should be proud. However, IT services do not yet always precisely meet business needs – such as adopting new services or applications to make end users more productive or the company more competitive.

IT Maturity Resources

Kaseya has resources that help you figure out your own maturity level, and how you can move to a higher level.

Benchmarking Your-IT Maturity offers an overview IT maturity for SMBs and MMEs.

And we have a streaming webinar Best Practices to Benchmark Your IT Maturity Level.

Posted by Doug Barney
Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.
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