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CIOs need to move beyond IT operational measures to gain true insight

The lack of subjective understanding of the individual employee digital experience is creating serious business problems, from plummeting productivity to staff retention and reputational damage. And yet many CIOs have no idea.

Three years ago, CIOs were winning plaudits from the rest of the c-suite for the way the IT team scrambled to deliver a digital workplace within a matter of days. Now, however, the shine has faded badly. While traditional IT performance measures may point to great system uptime, utilisation and performance, the human digital experience is far from ideal. Indeed, the lack of subjective understanding of the individual employee digital experience is creating serious business problems, from plummeting productivity to staff retention and reputational damage. And yet many CIOs have no idea. 

The model has to change. CIOs need to move beyond IT operational measures and gain true insight into the day-to-day human digital experience of every employee. As Dave Page, Founder & Chief Strategy Officer, Actual Experience, explains, when up to 90% of employee time is now digital, CIOs must truly understand and improve every employee’s digital experience – or face the inevitable consequences. 

Inadequate Experience
CIOs have been living on past success for too long. It was a fantastic effort to extend digital workplace strategies at an unprecedented pace but time has moved on and CIOs have been slow to recognise the problems. Employees’ expectation of hybrid working is ubiquitous but each employee’s experience of the digital workplace is unique. They may all use the same core operational platforms, but different Wi-Fi, broadband connections, VPN set-ups, even training, will lead to an individual day to day experience. According to a recent Savanta ComRes survey, 89% of employees suffer from poor audio and video quality while working digitally, 53% say this reduces their productivity and 46% find this stressful. In turn, that is creating very significant business problems associated with digital inequality, employee disconnect and lost productivity. 

This is nothing new. The quality of the digital experience has not been reduced by widespread deployment. Or the speed of expansion. The truth is that companies have never delivered a digital environment that provided a good subjective human workplace experience. It didn’t matter as much when only 20% to 30% of employees’ time was digital – although it was hardly a great experience for those employees. Now, digital represents 60% to 90% of their time and the flaws in the quality, reliability and relevance of that digital employee experience are very evident and very costly. 

What is even worse is that the majority of CIOs can’t detect that there is a problem. HR employee survey data is out of date and irrelevant by the time it has been collated and analysed. The support trouble-ticketing system may give a hint of a problem – but the IT team has no idea if the employee complaining about Microsoft Teams is just reporting a minor glitch with the video or actively seeking alternative employment.

Wrong Data
Why is the employee digital experience so inconsistent when CIOs are awash with IT performance information? Many large businesses routinely collect terabytes of data to capture immediate insight into the way the infrastructure is operating. They know to a millisecond how web pages are responding, where network glitches are occurring and memory resources becoming strained. The problem is that this information provides zero insight into each employee’s subjective human experience, the day-to-day realities that influence well-being, retention and productivity. And when a poor digital experience can have a significant financial cost due to poor productivity, staff loss and low morale, this is a problem that directly affects a business’ profitability.

Yes, they still need to know whether there is a millisecond delay on a website, that CPU utilisation is critical or there are security problems, but the urgent insight the CIO needs today is if and how such problems affect an employee’s productivity or engagement. And its quantifiable business impact. The IT department has more engineering data than it can ever use but without any way to understand what that means for individual employee experience, the data has no business value. 

Despite the huge investment in data collection tools, CIOs are flying blind – and that is creating massive business risk. How can CIOs ensure investment is supporting the employee digital experience when they have no insight into or understanding of the current quality of that experience? How can engineers prioritise and deliver remedial activity that makes a real difference? How can the business achieve the bottom-line value associated with better productivity, improved morale and great employee retention that is underpinned by a great digital experience?

Human Experience Insight
CIOs need to change focus, fast. Uptime and system availability and response time are valid measures of system performance but in the world of hybrid working, an inability to prioritise and measure the unique human digital experience will be a fast track to failure.  They need a way to identify and understand the unique digital employee experience – in detail and continuously – from an engagement and productivity perspective. 

This insight can reveal digital inequality and highlight those staff clearly struggling with productivity and/ or engagement. Combining this knowledge with other business metrics, including payroll and recruitment costs, can support a far more insight driven business case for investment, by employee, team, department or the entire business. It can provide the foundation for continual improvement and collaboration with HR to create an employee value proposition that drives additional business value.

Organisations can no longer feel satisfied that every digital employee has access to systems from any location. That is not good enough. The quality and reality of day-to-day employee human experience now sits at the heart of C-Suite metrics; it underpins employee retention and productivity, board level Environmental and Social Governance, as well as Corporate Social Responsibility.

To support the Future of Work, the quality of that digital human experience is increasingly affecting business performance, profitability, and competitive advantage, and CIOs have an absolutely critical role to play. It is time to accept that the current data resources are inadequate. Stop flying blind and actively seek out the insight that will provide a true picture of the digital employee experience.

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