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4 Ways to Improve the End-User Experience with IT Operations

Providing end users with a positive experience should translate to a positive experience for IT teams too.

Table of Contents
1. End the Culture of End-User Contempt
2. Increase Self-Service Opportunities
3. Be Transparent About Problems
4. Disaggregate Performance Metrics Based on End-User Types

Let's be blunt: IT engineers have a reputation for viewing end users critically, or even with contempt. Old jokes like "problem exists between chair and keyboard" — in other words, the end user is the problem — die hard.

This isn't to say that all IT operations teams have an end-user experience issue. Some are certainly more courteous and caring toward their users than stereotypical depictions of ITOps engineers imply.

Still, the fact remains that there is more that most IT teams could do to improve end-user experience. This article offers four tips for making end users happier, whether your end users are employees inside your business, external customers, or both.

1. End the Culture of End-User Contempt

The first step toward improving the end-user experience is to foster a culture of positivity toward end users.

Some IT organizations may already have such a culture, but where one is lacking, it's critical to encourage IT engineers to view end users not as a problem to be solved, but rather as collaborators whose happiness should also make ITOps teams happy.

Do this by encouraging IT engineers to assume that end users have the best of intentions — which they do, in most cases. Most end users don't want to experience technical problems, and when issues do arise, it's usually because of a lack of understanding on the end user's part rather than ill will.

When ITOps teams operate based on this principle, it becomes easier for them to view end users as partners who want to get the most of the technology available to them, not as challenges who are out to make the lives of IT operations engineers harder.

2. Increase Self-Service Opportunities

Life tends to be easier for IT teams and end users alike when end users have the capability to solve technical challenges for themselves. The more tools IT teams make available to end users on a self-service basis, the better, in most cases.

Self-service offerings will vary depending on which services the IT department offers and which cost, security, and other constraints it works within. But as a basic example, consider an employee who wants to install new software on a company laptop. The IT team could restrict users' ability to install software on their own and require them to make requests through the IT department first. Or it could accelerate the process by allowing users to serve themselves in this regard, which saves time and effort for both the user and the IT team.

To mitigate security concerns, the IT organization could configure policies requiring that certain types of applications — such as those that will leave non-standard ports open on a device or require administrator-level privileges to run — be approved by the IT team, while users can install other applications themselves. In other words, there is a middle ground between managing IT risks on the one hand and allowing end-user self-service on the other.

3. Be Transparent About Problems

End users are frustrated when something breaks — when an application goes down, for example, or when they can't log on because of a misconfiguration in a directory service.

But users are likely to become even more frustrated if the IT operations team is not forthcoming with information about what went wrong, why, and when it will be fixed. People like information and being kept in the know. It makes end users feel valued, and it helps set clear expectations.

To that end, rather than announcing, "There's a problem and we're working on it," encourage IT engineers to be detailed and specific about outages. They might say, "A bug in the latest update to Application X, which we deployed Monday night, caused the application to crash. Developers have already implemented a fix, which we're currently testing and expect to deploy by this evening, at which time regular service should be restored."

There are, of course, situations where IT teams shouldn't release information for security reasons. You probably don't want to unveil public details about which vulnerabilities attackers exploited, for example, because it might encourage other attackers to look for similar exploit opportunities against your business.

But in general, the more information you provide about IT problems, the happier your end users are likely to be.

4. Disaggregate Performance Metrics Based on End-User Types

When you're monitoring application performance, you probably summarize performance trends and assume that as long as they align with overall user requirements, your users are happy. The fact is, though, that some users may have different needs than others, and generic performance monitoring isn't always sufficient for optimizing the experience of all end users.

For example, imagine your IT team is supporting a website that hosts video content. Some of the videos are live streams from other users, while others are videos that were previously uploaded. In this scenario, users who visit the site to watch live streams might have a seriously negative experience if the live streams are delayed by a few seconds when they load because that would mean the streams are not happening in real time. But for users who go to the site only to view uploaded videos, a short delay is not likely to pose a major issue.

In this case, it would be valuable to distinguish the different types of users of the app and make sure that performance meets the differing requirements of each type.


A positive experience for end users should translate to a positive experience for IT teams, too — and it can, provided that IT engineers view the end users they support as partners and collaborators, not as mere obstacles or challenges.

About the author

Christopher Tozzi headshotChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.
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