When you think of a network, what comes to mind? MySpace, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok… LinkedIn if you’re all business? No, no, no, not what I meant! Not social networks – IT networks.

What comes to mind now? Switches? Access points? Firewalls? A score of ethernet cabling? For us too, the network symbolizes all the traditional things that Auvik helps IT teams around the world manage and monitor.

But the not-so-secret reality, however, is that what we call “the network” is changing. The new network of today goes beyond the traditional infrastructure within the span of control for most IT teams. The new network has expanded to include everything that’s connecting your end users to the applications they need to do their jobs. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock these past couple of years, this probably isn’t a surprise!

Don’t get me wrong—the world still absolutely needs all of the physical network devices, cabling, access points, etc. that connect us all. And there are still countless enterprise and SMB networks around the world that need to be managed by network professionals. The challenge is that in the hybrid world we now live and work in, many of these traditional network devices are now controlled by 3rd parties: Your employees’ ISPs, the IT team at the Library, the service providers managing Starbucks hotspots, and the DevOps teams managing the hundreds of SaaS applications that your users rely on.

The rise of end user experience

While I could spend the rest of this article commenting on all the buzzwords surrounding this trend, I’ll instead focus on something that my former colleague Brianna and I have spent far too much combined time researching over the past couple of years. That is the rise of the end-user experience.

End user experience is a measurement of how individuals engage with all of the digital tools that enable them to be productive and efficient, in order to get work done. Monitoring and managing the end-user experience is a critical deliverable for IT teams in today’s new network. There’s also the added weight in a hybrid and distributed workforce to ensure that all employees are well connected. And ensuring that connectivity goes beyond a binary “Up/Down” for applications like Office365 or Google Workspace. Fostering communication, connection, and collaboration between employees is necessary and goes a long way toward employee productivity and efficiency. There are plenty of reports and surveys that make this connection, but as Gartner points out, there’s a clear correlation between employee performance and employee connection.

I could go off on a tangent here, as I firmly believe there’s a huge opportunity for IT and People teams to collaborate and tackle this challenge together, but being more IT-focused, I’ll keep diving into the IT side of things.

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“My end users are all in the office, so this new network doesn’t apply to me.”

Sorry to say this, but you’re wrong. It does apply to you.

First, the applications your employees use to get work done are composed of SaaS-delivered applications, cloud-hosted applications, partner company applications, and perhaps some dwindling on-premises apps. As the world continues to move towards XaaS (got a buzzword in!), this is only going to increase. How many of your end users experience externally-managed applications are important, and it poses the same challenges I discussed—as the in-house IT or solution provider supporting this, there are still portions of the network affecting users’ experience you don’t control.

Second, think about the line, “my end users are all in the office.” I would challenge that just isn’t true anymore. At least not all the time. I’ll stay out of the future of work (office/remote work/hybrid) debate in this article, but we can all agree that in every organization there are some users who are not in the office 100% of the time. For example, the traveling sales rep, the augmented overseas support team, or the CEO at their home office preparing for the next board meeting. The reality is that work gets done in a variety of places, often on devices and networks, which again, you have no control over.

This is the new network, and it is something we must all embrace!

There’s a clear correlation between employee performance and employee connection.

Man sitting on rock at the beach while using a laptop
Image: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

Managing end-user experience monitoring as an IT team

Have you or your organization started a project around end user or digital experience? If not, start now. It’s coming faster than you think!

Reports out of Forrester Consulting indicate that nearly three-quarters of enterprises are planning a project to improve their end-user experience over the next 24 months, and many businesses are indicating that the tools they have in place today are not sufficient for their team to manage the end-user experience. While the research may be focused on enterprises, it’s only a matter of time for these trends to trickle into businesses of all sizes, meaning every IT professional should be paying attention to these trends.

So what can teams be doing to better manage the end-user experience, and ensure you have your eyes on the performance and availability of this new network?

First, provide experience insights no matter where your users are. What do I mean by this? Today, when one of your end users experiences slowness on their device, on their network, or in the application they’re using, they don’t reach out to your help desk. They sit on the issue. Until it happens again. And again. Perhaps if it persists for hours, or days, or occurs dozens of times they’ll log a ticket. Your help desk is blind to these end-user experience issues, and the productivity impact it’s having.

To that end, it’s critical your helpdesk team has visibility and quantitative data to understand how end users’ experiences are being affected by the systems they rely on to do their job. And this visibility shouldn’t rely on someone logging a ticket. This is typically referred to as an experience score. In an ideal world, you are monitoring this experience score, and you are proactively resolving issues that are negatively affecting it.

Second, and really this should be the first item, is to educate your service desk on end-user experience issues. Many of us can relate to the call from “John” complaining that his “computer is slow” when in fact it’s an outage at his ISP that’s causing all his issues.

From the traditional help desk’s perspective, there’s nothing that can be done to resolve this (it’s an ISP issue after all!), but this is impacting the user’s experience, and it’s impacting the user productivity. A way forward can start with simple education—helping them pinpoint the issue, and giving them tools to monitor when the issue is resolved. As the help desk evolves the solutions can be improved—such as providing alternative connectivity paths or offering up the closest coffee shop that has free Wi-Fi (with a secure remote-access VPN or SASE gateway of course to ensure the user remains protected!).

What’s next?

Whether you’re sitting in an office reading this article, reading it in the comfort of your remote office, or anywhere in between, it’s clear that the network of 2025 will look a lot different than the network of the 2010s—which is also much different than the networks of the ’90s, ’80s, ’70s, etc. Processes must be revamped, tools must evolve, and the people supporting your end users need to be continuously trained on the new processes and tools.

IT is constantly changing, and that’s what makes it exciting!

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