Use Metrics to Optimize Service Delivery

I want you to think about all the different types of organizations you worked for. Whether they were Finance, Communications, Energy, Agriculture, or Transport, there was likely one similarity among them: The reporting that was done from an IT perspective did not produce metrics that mattered.

Why? It’s simple—we (as an IT organization) tend to loop endlessly on the metrics as they apply to IT. We must move away from thinking that “recovery from failure = value.”

Recovery from critical incidents is an important part of what we do in IT, but it is not the one that ultimately defines whether we are doing a good job or not. We should be considering the needs of the business, and not just how long our networks are available or how quickly we answer the phone and fix a PC.

One of the things I learned early on was that the marketing of the IT metrics is as important as the metrics themselves. In many cases, relating them to a particular process is both something that is confusing for the business we provide service to and also something that we should be speaking in business language, as this all should tie back to a service. IT reporting as it pertains to service management typically talks about key performance indicators (KPIs) as they relate to a critical success factor (CSF). The challenge with this is that it does not necessarily relate to a business objective.

Start to look at it in terms of these:

  • Business objectives:Understand and document the business objectives of the organization or line of business.
  • CSFs:Determine which CSFs are needed to be successful.
  • KPIs:Determine KPIs based on the CSFs. Include target levels for these so success is clearly shown.
  • Dashboards:Firstly, share them. Have a way to view them in a dashboard or viewable metrics based on the audience. Ensure these dashboards are audience-specific. Where it applies, ensure they can be used for trending, historical reporting in an operational capacity.

Let’s look at an example:

Let’s talk about a company called Drill-Tech Industries. This small energy services company would like to take its business to the next level but always seems to hit some roadblocks. The CEO has outlined that the goals of the business are “to ensure that rig systems are available as well as ensure a high degree of safety.”

The first step should be to get some alignment by gathering the right people together from various streams within the appropriate business units. Include a business relationship manager if you have one, as well as some key IT stakeholders. In the beginning you might need some practice on getting the “right” people together.

The next step is to get some clarity on the objectives and goals for the organization. Rather than assuming we know what the business wants, as IT has famously done in the past, gather the right resources together to jointly identify what the business objectives are. Within this new steering committee, ensure that you are lining up your initiatives to the goals of the business. Clarity of business objectives can help you in many ways. They should have these characteristics:

  • It must be important to the business.
  • It should represent the results to be obtained.
  • It should be visible and unambiguous.
  • There should only be a few critical ones.

The third step is to map out your goals and measures. Having your objectives matched up on a table to CSFs and KPIs might seem overly simplistic, but that is the point.

Make the goals measurable

To quantify the goals, you’ll need to work with your steering committee to determine the CSFs that will demonstrate the fulfillment of their goals. The best CSFs will be “SMART”: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Once you and the steering committee have agreed on the CSFs, you’ll be able to develop KPIs, or measures that support the CSF. It’s extremely beneficial to develop KPIs along with targets, so you and your business partners are clear on whether you’re successful in delivering on each of the goals. The best part about this approach is that when IT and the business agree on measures and targets, it’s easy to tell when IT has delivered or when IT is not meeting the needs identified by the business.

Build the dashboards and scorecards

Once the matrix is agreed upon and the method of measuring each KPI is defined, documented, and agreed upon by the steering committee, the final step is to design dashboards and scorecards that represent these KPIs. These are both graphical views of the KPIs listed above, showing the result in comparison to the target.

Benefits of the program

Providing metrics that are responsive to your business’s needs rather than the same old IT metrics they don’t really care about will not only improve the level of performance but also strengthen and build out the relationship between IT and the rest of the business. Looking back at the reasons to measure, you can expect the following results:

  • Live dashboards provide the ability to determine the activities needed to drive success of an initiative, and whether these activities are providing the expected result.
  • You and your stakeholders are able to use the metrics you provide to validate whether IT’s performance is contributing to the business’s ability to meet their goals and objectives.
  • IT is able to produce metrics that support a business case for infrastructure or development projects related to the delivery of a service.
  • Live dashboards enable IT and the business to know when there is a performance issue, and they can intervene immediately to turn the problem around.
  • This helps an organization move from a purely reactive mode to a more proactive approach that is integrated with the success of the business’s initiatives in mind.

Long-term success

As these dashboards and scorecards are used by the business, it’s important to come back to the steering committee to evaluate the results, part of the “wash, rinse, repeat” process. This may lead to creating new KPIs or tweaking the ways in which they are measured, depending upon the steering committee satisfaction with performance. In the case of the sample organization, it’s possible that the business is not meeting their objectives and may initiate changes to their CSFs that will drive a need to change the measures.

The point here is that you should not build the dashboards and scorecards and then forget about them. Rather, you should meet with the steering committee regularly to review the metrics and IT’s achievements. This is a great opportunity to talk about service improvements that the business might need to support their future initiatives as well. Keep in mind that, once you are achieving targets reliably, you will be proving out your abilities to deliver, so you need to continue to raise the bar.