Metrics reloaded

In a simple world IT departments would only need to measure two things: ‘are users happy?’ and ‘are services worth the money?’ Unfortunately, as businesses seek to adopt more and more technologies, ROI and user...

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In a simple world IT departments would only need to measure two things: ‘are users happy?’ and ‘are services worth the money?’ Unfortunately, as businesses seek to adopt more and more technologies, ROI and user satisfaction alone are only part of the picture.

Instead, as IT expands into more and more corners of the business it becomes subject to more and more regulations, adopting new platforms at a breakneck pace, and the number of variables that gauge the success or failure of a project or service increases alongside.

For example, currently IT Service Management (ITSM) teams can find themselves blinded by a blizzard of metrics gauging how well, or not so well, they are doing their job. Yet as the number of elements of IT that need to be measured grows, IT must decide what metrics it should pay the most attention to.

This is an important decision because it varies not only from company to company, but also between different parts of the organisation.

While frontline IT support teams will likely see the number of calls successfully resolved as an essential metric, the asset management team is likely to be rather more concerned with power consumption. And what concern are either of these statistics to the CIO?

Thanks to constantly evolving needs of the business and the rapid delivery of new technologies to support it, not only is it more difficult to agree on a global set of metrics, but such an approach no longer communicates IT value to the business.

As such, instead of being able to concentrate on the effectiveness of IT and how it is helping to drive the business forward, CIOs find themselves smothered in information: desperately looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack.

Making metrics relevant

This challenge certainly isn’t a new one. Yet as IT estates continue to grow and become more embedded within the enterprise, it has grown exponentially alongside.

New technologies don’t just add new information to measure, they also introduce new layers of complexity. Take the emergence of consumer devices in the corporate environment: a CIO now needs to know now just how many employee owned devices are connected to the corporate network, as well as the operating system they are running; whether device is a smartphone, tablet or something else entirely; and the security settings, if any, associated with it.

In many ways it can seem like the volume of information is bottomless. Trying to squeeze all the relevant data into one, easy to digest library isn’t straightforward. The traditional approach has been to create reports to provide performance information to teams and management.

However, these haven’t removed the need for manual collection and deciphering of information in order to gain a strategic overview. This in turn eats up time and resources that today’s increasingly pressed IT professionals cannot afford to spare.

Creating transparency

To ensure that different teams have the detail they need, while also reporting at a higher level, IT needs to take a smarter approach to metrics. Certainly with so many cooks in the kitchen making a broth that pleases everyone is difficult: but it’s certainly not impossible.

First, and most simply, organisations must recognise that different roles need to measure different metrics in varying degrees of detail. To do this, each team needs their own scorecard based on the KPIs that are relevant to their function. I’m not advocating here the fragmentation of IT services.

Instead data from these should then be aggregated, providing both an overview for the CIO and a way to drill down into individual items if needed. Essentially, with consolidated data and analytics being touted as ways to help the rest of the organisation, the IT department should also make sure it’s using the technology to help itself.

Whilst it’s true that every single part of the IT department might need their own way to measure success, the buck ultimately stops with the CIO. Consequently, however things are being measured they need to ensure they have the scales and tape measure to match.

Posted by Patrick Bolger, Chief Evangelist, Hornbill, the IT service management company

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