Improve business outcomes through better IT metrics
by Stephen Mann - 2013-08-07
"Metrics." It's a simple word yet something many IT
organizations struggle with – unfortunately whether they realize it or
not. There is the common issue of not knowing the most appropriate
metrics to use. There's also potentially not understanding what the
metrics actually mean in the absence of relevant benchmarks and how
best to use metrics for the greater good.
Metrics can be a minefield of potential pitfalls
"You can't manage what you don't measure" is an old
management adage, but it doesn't necessarily mean that "you can
manage what you do measure." There are many potential pitfalls
with IT metrics that stifle their worth, including:
Having "metrics for metrics-sake" – this is blindly
following the corporate mandate for metrics without understanding
the need and their worth. Often missing the point that metrics are a
"means to an end" and not the end itself. It's what
happens post-metrics that's most important – IT and business change
for the better.
Using too many metrics and/or measuring the things that are easy
to measure – often driven by the IT service management (ITSM)
tool. "Sometimes less is more" can apply here.
Thinking that all metrics are born equal – especially the
singular focus on IT operations rather than taking a business point
of view, this often involves reporting on what IT does rather than
what it achieves through what it does.
That trusting benchmarks can do more harm than good – common
issues are that benchmarks are out-of-date, organizations not
comparing "apples with apples" from both metric-makeup and
organizational-comparison perspectives, and using benchmarks
divisively to suit personal agendas.
Ignoring behavioral issues – these can be caused by
inappropriate individual metrics or sets of conflicting metrics.
Service desk metrics, in particular, are a great example of
poorly-thought-out or conflicting metrics potentially encouraging
efficiency at the expense of effectiveness and improving business
There are many more, but I'd prefer we start to look forward rather
than continue to look back.
Change the way you use metrics to engender change
There's no doubt that metrics can be extremely valuable at both an
IT and business level; but make sure you have the right set of metrics
for your organization and not a standard set for "an average
organization," plus access to third-party assistance as-and-when
it's needed. So:
- Review your existing portfolio of IT or ITSM metrics in light
of the common pitfalls. Do you have the right number, covering the
- Consider what each metric really means
to your organization and maybe even what your customers would think
of how you currently measure and report on performance. Are you too
focused on what you do rather than what you achieve through what you
- Look at how you have used your metrics during the last 12
months. Are they just a "tick in the box" and/or a vehicle
for self-gratification? Or have they been proactively used as a
platform, or launch-pad, for business-focused improvement?
- Enquire within, or benchmark, your network and/or the wider
community for both popular metrics and how similar organizations
fair against them. But be wary of the potential risks in terms of
benchmark currency and accuracy, and the comparison of "apples
- Remember that metrics, like businesses,
don't stand still – last year's metrics might no longer fit your
needs. So review their suitability regularly and, if they need
updating, it might be the metrics themselves, rather than the
metric-targets, that need the change.
How ServiceNow Performance Analytics can help your organization
Through its acquisition of Mirror42, ServiceNow has added advanced,
predictive analytics to applications on the ServiceNow platform giving
organizations meaningful insight into their business processes.
ServiceNow Performance Analytics works with all ServiceNow and
customer-created applications to deliver a wide range of capabilities
including trending, predictive modeling, KPI metrics and scorecards
showing IT and business performance. The product also accesses a
crowd-sourced library of over 6,500 KPIs for performance indicators
within IT, Sales, HR, Marketing, Finance and other business
If you would like to find out more about
ServiceNow Performance Analytics, watch this video tutorial:
Stephen Mann is a senior product marketing manager at ServiceNow.