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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  • That trusting benchmarks can do more harm than good – common issues are that benchmarks are out-of-date, organizations not comparing "apples with apples" from both metric-makeup and organizational-comparison perspectives, and using benchmarks divisively to suit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 outcomes.

 

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 right perspectives?
  • 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 do?
  • 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 with oranges."
  • 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 functions.

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.