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Balancing your metrics with ITIL

Barry Corless
  • Date: 18 December, 2019

ITILWhat to measure? It can be a tricky conundrum to solve for any product or service with sometimes conflicting advice given by best practice frameworks. For example, DevOps tells us to measure everything and make those measurements available to everybody. Okay, this makes metrics available but to avoid being swamped, you really need to know what question your metrics are required to answer.

As ever, the Global Knowledge view is that we learn about all our options before choosing the path that works for our organisation.

Here, we look at three of the common metrics questions and how ITIL offers a balanced view on solving them.

How can my metrics predict the future?

Too often, metrics just tell us about the past without giving much insight into the future. This can be overcome by using a balance of leading and trailing metrics.

Trailing metrics are typically output oriented, easy to measure, but harder to improve or influence while leading indicators are typically input oriented, harder to measure, but easier to influence. For example, our trailing metric might be the ‘number of incidents or service requests related to a new product or service’ - easy to measure, but difficult to influence if you don’t know the cause(s).

Leading metrics that could indicate we have an issue in waiting might be ‘uptake and understanding by users of product/service training’; poor understanding could lead to lots of “how to” questions for your service desk; this is certainly more challenging to measure, but easier to influence.

How do I link the service provider view to a business view?

Linking Critical Success Factors (CSFs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is one way we can join the two key perspectives. CSFs effectively ask “What must we do to be successful?” whereas related KPIs answer the question “What indicates that we are succeeding?”.

The use of KPIs can be literal or loose. For example, using them literally means that you set a baseline, i.e. “closure of 90% of priority 1 incidents within SLA targets”. Using them loosely means that you would monitor data trends to determine whether performance is improving, i.e. “we will be watching the customer experience scores over this month as they are a clear indicator of our performance”.

Both ways of using KPIs have their uses; the more certain you are of the relationship between your CSFs and business goals, the more literal you can define KPIs. Each CSF should have three KPIs. Below is a typical example for incident management.

CSF: Prioritisation of incidents in line with business goals  

  • KPI 1: Number of incident priority changes - how often was a priority raised or lowered by category 
  • KPI 2: Customer satisfaction index - lower satisfaction might indicate poor prioritisation
  • KPI 3: Number of escalations requested - how often users or customers request escalation by category   

I have multiple stakeholders. How do I satisfy them all? 

One issue that we see on many occasions here at Global Knowledge is when metrics fail to satisfy all the relevant stakeholders (Sponsors, customers, users, service providers, regulators, etc.) Let us look at two remedies to this problem.

Progress, compliance, effectiveness and efficiency 

First, the use of metrics balanced between progresscomplianceeffectiveness and efficiency. This is an effective set to use in a product or project environment.

  • Progress measures milestones and deliverables in the developing capability of a product or service. A progress metric is typically expressed in terms of actions completed or percentage project completion - for example, the new service has undergone operational acceptance testing or measurement of tasks against a burn down chart
  • Compliance measures the product or service to governance and regulatory requirements. A compliance metric is often expressed in terms of a Boolean pass/fail or yes/no result - for example, “Compliance to GDPR regulations”.
  • Effectiveness measures the accuracy and correctness of the product or service and its ability to deliver the ‘right result’ - for example, “Number of correctly assessed mortgage applications”.
  • Efficiency measures the productivity of the product or service, its speed, throughput and resource utilisation - for example, “Average cost per incident resolution”.

Kaplan and Norton balanced scorecard

Secondly, we can use the Kaplan and Norton balanced scorecard. It is called “balanced” because it considers the balance between four perspectives, all of which contribute to achieving the vision and mission of the organisation.

  • The Customer perspective recognises the importance of customer experience, perhaps through a Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Effort Score (CES). This could be widened to a view of customer value of the product or service.
  • The Financial perspective focuses on traditional management of cost.
  • The Business process perspective looks at the well-being of the organisation’s processes and value streams. This can be a good leading indicator of future performance.
  • Learning and growth focuses on continual improvement, it is holistic in its view, including training and development of people and management of knowledge.

Mix the top quality ITIL ingredients 

What we have presented here are top quality ingredients. Your job is to mix them into something that satisfies your organisation’s palette. Without a doubt, the best education in this arena is available through the ITIL 4 Direct, Plan and Improve offering.


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Barry Corless

Global Product Director for DevOps and IT Service Management

As a Global Product Director for leading IT and business skills training specialist Global Knowledge, Barry Corless is responsible for helping organisations enhance organisational capability through application of best practice frameworks.  His role incorporates the development and delivery of service management, DevOps, programme and project management, enterprise architecture and business analysis learning and development solutions.  An experienced consultant and IT specialist, Barry undertook additional voluntary roles Director of itSMF International from 2017-2019, and Chair of itSMF UK from 2009-2011.  

An industry champion for ITIL, Barry credits its common-sense approach to endemic IT issues as the reason for his long-term track record with this international service management practice.  He has trained and consulted on ITIL in over 20 countries. Barry continues to act as an ITIL examiner and has been part of the author team that inputs into the ever-adapting ITIL guidelines.  

Barry’s attraction to analytical problem solving began early and his first ambition was to be a weather man.  He became an Assistant Scientific Officer for The Meteorological Office after leaving school in Cheshire.  Barry recognises that passion for the topic is a key attribute for success as a trainer, as well as the ability to bring a subject to life.  He thinks open-mindedness is vital.  “Lifelong learning has taught me that we all have to prepare to unlearn what we previously accepted as best practice,” he says. 

Having spent over 20 years training he has seen many changes in an industry that has embraced virtual classroom and digital learning.  He advocates the teaching of project management and service management skills early.  “In an economy that is 80% service based, we should be teaching these key management skills in schools,” he says.   

As Best Practice department head, Barry enjoys the variety that his role brings him, and he continues to work with consultancy and education clients to ‘keep it real’.  Barry’s ability to identify with learners makes him a sought-after trainer and his passion and detailed understanding of ITIL meant that Global Knowledge was able to develop the world’s first bridging course for professionals going from ITIL v3 to ITIL 4.  Global Knowledge remains the world’s leading provider of ITIL certification and exams.  

A popular commentator on ITIL and a frequent blogger, Barry doesn’t like to think of himself as ‘one track minded’.  “ITIL skills are transferable outside the IT hinterland and lesson learned in other environments should be used in optimising technology solutions” he promises.  “ITIL4 is more focussed on people, agility and collaboration.  With the pressure on IT teams to provide a lightning-fast route to market, it’s vital that all stakeholders across an organisation and throughout the supply chain are working well together.”  

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