How to Measure Your IT Department for Better Service Delivery
Measurements and metrics provide a view into every aspect of an organization. From resource availability to necessary improvements, measurements are the key to successfully understanding how your organization is performing. This paper will give you guidance on why measuring is important, how to get started, what types of metrics are available, what should be measured, and how to go about initiating improvements.
Have you heard the saying: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it"? That's a very powerful statement. Measurement is critical to the success of every organization, and a holistic approach to monitoring and measurement must be taken. Measurements provide metrics that can be processed and then analyzed in order to provide insight into every aspect of organizational health, especially IT departments.
Is IT achieving its operational, tactical, and strategic goals and objectives? Are the IT processes being carried out efficiently and effectively, and is the output of the processes providing the desired value? Are we able to achieve the level of service agreed upon in the service level agreements (SLAs)? Are customers happy with the support being provided by the service desk? The answers to these, and many other questions, can be answered if IT is gathering the right data and presenting it in the right manner.
One would think that there would be a well-defined set of measurements that can be implemented to provide all of the required information. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. With measurements, there is no one-size-fits-all formula, and it takes a significant amount of forethought, discussion, planning, time, and resources to determine the right set of measurements for an organization. It's not enough just to measure. It's critical to measure the right things at the right time. And to make it more complex, what might be right today, may not provide value tomorrow. It's necessary to continually align and realign the measurements with the needs of the organization.
In this paper we'll take a look at why we should measure, and define the basis for what is measured, the areas that need to be measured, and the various types of measurements that should be captured.
The Customer Matters
In the past, most IT organizations focused their measurements on the underlying technology that was in the data center. That is, the servers, network devices, and applications that supported the delivery of services. When a device went down, and application failed or performance was degraded, IT worried about getting that device back up and running, so they could move on to the next technical issue.
Although that is an important aspect of Service Measurement, it is just the tip of the iceberg. It's not enough to know that a hardware component failed, or that the performance of a database is degraded. What's critical is how those issues affect the services we deliver, the customers of that service, our bottom line, and how likely we are to achieve our objectives.
IT has come a long way in the past decade and has begun to understand that it's the impact a technical issue causes the organization that should be the driver. IT also realizes that the impact can be hard (financial) or soft (the loss of reputation or customer dissatisfaction). Most IT departments now have a customer-centric view of issues. In fact, many of the monitoring tools now have consoles that display how a particular device is impacting the delivery of services. This is a huge paradigm change, and as a result, a greater focus has been placed on ensuring proactive comprehensive holistic service measurement.
Service measurement's objective is to collect metrics, which verify in every aspect, that IT is efficiently and effectively supporting the business and helping it meet its goals and objectives. At the same time, IT is using the measurements and metrics to ensure they are doing the right things to achieve their own goals and objectives. Finally, and just as importantly, these measurements must provide insight into risks, issues, and areas needing improvement.
Ask someone why we measure, and you'll hear things like "so we can catch issues," or "so we can create reports." Theoretically, those reasons are correct, but they are really a subset of one of the four major reasons that we monitor and measure.
- Validate: These measures are used to verify if we've achieved a goal or objective, that the output of a process or service meets the agreed requirements, we've aligned to organizational strategies, or that a regulatory requirement has been fulfilled.
- Direct: Enables us to provide direction or drive change based upon the facts derived from our measurements.
- Justify: Gathering metrics to provide the factual reasoning behind the desire to take a specific course of action, such as making an improvement.
- Intervene: The ability to make a sound comparison of actual results against those that were planned and making the necessary course corrections.