All of the work that goes into creating a metrics program is not worthwhile if the data sits unused and without interpretation. These calculations need to be the foundation for looking at trends in IT in order to improve business functions, whether they’re financial, technical, or productivity-based. Reporting this information in a digestible manner is a critical stage in moving forward with implementation of the metrics program.
Even more important is sharing this analysis outside of the IT group. Communicating the value that IT provides – or is able provide – to the business is essential. Integrate the metrics program into the organizational culture by properly interpreting IT metrics, communicating these metrics to all parts of the business, and by involving stakeholders in the reporting process for continuous improvement.
Interpretation of the Metrics
The IT department has put extensive time into selecting the metrics that should be measured; the numbers have been collected and tracked over time, and the metrics have been calculated. Now what?
The interpretation of IT metrics is a critical point in the metrics exercise. Gathering this data is only as useful as the analysis stage; use these numbers to illustrate the value, improvements to, or the requirements of, IT. Refer to Table 1 to view examples of how some potential metrics can be interpreted.
Table 1. Sample Interpretations of Metrics
Source: Info-Tech Research Group, 2009
IT resolved 175 help desk tickets this month.
Help desk tickets are down 10% from last month but 30% of IT staff time was still devoted to resolving tickets this month. 40% of requests were related to the operating system (OS). Providing OS training to end users could reduce the number of requests and save $2000 per month in IT productivity.
75% of help desk request were resolved in less than 20 minutes.
Faster help desk response time resulted in less downtime this quarter, saving the enterprise $25,000.
30% of PCs were replaced this year.
Computer replacements helped improve user productivity and lowered maintenance costs by $30,000 this year. More replacements are needed in the upcoming year but will contribute to further maintenance and productivity savings.
IT updated end user software packages on all 150 enterprise PCs.
New computer software reduced the enterprise’s exposure to licensing compliance risks worth $75,000 (if audited and found lacking).
As can be seen in the samples above, many of the raw metrics can be combined with other metrics and broken down further to provide insight into what IT staff is doing and how this relates to productivity and cost savings. Many organizations avoid implementation of metric programs, claiming that because metrics do not generate revenue, it is not a priority. However, IT drives a large proportion of efficiency savings in the enterprise, so it is important to make sure that this is being measured and communicated.
Keep in mind that metrics often require some point of comparison such as historical trending data and/or benchmarking data. Tracking the movement of particular metrics over time, especially items related to help desk, is imperative for discovering areas that have improved, or are in need of improvement.
Some Sample Metrics from the Field
“Some of the things that I try to communicate to my senior team are the number of full time IT people that I have, how many consultants and people that we use to help us, what the ratios are of how many IT people there are to employees in the company, what the benchmark average is out there in the industry. I use that as just a measure to say, here’s where we are, here’s where the industry says we ought to be, so we’re really understaffed.”
- Director, Engineering and Manufacturing firm
Presentation of the Metrics
After sufficient interpretation of the data, IT should have a sound understanding of some key elements, namely:
- Composition of the IT department.
- How IT time is spent.
- How these numbers translate into savings or deficiencies, both internally (based on historical data) and externally (based on benchmark data).
This information should be shared within the IT shop for transparency into how the department goes about doing business.
Outside of the IT department, IT is commonly viewed as a heavy spender of business dollars. However, sharing key metrics in the proper context can increase visibility into what’s really going on the IT department. Use this opportunity to share IT’s strategy now that the department has the data to support its actions.
In a number of recent interviews, Info-Tech found that IT groups share metrics in several formats such as written reports, balanced scorecards, and high-level dashboards. While there are a number of software solutions that are capable of advanced functions, the reporting does not have to be expensive or complicated. In most cases, presentation slides and spreadsheets will do the trick; it’s the quality of the analysis that will make or break the presentation. For guidance on tracking metrics and creating a custom report, use the ITA Premium SE, “Selecting and Reporting IT Metrics Template.”
Proactively Communicate IT’s Value
“I don’t think everybody always has a really good feel for what IT does. They see them as the money spenders and all the projects are ours when they’re not, that kind of thing. So, this year I’ve been coming up with ways to educate my peers, my administrative team, in talking the talk and understanding what they’re getting with all this money.”
- Manager, Healthcare center
“I’ve primarily [collected and reported metrics] just because I felt like I needed to do it. It’s not really an expectation, so to speak. The challenge that most folks in IT have always had; it seems to be an old adage of communicating the value because they think we just keep the lights on.”
- Director, Engineering and Manufacturing firm
Maintenance of the Metrics
Delivering the report is not the end of the line for the metrics exercise. It is important to close the feedback loop and ensure that the process is benefitting both the IT department and the business as intended. To continually improve the metrics program, ensure that feedback is solicited from stakeholders and the metrics process is fine-tuned in line with recommendations.
The following perceptions and feedback should be gathered from stakeholders:
- Which metrics are being tracked? Is anything missing? Are some unnecessary?
- Level of analysis. Does the report properly communicate IT wins and/or needs?
- Method of reporting. Is the format digestible and easy to understand?
- Timeliness. Is the frequency of data collection and/or reporting appropriate?
Incorporate Feedback to Improve the Reporting Process
“We went back to every comment to follow it up, and resolved individual issues on the basis of those comments. And we actually did improve some systems, and have now been going long enough so that those [metric results] actually increased in the systems we’ve done work on.”
- CIO, Property services firm
Implementation & Integration
- Know the metrics. Make sure to know, understand, and be able to defend the metrics. The proper analysis of metrics is an opportunity to communicate IT’s strengths as well as areas that require investment for further improvement. The IT group must fully understand the meaning behind the metrics to be able to get the proper message out to the business.
- Present metrics in the correct context. The metrics must be presented transparently and honestly, but also in the correct context. Don’t fall into the common trap of reporting raw numbers without meaning. For example, “the IT department answered 1000 tickets this month” does not mean anything to business executives if this is not correlated to its effects on productivity and costs. Also, carefully select the presentation format to ensure that stakeholders will be able to quickly and easily understand the information being shared.
- Incorporate feedback from the business. Make sure there is a mechanism in place to collect and incorporate good feedback about the metrics process. Frequently solicit stakeholders for perceptions and suggestions regarding the selection, collection, presentation, and use of metrics and make sure to incorporate this feedback into future iterations of the process.
All of the data that comes out of selecting, collecting, and calculating IT metrics should not be left without interpretation. Take the metric program one step further and make sure to conduct thorough analysis to properly communicate these findings outward to the business.
© 1998-2010 Info-Tech Research Group. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.
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