Ahead of my presentation “Get off the bench and make your mark through effective benchmarks” at the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition next week, I wanted to start a discussion about IT metrics and benchmarks.
IT people love statistics and most IT organizations are run on performance metrics. But what do the metrics really tell you about the relative level of your success? Are you purely measuring operational efficiency or are you measuring how well you support end user and customer needs? Are you beating all your performance targets but continue to be viewed as an unresponsive, slow, uncommitted, and detached IT organization – something that business colleagues have to, rather than want to, work with?
“But we beat industry benchmarks” I hear you cry. But do you? Are they representative of your organization and your customers’ needs? And were they created before One Direction were born? You need relevant and timely benchmarks and a mindset that appreciates that beating the benchmarks is not enough – that the benchmarks and other performance metrics are a launchpad for improvement activity not a medal of honour.
However, statistics can mean different things to different organizations with different IT operational models and maybe even different cultures. Take the use of email as a service desk access channel for instance. The graph below (taken from our IT Benchmark module) shows that there is a wide range of email usage amongst SysAid customers ranging from 0% to 100% email.
Let’s consider those with 0% email usage. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well it depends. It might be indicative of a well-oiled IT service desk that people want to call for assistance. It might be indicative of a service desk where emails take weeks to be answered and hence people just call up. Or it might be that self-service via an employee portal is working really well.
At the other extreme, 100% email usage (which interestingly is the mode for the data set) – is this a good or bad thing? Again it depends. It could be indicative of smaller IT shops where catching an IT support person on the phone is difficult so an email is best. It might be a corporate mandate that there be no calls to the service desk in order to reduce costs. Or it might just be that people prefer to email rather than calls these days.
The problem is that I have just spent the last two paragraphs trying to guess what these statistics really mean. And unfortunately I don’t have mystical powers.
Again it depends. If you were to compare your organization to the graph above, should you be handling more or less incidents or service requests via email?
The important thing to recognize is that this is probably the wrong question to ask. The right question or questions relate to what your customers want and need, and your capability to service those needs, particularly as this is email we are talking about, which is a halfway house between the customer calling the service desk and self-service.
Yes there are benefits to the customer – they don’t have to call and they can take as long as they want to create the email. And there are benefits to the service desk – email reduces the need for immediacy of response and it allows service desks to better deal with service desk peaks and troughs. But it might not save the service desk any time, particularly if the service desk agent has to call the customer for more information that wasn’t included in the email.
So does being average or being either side of average really mean anything?
Look at the stats from a number of points of view.
If you have low level of email contact (and self-service portal usage), is this what’s best for your organization? It might be. If, however, business stakeholders would like to reduce operational costs and/or increase the level of self-help, then maybe trying to increase the level of email contact is a red herring. Look to other benchmarks and exemplar organizations to understand what and how high levels of self service can be achieved.
Conversely, if you have high levels of email contact, could you be converting these email transactions to self-service portal transactions where a percentage can be resolved without service desk involvement? A win-win as the customer gets immediacy of resolution and the service desk is under less pressure and might even incur less cost.
If you want to find out more about winning with self-service and how to use IT benchmarks to improve IT and business performance, then please attend my presentation at the itSMF UK event. I will be speaking at 12.20 on Monday 4th November in the Expo Hall Theatre.
If you’re not already scheduled to attend, then there is still time to register and join us for what is set to be a very valuable event to anyone working in IT Service Management.
For those of you who cannot attend, I will publish a post-event blog with an overview of my IT benchmarks presentation, along with a list of tips on how to improve performance, so stay tuned! And don’t forget, you can follow everything that is happening both days of the event (4-5 November) by following the Twitter hashtag #ITSM13. I’ll be tweeting from the conference (follow me @sarahlahav), along with @Joe_the_IT_Guy, @OdedMoshe, and @SysAid.