IT Service Management Metrics

Historically, establishing information technology (IT) performance metrics has been a complex and difficult task sometimes requiring manual collection of data, software customization, detailed analysis, and lengthy reporting. Not only was it difficult to distill from the raw data meaningful information, but the data reported was not always current. As a result, the ability to make well informed decisions based on the current environment was challenging. Even more challenging was the ability to make “predictive” decisions based on legitimate trends. With increasing standardization, more sophisticated enterprise applications/tools, and the wide-spread adoption of IT Service Management best practices, the formulation of IT metrics has evolved significantly. For example, just a few years ago the talk of “five nines” (99.99999%) availability was standard. Later, the conversation focused on the cost of unavailability – from the customer perspective. Today, leading automated tools provide standard metrics and reports “out of the box”. However, despite the availability of tools and standard metrics, most IT organizations still struggle with metrics. In general, people tend to perform in accordance with what is measured. Metrics are an effective means to drive behaviors. Therefore, it is critical that meaningful metrics are established, published, and well understood by everyone in the organization.

The most effective approach to establishing meaning metrics is to start with the “End” in mind. The “End” is typically an end user. Traditionally, end users are most concerned with the availability, feature/functionality, and support of a specific “IT service” verses the various technologies that are combined to create a service (i.e. applications, networks, databases, etc). Therefore, the starting point for meaningful metrics is to determine how the end user or customer will evaluate the service provider’s performance on each of these services. Armed with this information, it is then much easier to establish a limited number of high level yet measurable metrics that can be quantified and reported. It is then the responsibility of the IT organization to “reverse engineer” the overall customer focused metrics to determine the cascading sub tier metrics that directly contribute to the overall customer metrics used to evaluate the effectiveness of a specific IT service. These sub tier metrics represent both technology metrics that indicate the effectiveness of a specific technology, as well as more service related metrics that represent the effectiveness of the combined technologies required to deliver a specific service. When combining the customer’s evaluation (perception) of the quality of service across all IT services, the effectiveness of the IT organization overall can be determined and improvement plans established. This approach to implementing metrics ensures that the appropriate organizational behaviors are aligned with what is important to the end user or customer.

Therefore, there are a number of factors to consider when establishing meaningful metrics that will guide the appropriate organizational behaviors to ensure organizational success. These factors can best be considered by answering a number of key questions.
For example:

  • What is the mission?
  • In what ways does the success of the mission depend on IT?
  • Specific what IT services does the mission depend on most?
  • How does the end user evaluate the quality of the IT service(s)?
  • Can the degree of service quality be measured?
  • What key metrics can be established to measure service specific quality?
  • What technology metrics if measured will indicate the degree to which the various technologies are contributing to the quality of the IT service vs. the independent measure of the quality of the individual technologies that represent the service?
  • What are the metrics necessary to measure the effectiveness of the infrastructure processes required to effectively plan, design, develop, test, transition, implement, operate and continually improve the services?

Provided in Appendix A are common IT Service Management metrics for core ITIL based processes. Once again, the appropriate metrics/KPIs/critical success factors selected are unique to the organization depending upon the relative maturity of the organization and what the end user considers to be most important to meet service quality expectations. The appropriate technology based metrics such as latency, bandwidth, throughput, packet loss, etc. within a network environment should contribute directly to overall service quality. It is also somewhat dependent upon the types of technologies that exist within the infrastructure and the availability of supporting tools suites.

In summary, the objective of metrics is to drive individual and organizational behavior by providing insight into an event that has occurred to determine if a desired outcome has or has not been achieved. Thus, choosing meaningful metrics are critical. Metrics for the sake of reporting are not meaningful. Meaningful metrics provide actionable information that facilitates accurate and timely decision making. As an organization matures, so should their metrics. Please see Appendix B for diagrams depicting the linkage between goals and metrics.

Appendix A – Common IT Service Management Metrics for Service Level Management, Critical Success Factors (CSFs) and Key performance Indicators (KPIs)

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Appendix B – Linking Goals to Metrics

 

Management Control Metrics – Examples

DS1 – Define and Manage Service Levels

 DS2 – Manage Performance and Capacity

 

About G2SF

G2SF specializes in IT compliance, governance, and service management consulting, training, network security/engineering/operations/management, and enterprise application support in accordance with the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL©), ISO/IEC20000 standards, and other federally mandated requirements. G2SF is committed to institutionalizing various technical standards and service management best practices to increase operational efficiencies, reduce operational costs, and improve end user satisfaction within the world’s largest IT organizations. In doing so, the company has established a successful track record as an objective change agent by collaborating with clients to facilitate technology, organizational, and cultural transformations within large, complex, global, classified IT environments.