The selection of the right IT service desk performance metrics is an age-old challenge that’s again front and center for IT professionals with the newer focus on the metrics associated with employee experience and eXperience level agreements (XLAs). But there are so many metrics “basics” to get right first, especially to help ensure that the same mistakes aren’t made with XLAs. To help, this blog offers 10 tips for improving your IT service desk’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and wider metrics.
1. Use metrics for a truly rewarding reason
If your IT service desk metrics are merely a box-ticking exercise, i.e. “We need to have some.” Or a monthly, quarterly, and annual exercise in proving that performance targets are being exceeded. Then you’re doing your customers and parent organization a disservice. Instead, make your metrics count by ensuring that they serve a value-adding purpose. For instance, as a platform for driving improvement activity.
2. Make your metrics S.M.A.R.T.
Where S.M.A.R.T stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. This might sound like a piece of outdated management training material but it’s still a valid check to run on any proposed, or existing, metrics. As is asking customers whether metrics and the associated targets (and reporting) provide value to them. As is asking customers whether metrics and the associated targets (and reporting) provide value to them.
3. Focus on what’s really important
There’s a need to stop measuring things just because it’s easy to do so. For instance, reporting certain metrics because the IT service management (ITSM) or IT service desk tool provides them 'out of the box.' Instead, understand what’s important from a business perspective and focus on the metrics that demonstrate how well your IT service desk has performed against this. Think of it as aligning IT service desk metrics, and consequently operations, with desired business outcomes.
4. Regularly review what’s important
Things change, with businesses no exception. So, to ensure that you continue to focus on what’s important to your organization there’s a need to regularly assess which metrics are still valid – asking “How does this metric help us and our customers?” – and what needs to be added, metrics-wise, to continue to demonstrate how well your IT service desk is performing (against business needs).
5. Don’t ignore the relationships between different metrics
Most commonly this is that performing well against one metric will adversely impact another. For instance, increasing your customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores will most likely incur an increase in average call-handling time and the average cost per ticket. These relationships need to be borne in mind when setting targets and managing performance.
6. Don’t just look at “this month”
Instead, look at key metrics across months and quarters, and years. This will allow your IT service desk to identify trends – either positive or negative – that will provide both greater insight (into performance) and inspiration for improvement. For instance, a service level agreement (SLA) target might have been consistently met over the last 12 reporting periods but the analysis across the same 12 months shows a rate of decline that will eventually mean a breach and an adverse affect on business operations. Trending will allow proactive and preventative measures to be put in place.
7. Be conscious of the behavioral aspects of metrics
Measuring someone’s performance will drive their behavior (as they attempt to hit the metric target, and especially if it affects their remuneration). So, ensure that your metrics aren’t driving the wrong behaviors – perhaps encouraging service desk analyst speed over quality and the employee/customer experience. Also, look out for metrics that pull service desk analysts in different directions. For instance, a high target for first contact resolution along with a requirement for average call length to be less than 10 minutes.
8. Don’t lose sight of your critical success factors (CSFs)
It’s all too easy to be so focused on lower-level metrics and KPIs, that the real purpose of performance measurement is lost. So regularly reassess, report on, and talk about your performance against CSFs, not just the KPIs. Plus, as with metrics, the review of the ongoing applicability of CSFs will help to ensure that your IT service desk isn’t now focused on the wrong things.
9. Don’t report everything to stakeholders, focus on what’s important to them
There’s a reason why there’s a metrics hierarchy – some metrics will only ever be of interest to the IT service desk. Thus, when reporting performance, only report what’s important. And this will no doubt differ by stakeholder type (and again will likely change over time).
10. Be wary of industry benchmark metrics
First, because the “10 most commonly used IT service desk metrics” will probably not be the ten most important metrics for your IT service desk and organization. And second, because the average scores they offer up are for an “average IT service desk” that’s probably nothing like yours in terms of size, location, services, applications supported etc. Benchmarks are helpful, but they need to be used in a way that recognizes the likely differences. For instance, the costs that are included in a cost-per-ticket metric could be dramatically different in the organizations from which the aggregate cost is sourced, plus to yours.