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Measuring IT Service Desk Performance

Performance management, balanced scorecards, and related topics present a confluence of a number of essential and classic ITSM themes. Arguably, the biggest challenge here is how to organize these themes and tie them together. I am going to adopt a chronological approach based on my personal experiences.


Compliance and Audit -  My “service management” background is network and systems management oriented. Years ago I was responsible for OpenView solutions for security. This led to a number of interesting activities including partnering with ArcSight (now part of HP) and how some of our key products were being used in highly secure environments. This in turn led to constructing the OpenView solution(s) for compliance - reflecting the classic “my widget is the magic answer to your SOX, HIPAA, GLBA, … problem”. One of the main results out of this for HP Software was that ITSM processes managed by a service desk solution went a long ways towards helping IT and their auditors attest to the “effectiveness of internal controls”. Enabling this was a set of linkages provided by CobiT (Control Objectives for IT) and ITIL.


If you are still with me, CobiT provides numerous KPIs to measure (supported by process and IT key goal indicators) and ITIL includes recommended metrics to track and report on. In this timeframe, we worked extensively with HP IT and HP internal audit to evaluate how first enforcing process controls and then reporting on the process controls could be used to support IT audits and emerging regulations (e.g. the IT dimensions of Sarbanes-Oxley). This definitely played out over the years in many customer testimonials on how implementing good process controls (typically with the help of ITIL recommended best practices) resulted in improved compliance postures and reduced reporting times.


To illustrate here are some CobiT KPIs for change: percentage of changes recorded and tracked with automated tools, percentage of changes that follow formal change control processes, and number of type of emergency changes to the infrastructure components.


How does this tie back into of IT performance management? The service desk and ITSM domain arguably has the richest set of metrics or KPIs to draw from. I could write a series of posts on the topic, but to conclude on compliance and audit, a key benefit to remember is reducing risk and correspondingly improving compliance posture.


Demonstrating Value -  Regardless of good times or bad, it has been important – arguably essential – for IT and the service desk function to demonstrate value. During the economic expansion of the mid 2000’s, there was a phase of data center consolidation and corresponding management tool consolidation. Arguably merger and acquisition activity drove much of this activity as combined entities centralized. For the team that assumed responsibility over a consolidated service desk, it was important to demonstrate to lines of businesses and other stakeholders (that had given up control of a dedicated help desk or service desk) that the new consolidated service desk was providing the agreed upon service levels. This is largely service level management, but there is also a dimension of management reporting. And for the more management oriented reports, what was being shown? A smaller set of metrics or KPIs generally populate such reports or a dashboard which once again takes us back to the topic of performance management.


Demonstrating value arguably became essential over the past three years of increased economic pressure, scrutiny, and cost control. If the service desk function cannot demonstrate value, then it is at risk of being given over to a different service provider. Interestingly, some of the metrics used here are efficiency metrics and/or return on investment (ROI) metrics. Examples include first call resolution rates, percentage of calls/incidents escalated, resolution times, and ratio of tier one support agents to staff. It is also interesting that when customers have documented their improvements following an HP ITSM solution implementation; these metrics are commonly used to demonstrate the value of the project.


Performance Management - In preparation for the launch of the HP IT Performance Suite, I revisited a number of these topics. I also reviewed a handful of service desk reporting solutions and read some recent analyst reports. If you have access to Gartner materials, I would recommend “Introducing the Balanced Scorecard for the IT Service Desk” (ID G00205641), 26 October 2010.


At the beginning of this post, I used the phrase “confluence of a number of essential and classic ITSM themes”. The metric alignment is striking, but that shouldn’t be surprising. Some of the underlying disciplines (incident management) are mature and others (change and configuration management) are highly scrutinized. It is notable that the HP IT Performance Suite supports a “less is more” approach as opposed to overwhelming consumers with operational metrics.


There is more to tell here, but I’ll save that for a future post. If anyone has feedback on their use of balanced scorecards for ITSM or the service desk, I would love to hear about it.




A few HP IT Performance Suite related items:


chuck_darst | ‎06-02-2011 08:42 AM

I should have included this link yesterday This is the press release for the new IT Performance Suite. It has a good description and a number of links to additional resources.

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About the Author
HP IT Service Management Product Marketing team manager. I am also responsible for our end-to-end Change, Configuration, and Release Managem...

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