Is there a fundamental problem in today’s IT? I believe there is, and it’s this: IT decision-makers are too often focused on the wrong things.
In a recent study, Forrester examined the top priorities, topics, and terms from a variety of data sources for both business decision-makers and technology decision-makers. What we found was a very clear — and to my mind, troubling — distinction between these two groups.
Business decision-makers focus on topics like growing revenue, improving customer satisfaction, and hiring, developing, and retaining the best talent. By contrast, IT decision-makers focus on topics like improving project delivery performance, improving budget performance, and cutting IT costs.
The fact that IT decision-makers have so little focus on business outcomes is one of the main reasons IT is seen as disconnected from the rest of the business.
The only way for CEOs and CIOs to fix this is to begin to measure IT professionals more in terms of business-outcomes and less on project delivery and system uptime. In other words, we need to measure IT professionals using the same KPIs we use to measure leaders across the rest of the business. This means we must begin measuring IT’s impact on things like the change in customer satisfaction (that’s the company’s customer satisfaction and not IT’s internal “customers” as some groups like to refer to other employees in the company), or the increase in sales, or the ability to attract and retain top talent.
There is no single metric against which to benchmark the performance of your customer service organization. It’s like flying a plane—you can’t do it by just looking at your altitude settings. This means that most organizations use a balanced scorecard approach, which includes a set of competing metrics that balance the cost of operations against satisfaction measures. For industries with strict policy regulations, like healthcare, insurance, or financial services, adherence to regulatory compliance is yet another metric that is added to the list.
The set of metrics that you choose also depends on your audience. Customer service managers need real-time, granular operational data. Yet your executive management team needs high-level data about key performance indicators (KPIs) that track outcomes of customer service programs.
So where should you begin when choosing metrics? It’s best to start by understanding the value proposition of your company. For example, do you compete on customer experience, where satisfaction measures are of primary importance, or do you compete on cost, where efficiency and productivity measures are most important?
Once you understand your value proposition, choose the high-level KPIs that support your company’s objectives. These metrics are the ones that you will report to executive management and include overall cost, revenue, compliance, and satisfaction scores. Next, choose the operational metrics for your organization that link to each of these KPIs and support your brand. For example, if you compete on cost, handle time and speed of answer will become your primary metrics. However, if you are focused on maximizing customer lifetime value, first contact resolution will rise to the top.
One thing that I’ve found in common across infrastructure and operations groups of all shapes and sizes is that they are continually searching for the ideal set of key performance indicators. A set of metrics that perfectly measures their infrastructure, demonstrates the excellence of their operations, but are still simple and cheap to collect. At least once a week I speak with a client searching for the holy grail of metrics, hopeful that I hold that coveted knowledge. They’re inevitably disappointed to find out that I don’t know what the best set of metrics is, and that I truly think that it doesn’t exist! Sorry if I’m bursting your bubble, but there is no essential set of metrics for all infrastructure and operations organizations. What makes sense for one organization to measure may be completely useless for another organization. What may be very simple to collect at one company is nearly impossible at another.
While I don’t believe in the myth of a single set of perfect metrics for all organizations, I do think it is valuable to learn from other organizations what they are measuring in order to compare them to your own metrics (and maybe steal some of theirs), which is why I am gathering a list of metrics from infrastructure and operations groups globally in order to form a database of metrics. Once we have a good number of metrics on this list, I will work to consolidate them down to the most commonly cited metrics and collect a benchmark on them. We’re calling this project “Forrester's Consensus Metrics For Infrastructure & Operations” and I really hope you’ll consider contributing to it because we can’t do this without your input.