Getting Started With Metrics

Written by Mg, PMP, ITIL Expert, Jan 11 2015

Critical Success Factors (CSFs), Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and metrics… what does it all mean?  So much has been written on this topic, but looking at best practice frameworks like ITIL or COBIT or ISO 20000, can leave you wanting more or cross-eyed, as the information found within these disciplines is limited and/or confusing.

I decided to write this article as a means to bring clarity to the subject.  I’ve kept the examples simple in an effort to focus on making sure the concepts are well understood.  I hope you find it helpful.

Here they are:

Critical Success Factor – What has to happen for the service or process to successfully meet strategic business objectives? A CSF is simply a succinct expression of the business objective to meet. For instance, if a strategic business objective is to ‘have a capable workforce,’ a CSF would be similar, ‘to have a capable workforce,’ or ‘to develop a capable workforce.’ There isn’t a lot of detail. Further detail is expressed in the KPIs and then, the specific measurements used to calculate the KPIs.

Key Performance Indicator – A KPI supports the CSF. It can be thought of similar to a gauge found on the dashboard of a car or plane — needles point to numbers that indicate performance. What do we need to achieve to successfully support strategic business objectives (expressed in the CSF)? In the above example, If the CSF is to have a capable workforce, a KPI for the Service Desk may be to ‘ensure 70% of staff have supportive technology certifications.’ There may be 3-5 KPIs to support a particular CSF, and how these are determined is specific to the service or process developing them.

Metric – “Something that is measured and reported to help manage a Process, IT Service or Activity.” (ITIL) Metrics are used in conjunction with KPIs to measure CSFs.

Measurement – “The size, length, or amount of something, as established by measuring.” (Webster’s Dictionary!) Using the same example given above, if the Service Desk is calculating a KPI to ‘ensure 70% of staff have supportive technology certifications,’ they may have two or three different measurements to calculate the KPI result. One measurement can be the current number of Service Desk staff. Another measurement can be a count of those staff who possess a technology certification that qualifies and can be counted toward meeting the KPI. It takes these two separate measurements to perform the calculation. And when capturing measurement information, it is important to document the source of the data, the owner of the data, how often the data is to be collected, reported, etc. 

Difference between KPI and Metric – A metric is simply a number that has been calculated for your purpose. A KPI is a metric that is tracked over time and thereby, provides a point of reference and an ability to see trends to help you manage a CSF. And this is why all KPIs are metrics but not all metrics are KPIs.

Describe the three types of Metrics (per ITIL):

  • Technology – These are often associated with component and application-based metrics such as performance, availability, etc.
  • Process – These metrics can help determine the overall health of a process. KPIs can help answer key questions on quality, performance, value, and compliance in following the process.
  • Service – These are the result of the end-to-end service. Technology metrics are normally used to help compute the service metrics. Customer Satisfaction is an example of a service metric.

Describe Thresholds (Target, Warning, Action)Thresholds refer to the value of a metric. At the Target level, a KPI is successfully meeting business objectives (CSF). A Warning Threshold indicates a monitoring status — similar to a yellow traffic light, it represents ‘proceed with caution.’ This KPI, while it doesn’t require immediate action, has reached a level that requires close monitoring. And, finally, an Action Threshold indicates management action is necessary. The KPI is not achieving acceptable results and some management action is necessary if business objectives are to be successful (CSF).



ITIL v3 Foundation Certification and My Career…

Written by Mg, PMP, ITIL Expert

I cannot speak for everyone who has taken the plunge and become ITIL v3 Foundation certified, but I can speak for myself.  And, with my experience, I have learned first-hand, there is simply no replacement for the level of understanding you can quickly achieve with this knowledge, especially if you are process-oriented.

Continue reading…


What Can ITSM Learn From Service Desk Analysts?

Written by Mg, PMP, ITIL Expert | First published June 13, 2012

What Can ITSM Learn From Service Desk Analysts?

What Can ITSM Learn From Service Desk Analysts?

What Can ITSM Learn From Service Desk Analysts?

What Can ITSM Learn From Service Desk Analysts?

For many service desk analysts, solving technical problems for people as a living ranks as one of the ‘fun’ aspects of their job. It’s the love of technology which is always changing and challenging that drives their interest in pursuing this role. And from a business perspective, when you have the right resources and tools to bring efficiency and high productivity to the job, most analysts are right on board and see this as a welcome positive.

However when companies implement ITSM (IT Service Management) as a ‘numbers game,’ and attempt to control every aspect of an analyst’s job down to setting an amount of ‘average call handling time’ to resolve every phone call with an end user, then the job can become a very negative experience for most analysts. By nature, analysts are efficient problem solvers, reveling in the opportunity to share knowledge and help others.

However, chief among the reasons analysts leave positions time and time again is because of the daily, hourly, minute by minute constraints placed on them by an over-controlling, micro-managing metrics-driven management team. The desire to deliver incredible numbers is what drives the madness — hitting perhaps unrealistic SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) in order to compete in the marketplace, as is the case for outsourced service desks. Wanting to control the number of seconds a phone rings before being answered is one thing. Setting a time limit for every call for every known and unknown issue falls short on delivering quality service. What kind of quality is delivered if the Service Desk tagline is, “We deliver right up until that last second of an average call handling time of 8 minutes. Then, well, you’re on your own…” Wouldn’t the quality and value of the service improve if calls were handled in a ‘non-pressure cooker’ manner, allowing the necessary time to establish rapport, understand the issue, and troubleshoot accordingly — providing more detailed instructions for those end users requiring more direction, and giving more quick, speedy directions for those who are more tech savvy. Ideally, basing service delivery on an individual call basis — allowing analysts a more professional, less stressful role in ITSM.

The communication an analyst has with a customer, whether an internal employee or an external customer is unique to that conversation. There is a give and take in every troubleshooting conversation, with a final result dependent upon how well this communication takes place. Given that constraint, as well as a loudly ticking clock and overbearing management team prone to walking around behind analysts, examining computer screens, and scrutinizing every movement of the mouse and every word said, represents a highly negative job situation that zaps any enjoyment an analyst may have had for their job role.

The solution to this dilemma? Include analysts in SLA discussions… help analysts understand their role within the ITIL framework and within your organization. Allow analysts to contribute ideas to improve any negative metrics. Be confident in the professionalism of the individuals you have selected for your Service Desk. Analysts are not the enemy nor do they possess superhuman capabilities when working with uncompromising or difficult end users — remember the human factor involved in the job. Understand the limits and constraints that make up the daily routine of your Service Desk analysts. And, always, provide positive support and feedback when analysts do things right. Give them the tools and positive support to do their job confidently… and soon, you may find you have an award-winning, highly effective Service Desk, staffed with capable professionals who actually enjoy their role in ITSM.

Continual Professional Improvement | ITIL Certified…. now what?

You’ve studied hard and passed your ITIL v3 Foundation certification exam, now what?  Many employers recognize the value of this certification and know it represents your commitment to continual professional improvement… pun intended!  While others may not even say, ”Nice job!’  It’s hard to deal with a negative or neutral reaction from your current employer, and the great thing about the ITIL v3 Foundation certification is it carries clout throughout the industry.  If your current employer, especially one that has embraced ITIL is not excited about this accomplishment, there are many other employers that are.  For a listing of companies searching for ITIL service desk and other ITSM candidates, click the Jobs link above.  Tailor the results to your location by selecting your City/ST.