5 Tips for Better IT Service Desk Metrics

IT service desks have long struggled with how best to understand and report their performance. Yes, there are many available best, or good, practice metrics available in both IT service management (ITSM) guidance and tools – but it’s still an area where many IT support professionals seek guidance. It’s as though the metrics they currently use aren’t quite “hitting the spot” either within IT, with business stakeholders, or for both audiences. This blog shares five common metrics issues and then provides associated tips that’ll help your IT service desk (or IT help desk) to better monitor its performance, demonstrate its achievements, address improvement opportunities, and to ultimately stay relevant relative to business needs. Issue #1 – The Employed Metrics Are as Old as the Service Desk Itself Very little has changed in the advice provided to organizations when it comes to their IT service desk metrics, so it’s unsurprising that little has changed, metrics-wise, at an individual company level, especially when an organization dutifully uses every possible metric that’s available from their ITSM tool’s reporting capability. However, much has changed in all three worlds of the business, technology, and IT support, so surely the metrics would need to change to reflect this? Or is simply hitting a potentially outdated set of metric targets still considered an achievement? I hope not. Tip #1 – Regularly Review Your Metric Portfolio (Based on a Set of Agreed Criteria) If you haven’t formally reviewed your IT service desk metrics since 2017 or earlier, then please do it now. I’d be willing to bet that some are now irrelevant, even if it’s simply the targets that are the issue – for example, your high-scoring customer satisfaction (CSAT) metric might be hiding what end users really think about the IT support they receive. But, more importantly, ensure that they’re focused on what’s truly important. As to the frequency of review, I’d suggest starting with quarterly or half-yearly – maybe making the first an in-depth assessment and the next a lighter touch – and then adjusting the cadence to reflect the need, i.e. if little has changed, then don’t review as regularly. Issue #2 – Metrics Are Disconnected from What’s Really Important Have you ever stopped to ask why you use IT service desk metrics? Is it merely to show that your IT support capability is hitting what’s probably a self-prescribed collection of targets? What’s done with the information that’s collected and shared? And do the people they’re reported to even care beyond the fact that every IT service desk target has been hit (again)? Tip #2 – Understand the Real Purpose of IT Service Desk Metrics While it’s great to know the volumes of things and how quickly things are undertaken, there are two other perspectives that need to be taken. Firstly, IT service desk metrics should measure what the desk achieves (through what it does) rather than simply what it does – with this at a business level and related to what key business stakeholders deem to be of value. Think of these as value-focused metrics. An example, would be the level of manufacturing production lost in a given month due to IT issues – while this includes the quality of service delivery, there’s also a support-efficiency perspective that can be considered. Secondly, metrics should be more than a look back on what happened last month. Instead, they should be both a platform for operational or service-based improvement and a vehicle for predicting future performance with service desks adjusting the status quo when need. Issue #3 – Metrics Might Drive the Wrong Behaviors A good example to explain this is first contact resolution (FCR). If you imagine a service desk agent, or team, that’s down on its FCR target will this make them “hold onto” end-users or customers longer than they should as they try to resolve the issues themselves (to meet the FCR target)? Not only does this potentially waste time and money (because two employees might be unproductive) it might also adversely affect business operations. Tip #3 – Understand and Address How Your Metrics Drive Both Positive and Negative Behaviors Metrics can be complicated, especially when doing well with one metric means that performance against another sees a fall (in performance). For instance, improving CSAT might see a potentially unwanted increase in average ticket handling time and cost-per-ticket. But it’s not an excuse to ignore the potential for metrics to result in poorer business outcomes (as with the FCR example above). After all, no one really wins if the IT organization hits targets at the expense of business operations and outcomes. Issue #4 – Changes in Performance are Misunderstood IT service desk performance might be static with some metrics and change with others, but it’s not always clear as to why these changes happen (or why nothing has changed for that matter). For example, a 10% increase in tickets handled per month might be considered a good thing for a number of reasons. For instance, because the service desk has done more work. Or because it’s a sign that employees are happy in using the service desk for support. But it could also be a negative thing. Where issues with IT service delivery are causing more incidents, let’s say 20% more, but only half of these are being dealt with by the IT service desk. Neither of which is great news at a business level. Tip #4 – Understand the Metrics Hierarchy and the Important Interrelationships As with the previous tip, it’s important to understand how the metrics hierarchy is structured and individual metrics are linked to, and impact, each other. It’s also critical to know the relative worth of individual metrics – some will be far more important than others. For example, that the relative drop in CSAT caused by a small reduction in average call handling time is unacceptable. Or, from a predictive performance perspective, knowing that a tested and approved security patch installation will still result in a 10% increase in a certain category of tickets. Issue #5 – Employee Experience Might Be Out of Line with Traditional Metrics This issue can be approached from two angles. Firstly, research by analyst firms such as Forrester has shown again and again that there’s an “experience gap” between how well IT organizations think they’re doing and how well their end users or customers think they’re doing. It can also be viewed as an “expectations gap.” Secondly, employee expectations of IT service delivery, support, and customer service have been rising on the back of superior business-to-consumer (B2C) experiences in their personal lives. The impact of this “consumerization” needs to be understood and addressed by IT service desks, with metrics changed to reflect the higher expectations, failing to do so will only widen the gap. Tip #5 – Factor the Employee Experience into Your Metric Portfolio This can take a number of guises. On the one hand, it might involve the introduction of employee-experience-based metrics – measuring IT success as close to the employee as possible. For instance, lost productivity. Or, on the other, it might involve the revision of existing metrics and targets to reflect the raised expectations. For example, shortening target resolution times. So, that’s five tips for better IT service desk metrics from me, what else would you add? Please let me know in the comments.