Earlier this month I wrote a post in which I likened IT metrics to piecrust. And not because they are both delicious. (Sarcasm intended.)
Like piecrust, creating metrics seems like a simple task. Yet many people go through lots of failed versions before getting it right, and some folks never manage to produce a good crust (or metrics).
Mark Tauschek, director of IT Research for Info-Tech Research Group, likened metrics to another food, broccoli, during his presentation at this week's Midmarket CIO Forum in Orlando. The broccoli analogy is more obvious than my piecrust one. Both metrics and broccoli are often reviled, yet both are undeniably good for you.
Tauschek ran through some of the benefits of employing IT metrics:
Despite these benefits, Tauschek said IT organizations sometimes resist metrics. Smaller organizations tend to object more than larger ones, he said, insisting that business units already have a good handle on what IT does and they don't want to waste scarce resources in defining and monitoring performance metrics.
Even if this is true (and chances are, it's not), Tauschek said the control provided by metrics can help IT organizations manage growth. Also, at some point business executives will want to see some metrics. "Most organizations capture some kinds of metrics. It's hard for IT to justify not doing it if everyone else is doing it," he said.
Let's say you are interested in implementing an IT metrics program. (Eighty-two percent of organizations surveyed by Info-Tech are.) How do you start? Tauschek's suggestions:
Tauschek also ran through some top-level metrics and possible interpretations. Noting that operational spending comprises more than 80 percent of typical IT budgets, he said operational budget as a percentage of revenue is one of the most critical metrics to benchmark against peers.
While results higher than those of peers can indicate overspending, this may not apply if the business is gearing up for a growth or transformation initiative. (This is where context comes in.) Complex environments usually have higher operational costs, so a figure at the high end of the scale may also show IT is too complex for the current business model.
If the figure is well below peer results, this could mean IT is performing well and does a good job of managing the available budget. Or the business may be running in reactive mode, with IT under-serving the business and just doing its best to maintain current performance.
Audience questions usually yield some good insights, and Tauschek's presentation was no exception. A CIO in the crowd asked about "better dead than red" metrics, ones that reflect so badly on IT that no IT leader would want to reveal them. Tauschek said it's better to proactively share these kinds of metrics with the business, especially if you can show they are improving, because the business will eventually want answers anyway.
"You don't want to have the CEO come up to you in the hall and say the help desk is terrible," he said. "If you don't have the right answer, that's problematic. If you know, you can work toward improving it. And you can tell the CEO you have a plan for improvement."