Making IT Metrics Relevant to Business Units

Ann All
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How to Connect Data to Meaningful and Measurable Results

Highlights on building an IT Metrics Correlation Model to gain the full value of your data.

Two months ago I shared some good advice on IT metrics from Mark Tauschek, director of IT Research from Info-Tech Research Group, based on a presentation he gave at the Midmarket CIO Forum. In it, he offered some great tips on creating metrics and reporting them in ways that were meaningful to business units.


One of my favorite suggestions was to include context and provide a call to action when reporting metrics. So, don't just say IT resolved 175 help desk tickets during the past month. Instead, note the number is down 10 percent from last month, but 30 percent of staff time is still devoted to resolving tickets. If 40 percent of tickets were related to operating system issues, suggest that providing OS training to users could cut down on the number of tickets and boost IT productivity.


Providing context is one way to get to the heart of stuff that matters for business users. But getting at that context is often a far from simple matter.


Can monitoring tools help? Unfortunately, today's tools do not make this easy, writes Neal Pearce on his blog. Monitoring tools indicate which server or network switch is having a problem, which provides clear value for IT organizations that need to troubleshoot. It provides value for business units, too (the faster IT staff can find problems, the faster they can fix them), but not in a way most business users will appreciate. Yes, "the network is down" is bad, but what does that mean for the business?


Some tools also show where in the business process something isn't working, yet that doesn't go far enough, opines Pearce. He'd like tools that could illustrate the real-time cost of IT issues in business terms. He writes:

Now some of you may question the value of being able to report on this in a real-time way but just consider this. How would your IT teams react if everyone could literally see a counter that showed the money or reputation ticking away during an incident?

He suggests four metrics that would offer clear value to business units:

  • Total lost value in monetary terms (Example: An understanding of the typical point-of-sale transactions during an incident could show how much was lost when the POS system was down.)
  • Value at risk in monetary terms (Degraded system performance means a financial payment would not be paid in time unless the problem is fixed resulting in a fine.)
  • Reputation (Pearce notes that unfortunately there is no currency to measure trust, making this the trickiest measure. Example: Website is down at the time you are publishing the company's annual results.)
  • Total number of user minutes lost (He calls this subset of total lost value but says it's a useful measure to understand impact on productivity.)


The first and fourth items are probably well within reach of many IT organizations. They simply require a bit more legwork than the standard uptime metrics. Fortunately, I think they would also make the biggest impact on business executives.


For more on metrics, I rounded up lots of good advice in a November post. I included 12 characteristics of effective metrics written by TDWI's Wayne Eckerson, each with advice on ensuring the metric fulfills the desired characteristic. For instance, to make metrics strategic, Eckerson advised organizations to "start at the end point-with the goals, objectives or outcomes you want to achieve-and then work backwards." I also included tips from Jim Quick of Diamond Management & Technology Consultants for organizations with not enough metrics and those with too many. For example, one tip for IT organizations that manage too many metrics: Go down the list of reports and ask, "What do we do when we look at this report?" Eliminate those for which the answer is "nothing."

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