Metrics, Service Catalog Help Illustrate IT's Value

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IT Metrics Video

The IT department should focus on areas that both IT and business users perceive as underperforming.

Being a CIO is a tough gig for just about anyone, so I can only imagine how hard it must be for someone serving as a company's first-ever CIO. This was the challenge faced by Allan Hackney, who became insurer John Hancock Financial Services' first CIO in 2008.


Hackney is featured in a SearchCIO.com piece that shares insights from his Keynote address at the recent CIO Executive Leadership Summit. Hackney's first order of business involved illustrating IT's value to the rest of the business by introducing metrics and a service catalog. Speaking about the importance of metrics, Hackney said:

Unless you can prove there is productivity improvement and expense it, you don't get the bucks, never mind about trying to grow the top line or create capability.

I got a similar take on IT metrics from Mark Tauschek, director of IT research for Info-Tech Research Group, when I met him at November's Midmarket CIO Forum. Both Hackney and Tauschek emphasized making sure users have ready access to metrics and aren't forced to seek them out. As Tauschek told me: "If you wait until you're asked and don't have an answer, that's problematic."


Tauschek mentioned four key benefits of metrics, all of which seem to mesh nicely with Hackney's views:

  • Provide insight into IT's performance and build credibility with business units.
  • Justify staff and spending levels. CFOs are less likely to balk at funding requests from IT departments that are in line with their peers.
  • Assess and report on operational and project performance, which should help IT teams improve and create a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Understand and articulate where IT creates value.


Hackney said IT should think and talk about its service offerings in terms of product development and product management, "exactly as the product development units at your companies use it." CIOs need to define their customers and know the size of their market and at what price point and quality point they can deliver services. Different business units may require different levels of service.


Hancock suggested offering IT services to users through a service catalog. Interest in service catalogs is growing, I found when I interviewed Markos Symeonides, vice president of business development for IT service management software provider Axios Systems. When it surveyed global companies last year, Axios found 64 percent of them were implementing or planning to implement a service catalog.


Like metrics, Symeonides told me service catalogs can help illustrate IT's value and make costs more transparent. He said:

... In a time when the IT spend is being scrutinized more than ever before, a service catalog allows IT to measure its performance in business terms. IT becomes a visible contributor to the business direction. It's easier to understand IT's impact. A service catalog helps you compare your IT services with external services. IT can be honest and say, "You request a BlackBerry, and it will cost X dollars to deliver it and support it." So then you can compare that. If we outsource that, what will it cost? It makes costs more transparent.

I'd heard that some IT departments resisted service catalogs because they saw them as precursors to outsourcing. Just the opposite is true, Symeonides said, and it all goes back to the idea of transparency:

... You're much more likely to be outsourced if no one knows the value IT provides. If IT is a black box in terms of cost, executives will assume they can get these services for less from someone else. So this is IT being able to stand up and say, "We are providing good service. We're going to continue to improve." Until IT can do that, I think there's a risk it'll be outsourced. They can defend their position if they can measure their performance.