IT pros have many priorities, but I would like to suggest one that I think should be high on your list: Make this the year that you finally implement performance measurements and plan for the systems and processes that you will need to make them valuable.
It's difficult to manage what you can't measure and document. For example, how can you accurately know (and forecast in a budget plan) how much your services cost if you don't capture the right statistics? How would you know that a technology acquisition was giving your department an appropriate return on investment? Is your help desk as efficient as it could be? In order to manage effectively, you have to be able to answer these questions and be able to back them up with data. This is why you measure performance and document the results.
Find time to set up metrics
Perhaps the most popular reason for not measuring performance and doing statistical analysis is that it takes effort and resources that just don't seem to be available. This seems like a legitimate argument to the overworked staff, but actually it is an argument for measuring performance. How will anyone know how overworked your team is if you can't document it? You need to fit in time to set up metrics if you ever want to make a business case for a new hire.
To arrive at the appropriate metrics you need to implement, first you should define the different functions for which your department is held accountable, for example: supporting end users, provision of network and application services, and development. For each of these categories, you can probably come up with 10 different measurements. For example, to measure your help desk's efficiency, you would look at the number of calls for support and the success rate for resolving problems; to gauge your network's performance, one measure would be the number of uptime hours; and for development, you would look at the number of applications deployed, hours spent on bug fixes, etc.
Once you've come up with the individual measurements and ways to document the results, don't stop there. Build in functions to measure quality. Who cares if you serviced 3,000 help tickets if it took an average of five hours to resolve them and the customer was left dissatisfied each time? Even if you had no network or server outages, that doesn't necessarily mean you're on top of your network—if performance is so slow or unresponsive that spending time using your systems makes getting your teeth drilled sound exciting, you obviously have some troubleshooting to do. Quantity and quality indicators together make up meaningful performance measurements.
Finally, try and add costs to the mix. This can be difficult and is often done after the quantity and quality measures have been gathered, but it is important to do so. It is the cost statistics that will allow you to intelligently justify arguments regarding additional funding, cutbacks, and outsourcing. Having the statistics ready will also help you defend your decisions about procurement and staffing.
Benefits of performance measurement
Besides being able to answer questions at budget time regarding the state of your department, having these measures in place will produce other benefits:
- You can tune your efforts based on your actual performance—defining where performance problems lie will help you target solutions more accurately, whether it is a lack in quantity, quality, or cost.
- You can enter into Service Level Agreements with a reasonable amount of certainty that you can meet the service levels you proposed.
- Your estimates can be grounded in reality, allowing you to explain to a skeptical user community why there are certain limitations on services that can be delivered, the time it takes to respond to certain requests, etc.
- You can actually prove your department's value to the establishment, and therefore, are justified in asking for more resources and rewards for your staff.
If you don't know where to start, here are some resources to help you:
- Use these surveys to gauge the quality of your service (TechRepublic download)
- Measuring your organization's performance management (TechRepublic download)
- Gain executive buy-in for systems management spending (TechRepublic download)
- Managing Government Projects (TechRepublic premium content)
- Return on Investment In Information Technology: A Guide for Managers (Center for Technology in Government publication)
- Preparing a business case (an excerpt from a Center for Technology in Government publication)
Don't just give performance measurement lip service. Once your processes are put into place, make sure they are followed thoroughly. Half measures produce half results, and you'll only provoke ill will by fudging your statistics, or going through the measuring process and ignoring the results.
If you start planning now, you should be able to design performance metrics and processes for documenting the results that will make the next fiscal year's budget decisions much more meaningful and less stressful.
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