If you've been in management for very long, you know all about metrics. They can be used for good or they can be used for evil, but just about everywhere you go, metrics will be used in some way to gauge overall performance against goals or against competitors. A while back, I wrote an article in this space that discussed the need to choose your metrics wisely so that you minimize the potential for unintended consequences. Although you may never be able to get a "perfect" metric, there are some pieces of information that are valuable to the CIO and the executive team that should be considered must-haves for any dashboard.
Bear in mind that the metrics alone will not spell success. It's what you do with the processes behind the metrics that makes the difference.
Project pipeline status
Project management remains a major challenge for many organizations. From projects stalling out to missing deadlines to being over budget, there are any number of situations that can wreak havoc on the project portfolio.
For those organizations that have undertaken the effort to create a project portfolio management process, providing constant insight and transparency into current portfolio status is a must have item. This project pipeline dashboard view should include a high level list of currently active and approved projects and, for each project, a set of at-a-glance indicators that show the status for the project timeline and budget.
Project development, which can be anything from integrating with a cloud-based service to building an ERP, is a real service provided by IT departments and should be transparent to the organization as a whole, at least from a high level.
Long term, keep the project history behind the scenes so that you can identify if there are common points in each failed, late or over budget project to see if these issues can be raised earlier on for future projects.
Infrastructure outages or major warnings
Everyone in the company depends on the IT infrastructure in order to get the job done. This shared computing environment is the lifeblood of the business and when it is down or otherwise facing challenges, there can be significant adverse impact to the business. Most comprehensive IT environments already perform some kind of monitoring to alert IT staff in the event of an infrastructure problem that could affect the business. I believe that this information-at least, again, at a high level-should be available to others in the organization so that there is awareness across the company. After all, if, for example, the company's e-commerce site is down, that's going to affect a whole lot of areas.
On a trending basis, IT should make sure the continually capture infrastructure availability metrics and look for trends that might be correctable in order to achieve higher levels of availability.
Support: Time to user-acknowledged satisfactory issue resolution
I struggled with whether or not to include a help desk metric in this list. However, given how important the service desk is to the organization, I couldn't leave it out, but I did make sure to qualify what I consider one of the best metrics when it comes to support.
It's easy to count open tickets and throw them up on a dashboard, but that doesn't really tell you a lot. It's also easy to try to reduce resolution time by using a "ticket closed" status as a metric, but doing so may inadvertently lead to staffers closing tickets, for example, as soon as they're opened in order to keep the resolution time low.
What really matters with ticket resolution is the satisfaction level of the end user that opened the ticket. The major problem with this metric is that some users will never acknowledge a ticket's closure, so you may never get 100% response to this metric. However, that doesn't mean that you can't just count the tickets for which there is a user satisfaction response.
General satisfaction with IT
An IT department that is constantly improving is probably also finding ways to determine where they may be weak and attempting to correct those issues. When it comes to the support desk, there are often user surveys generated after ticket closure to ask the user of their impressions of the service they received from IT. This is just one input among many that can be used to develop a broad, general IT satisfaction score. Such a metric can help the CIO and the IT staff understand more quickly if they might be veering off track or not providing the services that are needed. Although the CIO should be well-connected and able to get this kind of information, not everyone likes to deliver negative news, so such metrics can still help even the most-connected CIO.
A CIO needs to know where he stands with budget all the time. A dashboard element showing current YTD or MTD budget along with a look at previous year's information on the chart is critical to helping stay on track. Without the historical information, a metric regarding budget is almost useless, though, so make sure that these data elements do include it.
These are just five data elements that I believe are important ones for the CIO to monitor and, for some, to make available to the user community. What do you believe are critical?
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at email@example.com.