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:

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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