Create Dashboards with Your Audience in Mind


by Phyllis Drucker
May 3, 2017

Where do your reports wind up? Are they in front of an interested executive or in the trash? Mostly, IT reports end up in the trash due to an internal focus on best practice metrics that are very important to the service management team, but not of much use to the business partners reviewing them. This article will help you become more effective at the creation of timely and interesting dashboards.

Tools and Dashboards

The first problem many providers will face is that many of today’s service management tools include dashboards and home pages that enable data and metrics to be pushed to customers.  But the samples provided out of box are the typical metrics that wind up in the trash.

Before I offer you three tips to create a fresh type of dashboard, let’s look at some typical measures and their usefulness:

  • Total calls received/abandoned. This internal measure is useful only to service desk managers.
  • Average speed of answer. Along with total calls in queue, this is a great metric to feed live to a service portal, but is of little interest to customers after the fact.
  • Mean time to restore service. This internal measure doesn’t mean much to a customer, particularly if it’s not broken down by the service or if services have not yet been defined.
  • Ticket backlog. Customers have little interest in knowing what’s in your queue. They really need to know when you’ll get to their ticket; service level performance addresses that need.
  • Number of tickets by assignment group, average duration open. This internal measure is helpful to managers but not customers interested only in their own issues.
  • System availability. This measure is taken at the infrastructure level and is virtually meaningless to customers, where service availability might be.

While there are more, these are a good enough example to demonstrate that the effectiveness of a measurement is dependent both on audience and timing. Let’s look at three tips to help you address both.

See Phyllis present Creating Dashboards with Your Audience in Mind at HDI 2017 Conference & Expo.

Tip #1: Know Your Audience

Consider that you are reaching several distinct audiences with your reports, even in a self-service dashboard environment: service desk management, IT management, business executives, corporate customers, field customers, and even customers in a business-generating facility (like a warehouse, store, etc.). An additional consideration is the work style driven by the audience’s generation; millennials, gen x/y, and baby boomers all look at things differently and have different interests.

The first step to defining dashboards therefore is to identify both the audiences and their generation for the groups you wish to reach with a metrics program. You can see some of these differences in the matrix below and begin building a matrix like this for each group of customers within the organization.

 

Millenials/Gen YGen XBaby BoomersTraditionalists
Fast paced, digital-media focused. This group has always kept busy and will be willing/ready to consume data that's pertinent to them, data that helps them perform an activity and move onto the next thing quickly. What's in it for me? As the first generation who may not do as well as their parents, they are used to having to fight for everything they achieve. They will want to know what you're doing for them as an individual, how fast can you help me, when are you going to fulfill my request, etc. Some may be less computer savvy, but very competitive, being promised "Amercian Dream" if they work hard to achieve it. They are interested in how you are supporting their tools, enabling them to succeed.  Very interested in economics and conservation, budget performance and efficiency will be important to them.
  • SLA compliance
  • % increase in transaction times for major applications/services
  • Service availability
  • SLA compliance reporting (incidents and service requests)
  • IT investment by department
  • Availability of services used by their business unit
  • Capital investment spend for projects for their department
  • Planned improvements
  • Reduction in cost of downtime
  • Reduction in operational costs due to automation, efficiency
  • Cost per contact/call
  • First call resolve %

(Source: the generational characterizations shown in the table were adapted from the West Midland Family Center Generational Differences Chart .)

The most critical part of the matrix above is not the metrics listed. These are merely provided to show how your audience’s generation can affect their interests. Once you build the interest matrix, the metrics each group cares about need to be defined. Notice in this example that even the most commonly reported IT measures will not be of interest to each group. It’s this difference that starts enabling you to target metrics to key audiences.

Tip #2: Speak to Your Audiences

With the matrix in hand, but not displayed in the room, gather some key members of each audience group for a focus session on metrics. A one-hour meeting should be sufficient to engage in a conversation to define what’s important to them. This meeting should be well structured; define why it’s being held, why they were invited, where the resulting dashboards will be available, and the intended outcome for the session. For remote associates, a conference call is sufficient. The goal of this session is to speak with them and understand the most important services IT provides to them and identify key critical success factors (CSFs) and associated key performance indicators (KPIs) that enable the group to know how well IT is performing for them.

Include a session for senior executives as well. For this group, identify those measures they wish to see and work with them to review all of the measures identified by the other audience groups to identify a small sub-set of metrics that might be offered as an organization-wide view, driven by the executive strategy.

Tip #3: Develop Individual Dashboards for Each Service Audience

With an understanding of the metrics each group wants to see, now you can develop a dashboard view of these metrics. Consider the audience’s generation and how these metrics will fit across the group’s membership, but bear in mind that if you included each of the generations in your focus group, the metrics identified for the group will speak to each of the different generational interests.

In addition to the metrics the group identified, include the overarching metrics recommended by the executive team. In this way, each audience can see metrics of direct interest to them as well as the overarching IT performance metrics driven by the executive team. The result is that IT is demonstrating its performance both for the dashboard’s intended audience and overarching organizational performance.

Why Dashboards and Not Reports?

While reports can still be developed to go along with dashboards, providing trend information and other historical perspectives, the main difference between the two is that live dashboards provide an immediate view of how IT is performing against a group’s needs. By the time reports come out, the customers already know it and have developed an opinion (good or poor) of IT’s service and responsiveness. They no longer have any need for the data, hence the use of the trash bin.

Live dashboards provide an immediate view of how IT is performing.
Tweet: Live dashboards provide an immediate view of how IT is performing. @msitsm @ThinkHDI #metrics

Dashboards have a secondary advantage. While IT is viewing data as well, if service or stability issues arise, the need for corrective action can be seen early and IT can engage with the customer regarding the actions being taken, improving IT’s responsiveness and customer opinion.

Takeaways

As you finish reading this, I’ll emphasize several things to take away:

  • The need and effectiveness of the data you provide is in the eyes of the reader; target your metrics to your audience.
  • If your reports wind up in the trash, it’s not necessarily because they report the wrong measures; they might just be reporting data that’s not of interest to the audience or that is no longer timely. Correct both issues to become more effective.
  • Get the data to your customers in as timely a manner as possible; immediate is best.


Phyllis Drucker is an ITIL® certified consultant and information leader at Linium. Phyllis has more than 20 years of experience in the disciplines and frameworks of IT service management, as both a practitioner and consultant. She has served the itSMF USA since 2004 in a variety of capacities including volunteer, board member, and operations director. Since 1997, Phyllis has helped to advance the profession of ITSM leaders and practitioners worldwide by providing her experience and insight on a wide variety of ITSM topics through presentations, whitepapers, and articles and now her new book on the service request catalog, Online Service Management: Creating a Successful Service Request Catalogue (International Best Practice). Follow Phyllis on Twitter @msitsm
Tag(s): supportworld, service management, metrics and measurements, dashboards, business alignment

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