FAQs: Metrics, Measures, and KPIs


by Doug Tedder
May 18, 2017

Metrics, measures, and KPIs—you know you need them.  But what are they?  Is there a difference? And how do you know what metrics, measures, and KPIs you need to capture and monitor—or publish? One thing is for certain – your service management program will not be successful without collecting the right metrics, measures, and KPIs.

Take heart. If you’re asking the above questions, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for some answers to frequently asked questions.

Are metrics and measures the same thing?

The terms metrics and measures are often used interchangeably (I know I often use the terms interchangeably!), and while they are related, they are actually two different things. 

First, a measure is a discrete, quantitative description of something, the amount or degree of something. A measure usually describes one thing—for example, the number of calls to the support center.

A metric is a derivative of a measure or measures, describes a quality, and requires a baseline measure. For example, the percentage of calls resolved on first contact (or FCR) is a metric. The measures involved are the total number of calls received and the number of issues resolved in a single call. The FCR metric is derived from these measures by dividing the number of issues resolved in a single call by the total number of calls received.
 

Why is defining metrics so important?

Metrics put measures into context and are critical for fact-based decision-making.  Without metrics, individuals and organizations will (and often do!) make decisions based on experience, gut-instinct, who is yelling the loudest, or the silence factor (“No one is complaining, so everything must be fine.”). And while it can be beneficial to have experience or know who is yelling the loudest, metrics give us objective evidence regarding the performance of a service, process, or activity. 

Metrics allow us to understand how we are performing, identify opportunities for improvement, or determine the effectiveness of implemented improvements. Metrics help us understand the demand for services and support from the IT organization, know that we are in compliance with policies, and determine the maturity of our processes and procedures. But what really make metrics so important is that they enable comparison—the ability to compare current performance against previous performance. The ability to compare justifies corrective actions or celebrate success and can provide inspiration and encouragement to keep up the good work.
 

Metrics allow us to understand how we are performing.
Tweet: #Metrics allow us to understand how we are performing. @dougtedder @ThinkHDI

Are metrics the same as KPIs?

Good question! The answer is that all Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are metrics, but not all metrics are KPIs.  Simply put, while a specific metric will provide us with important information for managing a specific aspect of our work, not all metrics are necessarily key. Those key metrics, or KPIs, give us the ability to quantify what is most important to monitor as we work to achieve goals and objectives. To read more about KPIs, check out this article in SupportWorld, When is a KPI a KPI?

What are the right metrics to publish?

Before deciding what metrics to publish, there are two questions you first need to ask:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do they need to know?

The answers to these two questions will provide the overarching guidance needed when deciding what metrics to publish and to whom to send the published reports. As you might guess, you may have more than one audience, each of which may have specific metrics that they’d like to see published.

Having said that, here are some can’t-miss suggestions for identifying at least a basic set of metrics to publish.

  • Strategic Framework. In the HDI Support Center Manager class, we discuss the strategic framework. The strategic framework consists of the organization’s mission, vision, and goals (MVG); the service level agreements (SLA) that underpin the delivery of services in support of the MVG; and the standard operating procedures that enable the support center to meet the terms of the SLA. Check out the SLA to identify what metrics have been defined. Look at the MVG to identify the critical success factors and associated KPIs (remember a KPI is a metric!). If your organization is responsible for meeting the SLA or these KPIs, you should publish these metrics.
  • Balanced Scorecard. A balanced scorecard (BSC) is another great source for identifying what metrics should be published. The BSC is used to align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization and monitor performance against strategic goals. Have a look at this article to learn more about a BSC.
  • Your Boss. Your boss is perhaps an obvious source for what metrics should be published, but this also provides a great opportunity to have a discussion with your boss about why these metrics are important to her!
  • What metrics tell your story? What story do you want others to know about the job you’re doing? What metrics tell you that you’re doing a great job or help you identify opportunities for improvement? Tell your story by publishing those metrics. Make your story even more compelling by relating those metrics to the Strategic Framework or a BSC.  


Doug Tedder is a strategic, innovative, and solutions-driven IT service management professional with more than twenty years of progressive experience across a variety of industries. He’s a resourceful and hands-on leader with track record of success implementing ITSM and IT governance processes. Doug is a certified ITIL Expert and ISO/IEC 20000 Consultant Manager and holds many other industry certifications. In addition, Doug is an accredited ITIL Foundation trainer and HDI Support Center Analyst and Support Center Manager instructor. Follow Doug on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.


Tag(s): supportworld, metrics and measurements, KPI, FAQ

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