Reporting is like food. Some dishes are simple, requiring few ingredients; some are more complex, requiring more (and more unique) ingredients. We all have our own flavor preferences. IT reporting is much the same. Depending on your department and your management’s desires, your business’s reporting preferences (flavors) will vary.
I began my career working on the service desk at a large university. We used a homegrown ticket tracking tool, and the only report available to us was on the number of tickets recorded in a certain time frame. This didn’t stop management from requesting more “complex” reports, which we couldn’t easily create or were actually impossible to create based on the limited data we were collecting. But times have changed: Those reports we once saw as complex are now among the most basic reports available to and required by our customers.
Beyond the Basics
Today, vendors are expected to offer increasingly complex and in-depth reporting capabilities that enable organizations to demonstrate business value. This is because IT (and particularly IT support) has changed, evolving from a reactive, fire-fighting organization into a valuable contributor to the business.
Proactivity entails monitoring trends and predicting problems before they happen. Transitioning from reactivity to proactivity is a huge undertaking, but moving beyond proactivity to being a service-focused, valuable business partner is an equally enormous proposition. IT must have an understanding of what’s important to the business: not just what IT thinks it should deliver, but what other business departments need from IT to meet their goals. This requires an IT solution that can do more than simply deliver metrics. It requires IT to understand the organization’s goals and then build out processes (with related analytics) that demonstrate IT’s alignment with the business.
Understanding the Business
To understand the organization’s goals, IT must build relationships with other departments. How can IT achieve this? The best method involves performing a needs analysis. Sit down with the leadership of each department that utilizes IT’s services and ask them about their goals and targets. Then, determine how IT contributes to those goals. For example, maybe the VP of sales is evaluated based on her team’s ability to achieve quarterly revenue targets. The IT department likely maintains or delivers a service the sales team relies on to its job, so a report or metric that demonstrates the availability of this service will resonate with her.
Time and time again, I’ve encountered organizations that struggle to obtain the reports they need from their IT solutions. Sometimes they struggle because they’re using weak tools, but more often than not it’s because they hadn’t determined their reporting requirements before implementing their solutions. The only way to get the reports you need is to make sure you are collecting the data to feed those reports.
Organizations are pretty good at collecting data; whether that data is the right data is another story. Before implementing a solution, it’s best to understand exactly which reports you need. This information will ensure you capture the right data upfront to get the reports you need in the end. Collecting the right data is the first step toward proactivity, predictability, standardization, and alignment.
Back to Basics
Not every IT organization needs extensive trend analysis or productivity costing reports. There are many organizations that only need basic reports: SLA, resolution rates, and workload are among the most popular. Vendors and IT organizations should work together to understand IT’s goals and its output—and whether those are impacted by the business’s overall goals or simply by IT’s requirements—and then develop a well-planned implementation strategy that supports IT’s processes, delivers the desired reports, and meets IT’s analytics needs.
Just as restaurants fill their menus with a range of options designed to satisfy their patrons’ tastes, most ITSM solution vendors offer a menu of reporting options to meet a range of business needs. IT should do the same: offer a variety of services that can help the business meet its goals. With the right services and the right solution, it’s a win-win for everyone!
Elisabeth Cullivan Thomas is a results-driven IT professional with extensive experience in IT product marketing and management, including product and solution positioning, messaging, go-to-market strategies, and thought leadership. She’s currently the director of product marketing at EasyVista. Elisabeth received her MS in information management from Syracuse University and her BA in industrial relations from LeMoyne College.