Improve Your Service Desk with Right-Sized Metrics

by Ryan Ogilvie
March 14, 2018

Ask any service delivery professional if they want to make lasting improvements and they will all say,  “Yes, of course!”  The challenge is making valuable lasting improvements consistently and knowing where to begin.

So why does this seem so difficult to figure out. Much of the challenge relates to the ability to build a strategy for improvement. The key to building a strategy is leveraging solid data with which to make informed decisions. Here lies the problem; many support organizations will tell you they have either not enough information or too much data to accomplish this.

Many support organizations have either not enough information or too much data to build a strategy for improvement.
Tweet: Many support organizations have either not enough information or too much data to build a strategy for improvement. @ryanrogilvie @ThinkHDI #metrics

Why Right Sizing Is Important

To make improvements, you first need to know where you are right now. This is where the challenge begins for those looking to improve. Many organizations will know already that they either have too little information or too much to work with. With either too little or too much information, it is difficult to:

  • Make valuable lasting improvements
  • Communicate with business stakeholders
  • Manage effectively long term

So part of the improvement initiative is to determine the right amount of metrics to improve effectively.

Set Some Ground Rules

So, you know that you want to improve something; that’s the easy part. The hard part is getting everyone else on board for the ride. To do that, you need to outline the expectations for this initiative from the onset.

This part of the improvement initiative requires a high degree of communication to all the stakeholders involved. Let them know what you are looking to improve. Start with the end in mind, but remember to keep it simple. If you are looking to improve the speed of service, then simply outline that fact. The specifics will come later. Set some expectations to the stakeholders on basic reporting and results with timelines that are reasonable. Make sure that the approach to this is agile enough that you will be set up for success.

Consider this example scenario:

I want to improve the rate of service delivery in the organization. To do this, I will look at our current reporting to identify areas that are preventing service delivery and target them for improvement. I will review this performance over a three-month period, at which time I will come back with a strategy for long-term improvements.

Ryan shares tips for right-sizing metrics at HDI 2018.
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Think About Your “Why”

This is the reason that you make improvements in the first place. Don’t over-think the details; just answer the question, “Why?”

In my example, we know that service delivery has been slow as of late and want to improve the speed of service. This could be your why. No need to identify a solution yet; we’ll get to that.

Assess Your Current State

Have an honest look at what you are doing right now. The challenge here is to look at this without coming up with excuses. Forget about any challenges and complaints, and strictly look at what you do today based on the merits of the activities. You must accept the current state in order to make improvements to it.

Capture from both your business and IT support personnel what needs improvements as well as what is working well; you certainly don’t want to disrupt a good thing. You still need to avoid figuring out the solution right now. I understand that the natural reaction for a service delivery manager is to do that, but to make this process work in a most effective way you need to hold tight. Otherwise you’re likely to have the reaction, “We don’t have enough people,” which you might find isn’t the solution to the big picture fix.

In my example, I committed to my manager that I would interview the business, interview IT, and then provide the findings at the IT leadership meeting.

What the business told me:

  • Service delivery was slow with poor quality
  • Business units went around IT wherever possible
  • The business dreaded calling IT
  • The business felt that they were not valued

What IT support told me:

  • They did not have a consistent way to handle escalations
  • They did not feel valued
  • Some people felt overworked while others felt under utilized

Interestingly, some of these items seem similar.

Tackle the Top Issues

After knowing why and understanding the current state, you need to get moving on improving. To keep things simple, select no more than three main target issues. There might be more than three, but you don’t want to overcomplicate this. You’ll have plenty of time for further improvements.

With those three targets in mind, outline how they are measured today, and if they aren’t, outline the new measurements to track your improvement progress.

In my example scenario, I identified that requests were being handled slowly, which was quantified by our recorded mean time to resolution. Taking a closer look at the results, I saw that there were several higher priority escalations that were treated like every other escalation. This showed me that the work was not being prioritized and in fact that the work that was slow could have been addressed by better prioritization.

The Right-Sized Metrics

While I could leverage several metrics to tell me that service was slow, what I needed to focus on was the catalyst for slow service. In the example scenario, I identified that escalations were all prioritized the same and no extra effort was placed on top priority. While it seems simple enough, focusing on this specific thing fixes the issues that are visible for the business: slow service. If you were to look at all the data and pour through it, you would likely overcomplicate this. By right sizing, you can address the prioritization and then move on to other improvements from there.

The First Few Months

In the first month, you will gather your findings and assess them at face value. The data might show you something other than what you were looking for. But that’s okay; this is all part of the improvement process. It may outline measurement issues, process gaps, or some coaching moments with teams, but this is all to be expected.

When you get a few months in, you will start to get a picture of what is going on, and from there you can begin to strategize a way to make some improvements.

Stay Motivated

One of the fundamentals of lasting service improvements through metrics is keeping motivated. In the beginning, you will likely have nowhere to go but up, and to the business and IT leadership, you will look awesome. But there will come a time where the drastic improvements will drop off, and you will see a plateau of sorts.

It is in these cases that you also commit to a regular review of all the previous steps to ensure that you continue to make improvements. Involve all the stakeholders once again to ensure that you look at the big picture.

Remember that reporting is about perspective. Start thinking like the business and less like IT to ensure that you are focusing on business objectives. Remember to take the time to celebrate all the successes you have as you leverage right-sized metrics.

Ryan Ogilvie is a service management practitioner with Inter Pipeline in Calgary. In his current role, he helps Inter Pipeline realize value by leveraging service management best practices. Aside from his own blog, Service Management Journey, he has guest blogged for TSO,, and various ITSM vendors. He was recently recognized by HDI as one of the Top 25 Thought Leaders in Technical Support and Service Management and is an HDI Featured Contributor for 2018. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanrogilvie.

Tag(s): supportworld, metrics and measurements


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