Too often, IT departments use metrics and language that don’t translate outside the department. Here are some suggestions to help.

by Doug Tedder
Date Published June 7, 2023 - Last Updated February 20, 2024

Over the years, I’ve led numerous Support Center Manager (SCM) classes for HDI. There are many great reasons why students attend the SCM class. For some, it’s to learn more about leadership and communication skills. Others want to understand more about service management processes that interact with or enable the service desk.

But for many, the reason is to find the answer to the question that always comes up: “How do I show the value of my service desk?”

These service desk managers are frustrated, and their teams feel underappreciated. These managers feel that they are doing all the right things – answering the telephone within target times, driving a high level of first contact resolution, resolving issues and fulfilling requests in a timely manner, yet no one seems to care.

Why don’t business colleagues value the service desk?

“Value” is a tricky topic. Value can be thought of as “worth” or “importance”. Furthermore, value is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, what’s valuable to me may or may not be valuable to you, and neither of us is wrong.

Many think that “value” means “lowest cost”. Perhaps in some situations, that is true. When I’m flying for vacation, I may pay for a first-class seat because I prefer that experience – I want to relax, I want a more comfortable seat, and (yes) I want a glass of wine (or two!) at no additional cost. When I’m flying for business, however, I will purchase a seat in the economy section, because I’m trying to limit costs that I pass along to my client. It’s the same plane, but what I value is different depending on my situation. The same is true for your organization – it often depends on the situation.

But keep in mind that your organization is happy to invest in things that it feels will provide the desired value – even if it may have to pay a little more.

Many service desks will capture and publish metrics like MTTR, FCR, ASA, and (low) cost per ticket - and call that “value”. And while these are great indicators for managing a service desk, outside of IT – in many cases, outside of the service desk, these measures don’t help with “value”. Colleagues outside of the service desk don’t understand what we are telling them. Why? Because these terms have no business relevance or meaning.

Some service desks look to self-service portals as a means to deliver “value”. Self-service portals, intended to simplify and facilitate interactions between end-users and IT, often suffer from the same challenges as the metrics we publish. The menu of “services” reads like the menu board of a drive-through restaurant. It’s often written in terms that aren’t meaningful to anyone outside of IT. Not only is this confusing for the end-user, but it also makes IT appear like a commodity resource, not a value-added partner.

What’s the impact?

When the service desk talks about what it does in terms that aren’t meaningful to colleagues outside of IT, it leaves the organization with the only things it can relate to – money and cost. Budget becomes the only way for the organization to have any level of control over IT – especially regarding support. And this affects the service desk through:

  • Uninformed budget cuts
  • Being asked to do more with less…or without
  • Resistance to improvement initiatives
  • Blind leaps into technology implementations as being “The Answer”

The key to showing the value of the service desk – and IT overall for that matter- is to first understand what the organization values. An organization’s mission, vision, and goals (MVG) statements are the north star for determining what the organization values (mission and vision) and how it intends to realize that value (goals). MVG sets the stage for business objectives – the “how” the organization intends to achieve its goals – or outcomes. With these pieces of key information, the service desk – and again, IT overall – can identify, map, and describe how both technology and the service desk contribute to business outcomes.

When service desk agents understand the “what” and “why” of the organization’s MVG:

  • Agents can ask better questions when collecting needed information and diagnosing issues
  • Tickets can be appropriately prioritized
  • Support can meet the need of the organization, enabling better business productivity, goal-impacting results, and value realization.

Showing the value of your service desk

Let’s be candid – this is a prime example of why and how a (true) service catalog would be helpful. A service catalog documents how technology contributes to business value and business results, is written in terms that the organization understands, with services described in terms of business value and business outcomes. But many organizations use what is referred to as a “service catalog” from their ITSM tool. But here’s the challenge - that really isn’t a service catalog – it’s a service request catalog, featuring service actions, goods, or access to resources managed by IT.

So, where do you start? Here are two suggestions:

Know your VBFs

Many organizations conduct a business impact analysis (BIA) on a regular periodic basis. One of the outcomes from a BIA is the identification of vital business functions, or VBFs. A vital business function (VBF) is a function of a business process which is critical to the success of the organization. For example, one VBF of a bank is the ability to accept deposits.

Understanding an organization’s VBFs helps the service desk distinguish the critical few from the important many. Using this information, the service desk can confirm that contact priorities are being set appropriately, better advocate for consumers of IT services, and improve its understanding of the “business of the business”.

Mine that data

The service desk has something that no other part of the IT organization has – data regarding interactions with consumers of IT systems. The trick is to leverage that data – which is already captured in business context – and use it to show the value of the service desk.

Using the data captured from contacts, the service desk can identify improvements to service delivery and service support, understand how an incident or service request affects the user experience, and improve its understanding of how the organization is using the services provided by IT.

Using these suggestions will result in an improved ability to identify and use business-relevant data to identify the measures that are important and relevant to the organization. And when business-relevant information and metrics are being published by the service desk, the question that always comes up – “how do I show the value of the service desk?” - is answered.

Doug Tedder is Principal at Tedder Consulting, LLC. 
Tag(s): supportworld, support models, technology


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