Reporting on value in service management

Colleagues looking at reports on a table

It’s been a long-standing gripe that people in service management have rarely delivered useful information about the work they do. In other words, the ability to demonstrate and articulate the value they may have created has been missed. While ITSM tools are capable of pumping out data, the focus has been on metrics driven by service level agreements (SLAs) and contracts.

This misses the whole point about understanding what success really means, what kind of data is valuable and whether it shows an organization is improving or not.

Consequently, this had led to demands for better reporting and metrics, analysis of performance, delivery, success and value. One simple and successful way to achieve this is through the approach of combining and interrogating a diverse range of different data sources, such as: customer and employee feedback, financial data as well as the established operational metrics used for measuring service performance and availability (from e.g. ITSM tools and telephony), to come up with more meaningful insights.

Intelligent reporting

Service management metrics need to be both easily consumed and relevant to the reader. Unfortunately, in IT, we’ve been terribly guilty of over-engineering our reporting rather than pinpointing information that’s useful to the organization.

While there is a definite move towards recognizing that traditional SLAs are dead or dying, people need help to understand better what is useful and intelligent reporting.

In simple terms, that means getting the right piece of information in front of the right person when they need it. As an example, rather than quantifying that a system has been down for only one minute in a month, show how and what value that service has delivered to its users when it is available and operational.

Part of doing this successfully is also in the way the data is conveyed, such as using infographics to share information in an interesting and engaging way. This is definitely looking at metrics more from a user/customer point of view than a traditional IT perspective.

A balanced scorecard approach

ITIL 4’s four dimensions of service management offer a type of balanced scorecard way of reporting which takes a holistic view across organizations and people, information and technology, partners and suppliers and value streams/processes.

It recognizes that any metric has to be seen in context and, in isolation, is pointless. For example, measuring the time it takes for a service desk to answer a call is only useful in the broader context of how long it takes to resolve an issue and the resulting level of customer satisfaction.

Among measurement methods such as XLAs (experience level agreements) and my own invention – OXMs (outcome and experience-based metrics) – there is increasing traction for customers to talk about the relative value of experience and business outcomes in scorecard reporting. The areas of interest for this can include:

  • Customer experience feedback
  • Employee feedback – are your people happy delivering a service?
  • Performance – a range of operational metrics 
  • Business outcomes – your “moments of truth”, i.e. what’s important to people and has it been delivered?

While important, it’s not enough to measure experience alone. The user might enjoy how easy an application is to navigate, but has it delivered the outcome they want, be it booking a flight, concert ticket, etc?

ITIL 4 and measuring value

ITIL 4 lifts the context of support operations to a more strategic level, with the co-creation and demonstration of value via meaningful reporting.

If you think of a railway network anywhere in the world, it’s of no use on its own. However, with trains running and people able to complete journeys, this is value co-created. And the metrics presented by that should be helping the service provider to improve what they do.

In order to raise the stakes and move to a strategic approach to measurement and reporting, we need to move from the old world of inflexible, adversarial, transactional metrics to measuring overall value through co-creation, collaboration and outcomes.

As I’ve said elsewhere (on my own blog), metrics “must reflect the increasing complexity of interconnected systems and service [and] must also do so in a way that shows the “wood from the trees” – a rounded view of “value” and not just a vast forest of unintelligible and often irrelevant data.

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