Are your IT performance metrics measuring the right things?

CIOs need to make sure IT metrics align with business users’ expectations.

couchbase dashboard

Couchbase's admin UI, available on every node in the cluster, puts admin functions and performance metrics within easy reach. 

Once your IT organization aligns with business users’ needs and commits to the journey of achieving those business objectives, you can then determine how to do that. After determining your strategy, you’ll then establish metrics to measure IT’s performance. As Winston Churchill advised, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” But if yours is like most organizations, the probability is high that your metrics will measure the wrong things. 

The CIO community invented service levels to measure performance. And for the last 20 years, organizations systematically established IT metrics and implemented the disciplines that reflect the promises IT made to the organization. Good intentions, but here’s the problem: Almost all IT service levels or metrics measure the performance of functional disciplines. They measure server uptime, network uptime, error rates in code, and many such functional aspects. But these performance aspects are no longer relevant to business users. As I’ve pointed out in previous blogs, these functional aspects are not how business users think about IT’s support of their world. So the metrics don’t measure the right things. 

What are your business partners interested in? They’re interested in getting business done, delighting their customers, making their prime interactions more meaningful and controlling their supply chains. They’re interested in how technology affects their business objectives. So if your IT group aligns with meeting those objectives, those are the outcomes your metrics must measure. As the old axiom says, you get what you inspect, not what you expect. 

How can you create metrics that align with business outcomes instead of IT functional disciplines? The first step is to start thinking about whose experience the metrics measure. Think about the IT service from the end user or customer’s experience. 

Next, think about what accomplishes the users’ desired experience. It may be ease of use, the time it takes to complete an overall business function, the completeness, how many times or different ways it takes to complete the experience and even whether or not different departments have to touch or interfere with what the user is doing. These are the types of things that are relevant to users’ experiences. 

After you define the experience the end users seek, then determine how to accomplish that. You’ll end up with a set of metrics that defines what your IT group must do to get to that experience. 

User-experience issues cut across not only the functions in IT (such as servers, infrastructure, apps, security) but also across departments or lines of business in the organization. Interestingly, as you put experience-oriented metrics in place, you’ll find that they drive a completely different set of behaviors in your organization, including your IT group. 

You’ll see that IT can’t meet the objectives in these metrics without organizing IT by business service lines (each business service IT supports). An IT group organized in the traditional construct of IT functional disciplines instead of by cross-functional teams organized by business services lines is inadequate for satisfying user-oriented performance metrics. 

As technology becomes more and more important in how organizations compete and your organization becomes more dependent on technology and IT support, you as CIO must think differently about how to measure IT performance and hold IT accountable for users’ desired business outcomes.  

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