So You Know You Need To Measure It, Now What?

In my last post, “Measuring Effectiveness Utilizing ITIL/ITSM Best Practices” we discussed the importance of measuring services to allow us to effectively manage them. So we know that in order to effectively manage IT services, we need to measure them. Now, being the good IT Service Management folks that I know you are, you are ready to start measuring! But if you are like many organizations, you are now stuck with what I call “what do I do now-itis.”

Where Do We Start?

But where do we start? Luckily IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) has some suggestions for us. ITIL is divided into 5 core life cycles:

  • Service Strategy — which focuses on the question “why should we deliver this service?”
  • Service Design — which encodes the concepts from Service Strategy into blue prints asking the question “how do we architect this?”
  • Service Transition — which gives direction on how to build the service architected in Service Design and asks the question “how do I build this service to make sure it does what we expect it to do without disrupting existing services?”
  • Service Operations — which delivers the services built in Service Transition and asks “how can we deliver this service as expected?
  • And finally, the life cycle we will focus on, Continual Service Improvement — which asks “how do we improve on what we already have?”

Specifically we are going to look at the 7-Step improvement process, and for this article, we will focus on the first two steps. Before we can start measuring things, we need to determine what we are going to start measuring.

According to ITIL Continual Service Improvement, by Vernon LLoyd, the first step of the 7-step improvement process is “Identify the strategy for improvement.” In other words, ‘what is the vision of the business and how can we achieve that vision?’

Identify the Strategy for Improvement

To get us started we need to look at certain inputs like

  • Business and strategy plan for guidance
  • Existing service review meetings that might provide insight into how the service is currently doing
  • Business or departmental goals to make sure we are aligned, customer satisfaction surveys to see how the service is perceived
  • Any sort of regulations we might need to comply with (federal, state, etc.)

At the end of the day we ask ourselves “What does success look like?”, both in terms of the business, and more specifically the service we are attempting to better measure so we can better manage. Once we articulate what success looks like, those items become Critical Success Factors (CSFs) that we can go back and look at later to see if we have achieved success.

The next step is “Define what you will measure.” This starts to get at the heart of the issue. As I mentioned in the last post, we in IT are great at measuring things. But are we measuring the right things?

Define What You Will Measure

We need to first identify what we should be measuring, and we have already done the first step by identifying the CSFs. Now we just need to break those down further in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can be measured. For example, if we determined a CSF for a service is that it has to have high performance, we ask ourselves “What does that mean?” Maybe we are talking about bandwidth speed, so we decide in order to be considered high performance we need 50 Gbs of bandwidth, and must have less than 5ms latency. We have determined our first KPIs and what we should be measuring. You should identify CSFs and KPIs at the service level (strategic), process level (tactical) and component level (operational).

Now that we know what to measure, we have to identify what we actually can measure. In the example above we know we need to measure bandwidth and latency. Once we determine what we are and can measure, we conduct a gap analysis to identify anything we are missing, and finally develop a measurement plan that outlines what we aren’t measuring, how we should start measuring it, and where and how we will collect the data from our measurements.

So, we now have agreed that we need to measure services in order to manage them, and now we know how to identify what we need to measure. Next time join me when we determine what to do once we have collected data from all of those measurements!

Lloyd, Vernon, David Wheeldon, Shirley Lacy, and Ashley Hanna. ITIL Continual Service Improvement. London: TSO, 2011. Print.