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How Do You Measure ITSM Success?

With careful planning and hard work, most companies can successfully launch an ITSM program. But how do you really know what's working? Or what isn't? Here's a look at what you should, and shouldn't, do.
Dec 19, 2003

Lynn Haber

With careful planning and purposeful implementation, it is said that companies of any size can launch an IT Service Management (ITSM) program, more effectively align IT to meet business goals, and ultimately, do more with less.

But, how do you know if you have a successful ITSM program? How do you measure success?

It's important for companies to keep sight of return on investment (ROI) -- the triangle, and balance, of cost, time and quality. However, Michael Cardinal, business analyst with State Farm Insurance, based in Bloomington, Ill., says, ''Success isn't as clearly measurable as people would like it to be.'' And, Cardinal notes, success is individual to every company.

Companies, like State Farm and Procter & Gamble, which have each spent years rolling out internal ITSM programs, have learned that measuring the success of an ITSM program is doable but should be viewed as a multi-faceted endeavor.

''ITSM success is based on perspective and, as with any on-going process, it can be a moving target,'' says Cardinal.

One measurement of success is based on configuration, or IT components -- the servers, routers, applications. These are things that can be monitored and measured. Are IT systems staying up longer? Have resolution times improved? Has mean time between failures decreased? What about unexpected outages?

Kevin L. McLaughlin, service manager of Global Security Solutions, with Cincinnati, Ohio-based Procter & Gamble, says that before a company can measure ITSM success, it must do three things. First, IT managers must establish baseline metrics, then adopt reporting and tracking tools, and finally set a schedule for taking measurements.

''Depending on the size of the company, you may take measurements monthly, every few months, six months, or even annually,'' he says.

Cardinal says determining the success of hard-measurable metrics, like systems availability, performance and problem resolution, is relatively straight forward. It's even easier to do when IT Infrastructure Library methodologies and processes have been implemented.

More difficult, or elusive, is measuring ITSM success based on service levels. Are customers happy? Is IT supporting the business? ''It's easy to measure trouble tickets, but how do you measure customer satisfaction?'' asks McLaughlin.

Meeting service levels (SLAs) is about more than providing the best service at the best cost. It's about finding an equilibrium between what the customer expects, as represented by an SLA, and what IT is capable of providing, represented by configuration management. Successful ITSM implementations require good ongoing communication between IT and the customer. Companies that implement successful ITSM programs and ITIL best practices find out what customers want in terms of system consistency, continuity and meeting specific business needs.

''By implementing ITSM, is the company looking for a sharper axe or is it looking to swing the axe more efficiently and do a better job at chopping the wood?'', asks Cardinal.

One pitfall that companies want to avoid is over-delivery on SLAs. Meet but don't exceed service levels. ''Over delivery can be as bad, or as costly, as under delivery,'' says McLaughlin.

When it comes to ITSM success, the bottom line is that ITSM is a philosophy. Success isn't a one-shot deal.

Once organizations have ITSM processes in place, they must take metrics, analyze, look at ways to improve and then go back and begin again.

''Know that success is based on perspective and recognize that you're not going to have 100 percent success off the bat, says Cardinal. ''Instead, reach an acceptable percentage of success based on time, cost and quality.''

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