Optimizing IT Service Delivery: Integrating Agile Principles and Performance Metrics

Published: March 26, 2024

In the fast-evolving landscape of IT service management (ITSM), embracing the principle of continual improvement has never been more crucial. This concept, a core practice borrowed from Agile and integrated into ITIL 4, stands as one of the pivotal elements of the Service Value Chain. It underscores the necessity of an ongoing cycle of reviewing and refining processes to enhance IT service delivery effectively.

At the heart of this principle lies the strategic use of ITSM metrics. To optimize IT service delivery, it is essential to consistently analyze and interpret performance data. This approach enables organizations to identify areas for improvement and gauge the impact of implemented changes. As the famous saying by Peter Drucker goes, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure,” companies need to pick the right metrics that help them see what’s going on in their operations.

However, the task of selecting the right metrics is compounded by the challenge of data overload. In today’s digital age, IT departments are flooded with diverse data types, from problem and change records to service requests and user details. This wealth of information, while potentially valuable, can often lead to disconnected data sets, making it difficult for leaders to obtain a comprehensive view necessary for informed decision-making.

Implementing ITSM offers a significant advantage: the ability to aggregate data. This process involves compiling various pieces of information from across the organization, a crucial step for making informed decisions and identifying trends. However, this is merely the beginning of the journey.

The IT sector encounters further challenges in effectively utilizing this aggregated data. Developing the ability to select relevant data to enhance processes and services is an essential skill for IT teams. This skill is vital for turning raw data into actionable insights that drive continuous improvement and operational excellence.

 This article aims to shed light on this challenge, offering practical advice for IT leaders. By exploring how to select metrics that align with Agile principles integrated into their ITSM frameworks, it is possible to enable IT teams to effect meaningful, ongoing enhancement in their service delivery.

To uncover valuable insights, look beyond the surface

Take Dropbox as an example: after launching in September 2008, they quickly realized that referrals were key to acquiring new customers. By rewarding both the referrer and the referee with extra storage, they ignited a 3900% growth in 15 months. Imagine if they had only tracked basic metrics like storage usage or overall customer growth without honing in on acquisition strategies.

This principle applies across the board. For instance, in IT, it’s not enough to know that an incident resolution was delayed. Effective ITSM metrics can reveal deeper insights, such as delays in engaging the correct team due to poorly documented resolutions from similar past incidents. This approach not only identifies the problem but also suggests actionable steps for improvement, moving beyond mere observation to facilitate real solutions.

+ Case Study: How e-Core delivered in 40 days an ITSM solution involving Incident, Problem and Change Management

Step away from the vanity ITSM metrics

Vanity metrics are metrics that make you look good to others but do not help you understand your performance in a way that informs future strategies. Your metric should lead you to a course of action or inform a decision. It should allow you to reproduce good results, being specific and measurable. If you can’t control the variables to help you repeat the outcomes, then you cannot improve it.

An example of that is ticket volume. A large quantity of tickets does not imply low user satisfaction or that your team is not working effectively. If you leverage other information besides only the number of tickets (like date and time of creation, type of request, among other data we can get from Jira, for example), you can identify potential patterns and use this data to, for example, assign support agents for a high-volume period, or focus on knowledge-base articles which can help to divert those requests.

Reliable metrics are non-negotiable

You need to make sure the data is a real reflection of the truth, after all, data can be manipulated. Imagine your support team was pushed by the executive team to define a time to first response SLA. Your Service Level Objective (SLO) was defined as 90% of tickets meeting the defined SLA. If there is no transparency and the right visibility, what would happen if the team itself, by seeing the SLO would not be achieved, bulk-created tickets, quickly responded to those, to simply meet the numbers that were pushed to them?

One of our clients had a scenario where there was a liability in the trust in data, as reports were exported in CSV format. After the JSM implementation with the right ITIL practices in place, data became more reliable, as team performance indicators are automatically generated by the tool and can be shared in real time. This allowed the company to make strategic management decisions based on reliable data, enabling continuous improvement in service provision.

As businesses evolve, so should their metrics

Jacob Drucker, in Forbes Magazine, detailed how his company initially focused on listing as many sellers as possible to establish credibility. Once a critical mass was achieved, they pivoted their attention towards expanding the product range and depth. Eventually, their metrics evolved to emphasize shipping times and compliance with shipping guidelines. This narrative underlines a key point: metrics that kickstart a business may become less relevant as priorities shift and the company grows.

If we approach this from the perspective of ITSM, we can think of First Call Resolution, for example. This might be relevant for an organization when it’s starting to implement a Service Desk platform, but as it matures and implements other processes, knowledge management, the ticket which would be resolved on a first call, can start to be resolved by the user itself through a Self-Service Portal, leveraging the knowledge base articles. Remember: metrics should help your company discover what you don’t know.

Ultimately, the continuous improvement of ITSM metrics is grounded in the Scrum pillars: Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation. If you’re facing challenges with your metrics or seeking to advance your ITSM practices, reach out to e-Core. We can assist in integrating your tools to enhance visibility and transparency across solutions, enabling data-driven decision-making.

Vando Gonçalves

Solutions Architect at e-Core | SAFe® 5 SPC & LPM | Atlassian Certified Expert | Jira Align Specialist

Tags: Metrics