What metrics best track value creation within IT operations?
By tracking the right metrics, IT operations can demonstrate the value it produces for the organization, its customers, and stakeholders.
Like any department in your organization, IT operations naturally track metrics to assess the current state of each supported product. Included in that are metrics related to performance, stability, and overall build quality. With greater competition for resources in organizations today, maintaining SLA compliance within these metrics alone may not be enough to show IT operations’ worth.
IT operations can highlight the collaborative value it adds to the organization by tracking the metrics that directly reveal the benefits IT activities produced within the entire product ecosystem. With this data, IT operations can show its value to the entire organization, its customers, and other stakeholders.
This process of tracking collaborative value metrics does two main things for the organization:
- It raises the visibility of IT’s value to the organization, potentially earning IT more influence and buy-in when it comes to specific initiative requests.
- It tracks value creation throughout the product lifecycle. When you map value as a continuous stream, the organization can manage and optimize its creation.
As a side note, the newest version of ITIL (v4) introduces the concept of value co-creation into the development process. This concept gives consumers and customers input into the development process, allowing them to directly participate in the value production process. IT organizations can solicit customer input actively by surveying them to determine their needs. They can also assess customer needs passively through monitoring results. Customer input can drive improvements that can further turbocharge value creation within IT operations activities.
Of the many different IT operations metrics, the ones that most closely monitor value creation include:
- Product availability
- Function response time
- Mean time to resolve — MTTR
- Incident rate reduction
- Customer satisfaction
Most digital products are now hosted via the cloud or have major cloud-hosted components. With cloud access, the “server availability” legacy metric is no longer an issue for organizations. In its place, we can measure the general availability of the product, or of its individual features.
The primary role of IT operations is to ensure product availability as much as possible while minimizing product downtime, including planned and unplanned outages. Product availability is a measurement of how operations teams provide value to customers and the organization, beyond the integration and deployment states of new changes.
Product function response time
A product’s function response time represents not just how fast it works, but also includes the value added by the speed of the response time. Essentially, a product that “works” doesn’t necessarily create the same value as a product that “works well.” When it comes to the user’s digital experience, speed matters.
Modern users expect near-zero latency in their products and accept zero excuses. Therefore, the latency of individual product functions is a major priority for both development and operations. Yet specific applications or product functions can lag badly, especially if they involve cloud-hosted services. Even products installed directly on users’ devices can have some functions that take longer to complete than others.
Website page-load time is a good example of what users expect from digital products. Website metrics show that most users will wait three seconds or less for a page to load before backing out of a site and trying another one. Users may be slightly more patient with an app or platform they want to use, but every second they have to wait can feel like an eternity — especially if the customer depends on the product for work.
Mean time to resolve (MTTR) problems
The time it takes to resolve problems has a direct effect on how users feel about that product. Put another way, the faster IT can resolve tickets and problems, the better users will feel about the product, and the less negative impact those problems will have on the product’s generated value.
One way to manage the user experience and mitigate negative feelings is to identify and address “low hanging fruit” issues, or those issues that cause the most pain to users. By resolving these pain points quickly, IT operations can eliminate friction and create immediate, visible value for impacted customers, boosting the positive image of the division and the product.
Incident rate reduction
Along with reducing the time it takes to resolve problems, reducing the total number of incidents will positively affect a product’s value. The agile approach within DevOps encourages product owners to pursue better functionality and more value with each new release. IT operations can use this same mentality to try to iteratively improve on processes and techniques by leveraging staff talent.
One way to approach this is to set goals to reduce the sources of pain for customers, such as the rate of incidents. Tracking the reduction in incidents in different increments, such as month over month, and year over year will give you an overall picture of your improvement. This progress demonstrates the value that IT offers, while also allowing you to monitor trends and watch for certain areas that may need more attention. When incident rates go up, IT operations can use analytics to answer questions such as, “what is causing this?”, and “what areas are most affected?” Leveraging IT analytics lets you proactively identify sources of incidents and address them before they can impact value creation.
With ITIL 4 placing an emphasis on the customer experience, IT operations must determine how well products are satisfying the end-user. Satisfaction should be measured in a combination of methods: by active participation through self-response surveys, and passively by monitoring satisfaction signals through analytics.
Product ratings and satisfaction surveys give users the opportunity to have their voices heard, which can add to their level of customer satisfaction. However, surveys rarely tell the entire story on their own. Additional user satisfaction data can be collected from monitoring user behavior, such as by scraping data from corporate social networks to determine how internal users feel about the product or its specific components. The combination of these data points can provide a better overall narrative of actual customer satisfaction.
Inviting customer input — both from their literal words and their data trail — gives IT the additional information needed to improve products via initiatives in both development and operations.
IT operations create undeniable value, but they may need to prove it
IT operations serve an important purpose in an organization’s value creation chain. However, the results of their efforts are not always visible to observers in other divisions.
By tracking the metrics above, IT can make this value creation visible while establishing the role of IT operations as stewards of value across the organization. The insights derived from IT analytics and metric tracking can then drive further initiatives to create more value at every stage of organizational activity.
See how analytics and the right metrics can empower IT Operations to deliver more value more often in our webinar: "Mastering DevOps with AI-powered Change Risk Prediction"