IT Service Desk Metrics and Benchmarks – Where’s the Value?

IT Service Desk Metrics and Benchmarks

As to why IT service desks need metrics and benchmarks, the answer will depend on whom you ask. For me, measurement is all about improvement. While it’s easy to look at your IT service desk metrics and targets and feel content that your IT service desk is consistently hitting those targets, even when you extend them, if you’re not doing something positive – i.e. getting better – with your metric data, then you’re not using metrics as well as you possibly could do.

To help, this article looks at the potential power of, and issues with, IT service desk metrics and benchmarks.

This article looks at the potential power of, and issues with, IT service desk benchmarks. #servicedesk #ITSM Click To Tweet

The power of IT service desk metrics and benchmarks

So, what can your IT service desk get better at?

This is how metrics and benchmarks can help your IT service desk, but it’s essential to understand what matters most to your organization rather than the IT industry as a whole. Otherwise, your IT service desk is trying to improve in the wrong areas and potentially with ambitions (in terms of targets) that aren’t the best investment of its limited improvement resources.

So, use benchmark data selectively, focusing on what’s most appropriate to your organization’s needs (and IT service desk capabilities). Your business and your employees know what matters most, and focusing on these areas and driving operational and service improvements that deliver better business operations and outcomes is where metrics and benchmarks add the most value to IT service desks.

It’s also important to understand how IT service desk industry benchmarks change in the context of IT support trends, as highlighted in the following two examples:

  1. Employee experience
  2. Artificial intelligence (AI).

These examples also highlight the common issues with IT service desk metrics and benchmarks.

One of the hottest IT service desk industry trends right now is the need to focus on service experiences, whether related to employee productivity or something else, it’s becoming the new battleground for IT support performance, and thankfully it offers IT service desks a proxy for business value.

It’s linked to the suitability of IT service desk metrics and benchmarks in two ways. First, there are the traditional issues IT service desks face with customer satisfaction (CSAT) questionnaires, including:

  • Low response levels and response bias (plus that some employees avoid using the IT service desk)
  • The metrics focus on operations and not outcomes
  • Metric measurement at the point of service creation rather than consumption.

Second, and this is an issue for all IT service desk metrics and benchmarks (especially cost per ticket), there are potentially differences between what’s being measured – even before looking at demographic differences such as region, industry, and organization size. If everyone asks different questions, saying that the benchmark CSAT score to beat is 4.5 out of five is meaningless.

Employee experience can help with these issues, but only if your organization understands the abovementioned issues and limitations.

AI and traditional automation, if used correctly for IT support, can make IT service desks all three of “better, faster, cheaper.” Where the word “correctly” is aimed at ensuring that the technology is employed to improve what matters most to employees rather than simply because it’s available. I hope most people have seen the issues organizations have experienced implementing IT self-service capabilities caused by the focus on technology over the people. If you haven’t, there are a few articles on this, including this now-dated piece that’s still relevant: Your IT Self-Service Initiative Failed – Why?

If your organization makes the same organizational change management mistakes, then there likely won’t be any metric and benchmark issues (because its use of AI won’t deliver the available and expected benefits). However, if it does, then it’s another metrics and benchmark “issue” to deal with. For example, if your organization successfully uses AI to power chatbots as a form of IT self-service, many end-user issues and requests that would have created ticket-based workloads for the IT service desk are no longer received. IT support staff are freed up by the AI to undertake higher-value-add work, but there will be an impact on IT service desk metrics and the ability to use industry benchmarks.

First-contact resolution (FCR), or first-call resolution, is a great example of this – if the technology removes the high volume, low-value tasks from the IT service desk queue, service desk agents are left with the more complicated and time-consuming issues. There will be fewer IT support tickets, and each will likely take longer to handle on average (affecting average handling time as well), and your IT service desk’s FCR figure might drop from 65% to half this (or lower). Making the comparison with industry benchmarks impossible (until every organization is AI-enabled) and perhaps even questioning the ongoing suitability of the FCR metric (and potentially others).

IT Benchmarking does have value; they can be seen as indicative targets – but ONLY when the benchmark attributes are fully understood and align with those of your organization – @StephenMann #servicedesk #ITSM Click To Tweet

Understanding the value of metrics and benchmarks

Hopefully, this article has opened up a few current and future “chinks in benchmark data’s armor.” There have always been issues that need to be appreciated when using benchmarks, but the further the IT industry moves forward (and at different speeds), the harder it is to compare your organization against the benchmark scores for “an average organization.” After all, your organization, and most others, aren’t that average organization.

They still have value; they can be seen as indicative targets – but only when the benchmark attributes are fully understood and align with those of your organization. But, as with the FCR example, just saying that your organization beats, or is investing to beat, a random industry benchmark is unlikely to help anyone.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this article, then here are some other articles you may find useful:

Stephen Mann

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.

Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.

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