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Service Management reporting… where to start?

A key challenge facing many ITSM practitioners is defining and producing meaningful reports.  Many ITSM vendor products, designed to automate and manage process activities, come equipped with a wide range of reports. Sometimes they speak to IT managers and, more importantly the business, but others consistently fall short of that target.  While this may be due to the messages they are attempting to convey, it may also be that the wrong reports are being shared with the wrong stakeholders.  How do you avoid this hit and miss strategy and ensure key information is being conveyed?  What we need is a way to present reports that are meaningful for specific stakeholders.  A useful approach to presenting meaningful reporting is to classify your reports so you can communicate the right information to the right audience.  

For simplicity, let’s consider the following reporting classifications:

  1. Operational:  These reports are often required in real-time, and are used to manage variations in current activities.  They are often used by IT practitioners to dynamically allocate resources or to manage workload in a prioritized manner.  Sometimes enabling technologies forgo operational reporting and design interfaces to query data rapidly, allowing users to save views of data that can be recalled quickly.  Examples of operational reports include the number of calls that currently active at the Help Desk, the current capacity of a Storage Array Network (SAN), or the number of active desktop orders that are past their service level targets.  The timeliness of the data for these reports is often measured in minutes, hours or sometimes in days.
  2. Tactical:  Reports that track progress of well-defined activities and are designed to highlight trends fall into this tactical classification.  Examples of tactical reports include tracking the number of successful changes for a service, showing an increase in high-priority incidents for seasonal periods of the year, and presenting a view of recurring incidents associated to problems.  Some tactical reports may also include IT targets, used to track improvements or to measure consistency.  The timeliness of the data for these reports is often measured in days, months, quarters or years.
  3. Strategic:  This type of report is often business-driven, supporting measurable business outcomes.  They may also be target-driven, allowing IT management to communicate progress in business terms.  A good rule of thumb for strategic reports is that if a business stakeholder cannot understand or relate to what a strategic report is trying to convey, then the report is either tactical, or worse, unimportant to the business.  Strategic reporting may also be trend-based, but is almost always attributed to a goal or threshold, optimally defined by the business.  Strategic reports are typically measured by quarter or show year over year comparisons.

Classifying your reporting is not a silver bullet solution for service management practitioners.  Instead, this approach will allow you to convey the right report to the right audience.  Operational reporting is on the ground and based on real-time data, and operational managers are most interested in their message.  Tactical reporting is important to senior IT management, and may correlate to investments in IT continuous improvement plans.  In one sense, tactical reporting validates IT projects or project-driven activities.  Some examples include validating additional training for support staff or determining if the implementation of a major incident protocol was effective in enhancing notifications and escalations.  Finally, strategic reporting is an effective tool for IT executives and senior managers to help convey the value of IT to the business.  Since these reports are driven by business-centric outcomes, they can easily be interpreted by the business.  One example would be showing the reduction in cost / GB of storage space and the future project of reduced storage expenditures resulting from ongoing investments.  Another example would be highlighting a reduction in lost productivity expressed in dollars, based on an approximation of productivity costs/minute, resulting from a refocusing of IT support resources to reduce the mean time to restore service for high impact incidents.  Too often IT is viewed purely as an expense, and strategic reporting is a key step in shifting the view of IT to a strategic enabler, and a valued asset to the business.

Try classifying your reports and assigning stakeholders that would benefit from their message.  If some reports have failed to impress, then perhaps you were just showing them to the wrong people.

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Michael Oas Uncategorized , , , , ,

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