Measuring IT: "Operational Health"

The subject of IT metrics is an important and sometimes controversial topic. Regardless of one's perspective, metrics do serve the valuable function of connecting business goals to IT operations.

Measuring IT

The subject of IT metrics is an important and sometimes controversial topic. Regardless of one's perspective, metrics do serve the valuable function of connecting business goals to IT operations.

A Forrester Research report, written by Craig Symons and titled "The Five Essential Metrics for Managing IT," presents a straightforward framework for quantifying IT planning and delivery. Despite the relative simplicity of the approach, rolling out metrics is difficult:

The five metrics forming the core of an IT scorecard are investment alignment to business strategy, business value of IT investments, IT spend ratio, critical business service availability, and operational performance. These metrics provide a balanced view of IT performance to IT stakeholders including the board of directors, C-level executives, and other business leaders. [T]hey require a fairly high degree of IT management and process maturity to capture and report the data and perform at a high level.

Forrester associates the "Operational Health" metric with tracking and measuring IT failures. The report emphasizes the value of this metric to IT execution:

The fifth metric focuses on operational health and stability, without which IT will be unable to establish credibility with its users and is more likely to be relegated to a role as a cost center rather than a value center. There are a number of components to consider concerning operational health including:

  • Dial-tone reliability of IT services. Users experience the most significant impact from outages, and severe outages are defined as those that have an impact on business outcomes.
  • Safe and secure systems and networks. [B]usiness impacts can range from denial of service to identity theft and many other outcomes that can lead to significant adverse monetary costs in lost revenues, recovery costs, and even fines.
  • Crisp and consistent project execution. IT must deliver its projects with more success than they have historically.

The following chart presents a summary of these Operational Health metrics:

ForresterÂ’s framework for Operational Health IT metrics

Successful IT execution depends on technical and business groups inside an organization working together to establish meaningful and practical goals. Achieving this alignment requires compromise both sides: IT must recognize its mandate to serve business requirements faithfully, while business groups must strive to gain a deeper understanding of the operating constraints and technology limitations within which IT operates.

Forrester's framework for operational health represents a good start for any organization trying to standardize and measure IT operations. However, the difficulty of measuring, and then fixing, budget-, scope-, and time-related project issues should not be underestimated.

[image via BoRev.net]

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