Most businesses measure IT effectiveness in terms of system availability. In other words, you've historically judged whether IT was doing a good job by how much downtime they've had. The Six Sigma methodology, popularized by GE in the '90s and is still prevalent today, prescribes 99.9997% as the ideal target for system availability (and for everything else).
But when it comes to IT, what does that percentage really mean? There are other, more valuable data points for measuring the effectiveness of IT services. We recommend adding a few more metrics to track monthly.
Every action that takes place on your network is recorded. Whenever you or your employees log in or out of a computer, open a website (yes, even with Incognito Mode), download a file, or start a chat with someone, a log entry is created for that action. This is a good thing — it allows your network administrator to watch for suspicious activity. But did you know that these logs can also be used to report how effective your network security is?
In a given month, your network's log will probably accrue thousands of entries. But if the number of entries in a month suddenly doubles, you might have experienced a network security event. Someone from inside or outside of your network could have tried to access your information or bring down your system. These events can happen to anyone, and a strong network security system will usually detect them and stop them from doing any harm. It's important to know how often these events take place, and at what point they were detected and (hopefully) thwarted. (Think you might have had a breach? Look for these signs.)
Tip: Ask your network administrator or information security team to share the number of security events that took place on a monthly basis and provide high-level detail about what happened.
So, there was an IT issue. No system is perfect, and sometimes mistakes happen. An important question to ask whenever there's a system issue is, "How does this impact us?" Say your company email system was down for two hours, during which time no one could send or receive emails. How does that impact your employees ability to do their jobs? Say you're a manufacturing company, and while emails are important, you had other things to do while you waited for the system to come back up. Or maybe you're a marketing agency, and being unable to use email prevents your customers from communicating with you, which is a big deal. Not all problems are created equal.
Tip: Make sure your IT group keeps track of all IT incidents, even the “got a minute ones” they get as they walk through the halls have a cost.
The last and possibly most important metric also happens to be the hardest to report. User satisfaction tells you how happy users are with their overall IT experience. This could refer to internal users — your employees — sharing their experiences with technology in their line of work, or it could describe your external customers' experiences with your technology, such as your website.
A good way to gather information about user satisfaction with IT is to simply ask about it. An easy way to do this is to include this in company surveys that your HR department sends out.. Have them ask general questions like, "How would you rate the effectiveness of our IT department on a scale of 1-10?" as well as open-ended prompts like "Describe your most recent experience with IT." Follow-up with some of the respondents directly to ask for more information.
IT is about more than "keeping the lights on." If your IT metrics only look at how much downtime there was last month, it's time to broaden your view of what IT has to offer. Look for valuable metrics and see the real value of the Information Technology function in your business.