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Measurement of IT

A recent discussion on LinkedIn caused me to use a phrase  that I haven't spoken for a while, and thus stimulated me into writing this. More on that later.

The measurement of IT is well understood by IT Directors and CIOs. There are rafts of "standard" KPIs used to measure the performance of the corporate IT function, typical examples include (from Wikipedia):

  • Availability
  • Mean Time Between Failure
  • Mean Time to Repair
  • Unplanned Availability

A further look in Google brings out the KPIs used by Manchester University's IT dept, which are representative of the instantiation of KPIs used in many IT depts.

Availability of Underpinning Infrastructure Services

Availability of Network Core
Availability of Core Directory for Authentication (Indicates that users can login to basic services)
University of Manchester Website - Homepage Availability
University Exchange Service Availability
Staff Email Service Availability
Calendar Availability
Outlook Live Availability
ISIS Email Availability

Availability of Enterprise Applications

Livelink Availability (Document Management System)
Oracle Financials Availability (Finance System)
Campus Solutions Availability (Student System)
Resourcelink Availability (HR/Payroll System)
T4 CMS Availability (Web Content Management System)
Talis (Library System)
Blackboard Availability (elearning System)
Oracle CRM Availability (SPOT)

Performance Metrics

Average Login time for Staff Desktop

Average Login time within Student clusters

Email Delivery
Spam Control (Greylisting)
Number of Service Desk Calls
Calls closed first time

Time to install a network point

IT Training Course Attendance


As you can see, these are a comprehensive set of IT performance measures, which will give IT management a good overview of the IT function's technical performance.

But are they relevant?

When I was an IT Director I avoided KPIs and SLAs. I particularly dislike SLAs, Service Limitation Agreements as they are sometimes called, because if we set a minimum standard to be achieved then providers are too often content with achieving the minimum. Nevertheless, during a quality improvement cycle in the business, during which we were foisting KPIs onto all operational activities of the business, my co-directors said to me "we must have some KPIs for IT".

We already had, in the IT department, comprehensive fully-automated system monitoring and measurement technology. It was there to proactively alert the IT team  to any signs of system failure and ensure that problems were fixed, as far as possible, before they impacted anyone in the business. It would have been trivial for me to hand over reports from these monitoring systems as the IT KPIs - and my co-directors could have picked over them and muttered "Oracle Availability 100%", "Average Ping Time 23.7ms", "looks good, but what does it mean?", and I could have wasted 10 minutes in the boardroom explaining.

So I gave my co-directors just two KPIs for IT. The first is more complex to derive than the second, I have my own methodology for calculating it, but my IT KPIs are:


  • Worker Enablement %
  • IT Cost per Worker £


These two measures encapsulate all that I and my co-directors needed to know. They also provided clear focus to the IT team, who knew, irrespective of technical systems performance measures, what they were supposed to achieve: Maximum Worker Enablement at Minimum Cost (commensurate with delivering the reliability & resilience required for effective Business Continuity). "Worker Enablement" is the phrase I referred to in the introduction - my "CIO speak" for how well the IT is enhancing the efforts of the workers in the business.

We often make KPIs too artificial and technical in business, measuring the reliability of process instead of the effectiveness of outcome. In doing so we focus on process over outcome. Keeping KPIs simple and outcome based enables us to drive our business objective - delivering outcomes - far more effectively than any measure of the mechanistic execution of process. My IT KPIs are simple and they work, I commend them to you. How you determine "enablement" is for you to decide in the context of your business.

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