What Does the IT Department Do? 7 Metrics Executives Should Watch
In today’s world, there are almost no companies that can function without Information Technology (IT). From sole proprietorships to Fortune 500s, EVERY successful business requires the right IT system implementation and management to truly thrive.
So if we know that all companies need IT, and someone (an internal department, one person, or an outsourced IT company) is providing and managing IT tasks, then what do these IT people do on a daily basis?
Note: In this article, the term “IT Support Provider” refers to internal IT departments, an outsourced IT vendor, or a combination of both.
What is the IT Department SUPPOSED to Be Doing? How Should Executives Evaluate Their Performance?
The world of IT is getting more complicated and intimidating by the day, with smartphones and tablets having revolutionized the hardware field, new software being released at a positively frantic pace, the growing dependence on the internet for even the smallest of tasks, and wireless computing becoming the most widely used form of IT.
With so many IT complexities to implement and manage, how do you know if your IT support team is effective, if you are over- or under-staffed, if your company is secure, or even if the team is working on the right things?
The first step is to measuring effectiveness of your IT team is to understand the day-to-day tasks that need to be done, then identify which KPIs (key performance indicators) or metrics you need to watch.
7 Information Technology Metrics Executives Should Be Watching
1. IT Security KPI: Percentage of Devices NOT Up to Date
Hackers are consistently changing their tactics to stay one step ahead of the IT security procedures that are designed to stop them. This means that letting your guard down for even a single day can have MASSIVE ramifications for your company.
With the list of viruses growing ever-longer, it is essential for any business, particularly those in industries like legal, financial, and healthcare where the vast majority of data processed is highly sensitive, to keep the security on EVERY single one of their network devices up-to-date.
Any machine or device that is not up-to-date allows for a threat to penetrate the environment.
To even have a chance at slowing down the threats, the IT department must manage the following DAILY:
- Desktop/Laptop/iPhone/iPad/Android Patch Management
- Anti-Virus Updates
- Malware Detection Software Updates
- Web Security Detection
- Web Filtering
- Email Security
- Spam Software
- Firewall Management
IT security monitoring must be conducted for every single company IT device – NOT JUST desktops and servers.
There is a tendency among small to medium-sized businesses to neglect cyber security for non-computer devices, such as company phones. There is a very real danger of security threats that penetrate smartphones – these threats make their way to the rest of the network via email attachment or Intranet contamination. It happens far too often.
IT Security KPI: Percentage of devices NOT up to date
The key performance metric to track is the percentage of devices that are NOT up to date. Your goal for this percentage is 0% - in other words, you want 100% of devices on the company network to be secured with the latest updates.
2. Backup and Disaster Planning KPI: Percentage of Machines NOT Backed Up on a Daily (or Hourly) Basis
The mantra “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” should be at the core of any IT strategy, and firms ignore it at their peril. Even the most sophisticated IT networks are vulnerable without a comprehensive data backup and recovery process.
The goal for corporate data is that it’s backed up frequently AND quickly recoverable in the event of an incident. These “data disasters” come in a variety of shapes – from equipment failure, human error, and virus attacks, to fires, floods, and natural disasters.
As a component of the overall backup and recovery process, companies should have both on- and off-site backups. On-site backups are good for quick restores, like accidental file deletion or corruption. Off-site backups are mainly used for larger-scale recovery jobs, such as an equipment crash, fire, flood, or natural disaster. These backups should run automatically and should not require any manual process (or human touching it) for it to run properly.
Your IT team should verify that the backups are running daily and should test the recoverability of the data at least once a month. This process is also known as a “test restore.”
When determining your backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity plans, executive management should be integral in working with the IT department and providing input on several disaster recovery factors:
- What is the plan to bring everything back up in the event of a failure? Where is it documented?
- Estimated downtime for various degrees of IT disasters
- How long will it take to restore the data if need be? Is that time frame acceptable?
Backup and Disaster Planning KPI: Percentage of Machines NOT Backed Up on a Daily (or Hourly) Basis
The key metric is the percentage of machines not backed up on a daily or hourly basis. Remember that data loss can strike at any time, so your backups need to be in tip-top shape at all times.
3. Network Administration KPI: Alignment With Best Practices
Every IT environment needs network administration. This function keeps the IT for the company running smoothly for day-to-day use.
The bits and bytes inside your technological devices are performing thousands of actions PER SECOND. Regular and proactive maintenance is necessary to make sure that these devices continue to do what they’re supposed to do.
These regularly scheduled network health checks ensure that your infrastructure is aligned with IT best practices. If they start to show signs of a problem, your IT team should look into it before it potentially becomes a bigger, downtime-causing issue.
Each item out of IT standard alignment poses a risk to your organization. Risks include equipment failure, data loss, productivity and efficiency hindrances, and potential roadblocks to future business changes.
Network Administration KPI: Alignment with Best Practices
The key metric is alignment with best practices. The IT provider should set clear expectations as to what the best practices are, and work with executive management on the areas that are in and out of alignment.
4. Planning and Strategy KPI: Is 3-5 Year Strategy Documented?
IT strategy should be a top priority for executive leadership. Once business objectives have been clearly defined, it’s time to work with your IT team to see how technology can help you achieve those goals. Along with that, you need to plan for events that impact IT, such as opening remote locations, implementing a new software application, or increasing staff.
Failure to plan for business expansion and evolution can result in IT systems that substantially lag behind business goals, creating unnecessary delays and potentially eroding any first mover’s advantage a firm might otherwise enjoy. IT experts may be of particular assistance at this stage as they are best-placed to advise on the technological solutions that represent sustainable, scalable long-term investments for your business needs.
This planning should be performed on an annual and quarterly basis, with monthly check-ins to make sure everything is on track.
Strategy and Planning KPI: 3-5 Year IT Strategy Documented and Up-To-Date
The key performance metric is whether the strategy over the next three to five year period has been documented, and IT planning happens on a monthly basis.
5. Architecture and Design KPI: Is the Architecture Plan Aligned With the Business Strategy?
Strategy and planning provides a clear framework for the way forward, but talk is cheap.
The next step in the planning process is to actually implement the IT strategy by designing the IT architecture that addresses company needs, both in the short and long-term, while staying well within the allocated budget.
Architecture and Design KPI: Is the Architecture Plan Aligned With the Business Strategy?
The key performance metric is whether the IT blueprint is aligned with the company’s strategy.
6 & 7. Support and Help Desk:
If your employees aren’t able to work because of IT system issues, business suffers. Productivity is hindered, customers are frustrated with delays, and it’s extremely difficult to hit company goals if users are bogged down with IT issues. When something is not working right, employees need quick help to get back to work.
Even the best IT system will have challenges (and some end users will inevitably need more help than others). When that happens, your IT support service needs to be able to respond and resolve issues quickly.
#1 Support Desk KPI To Watch: Number of Unresolved End-User Issues
#2 Support Desk KPI To Watch: Minutes It Takes To Resolve Issues
Goal: Average 60 Minutes (This will vary depending on the complexity of the issues)
There are two major key performance metrics for the support and help desk function. One is the number of unresolved end user issues, and the second is the length of time it takes, in minutes, to resolve IT issues.
The reason there are two metrics is because the support department can get backed up easily. It’s not uncommon for the IT team to quickly take care of the easy things and the items that executives have requested, but the things that are difficult remain unresolved. Or in some cases, there’s no process for handling support requests, so they may not even know that they forgot to take care of something – whether it was a big deal or not.
Paying attention to both metrics ensures your support team is resolving all issues as efficiently as possible.
When these seven IT support metrics are in alignment, it paves the way to IT solutions that further your business goals, enhance productivity, and deliver the results your clients expect and deserve!
Related Article: How Are Most Companies Handling IT?
About Courtney Casey
In an industry dominated by men, Courtney Casey, Director of Marketing for Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., is making her mark on the world of information technology. Courtney has been immersed in the IT field most of her life and has been molded into the tech savvy expert she is today. She began working for Accent while earning her Bachelor's degree from California State University, Long Beach. Known in the Inland Empire as the "Tech Girl," Courtney is a regular columnist for the region's newspaper of record, The Press-Enterprise. Her columns address topical news trends, new technology products, and offer advice on how to embrace technology or avoid common IT pitfalls.