Information Technology Executive Stacy Gianoulis Highlights 3 Best Practices for Using KPIs to Optimize IT Help Desks

Smart and successful organizations of all sizes — from small firms to large enterprises — are using KPIs to enhance the performance, productivity, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their IT help desk.

However, with this in mind, there are some fundamental do’s and don’ts that must be taken into consideration in order for KPIs to be assets instead of liabilities. Here are three best practices according to information technology executive Stacy Gianoulis:

1. Pick and choose KPIs carefully.

There are a wide range of KPIs available for organizations to choose from: first contact resolution rate, mean time to resolve, agent utilization, cost per ticket, customer satisfaction, and the list goes on.
Ironically, this abundance of options can result in organizations trying to track far too many metrics. This leads to chaos instead of clarity, which is the exact opposite of what needs to happen.

Stacy Gianoulis, who currently serves as Vice President for Client Services and Support at Boston University, suggests that when too many KPIs are in play, organizations invariably start to believe that
they need to report and act on each. However, this is not necessarily the case. What matters most is which KPIs are aligned with the organization’s strategic needs.

2. Pay attention to interrelationships.

To assess the overall health of their patients, physicians are trained to look at multiple metrics as cohesive set rather than as isolated diagnostics. For example, blood pressure is viewed in light of age, BMI, prevailing conditions, and so on. In the same way, organizations need to guard against viewing
specific KPIs as standalone, isolated insights — because they’re invariably going to influence, and be influenced by, other KPIs.

Stacy Gianoulis, who leads the IT Help Center at Boston University, states that a classic, and yet still quite common example of how different KPIs can tell divergent stories is when looking at cost per ticket and customer satisfaction. Naturally, organizations want to reduce cost per ticket as much as possible. But if that’s the only focus, then they risk adversely impacting customer satisfaction — which in turn can lead to costs increases in other areas, offsetting any temporary gains. Ultimately, looking at KPIs in isolation is always a mistake.

3. Not looking at trends — or reacting too quickly to them.

KPI reports offer a snapshot of IT help desk performance over a specified duration, such as a month or a quarter. Naturally, this is useful information. However, it’s important for organizations to avoid two trend- related pitfalls. The first is that they neglect to look at multiple reports to identify trends that point to opportunities to exploit or risks to reduce (and often both). The second is that they go to the other extreme and interpret a snapshot as a trend and react frenetically instead of responding strategically.

According to Stacy Gianoulis, when looking at a robust and clear KPI report, there is a temptation to believe that the numbers speak for themselves. In theory this is compelling, but in reality, organizations need to be aware of what factors may be influencing trends; especially if they have recently made changes to policy, procedures or training, and want to know if the net impact is positive or negative.

The Bottom Line

Organizations that use KPIs to optimize the performance of their IT help desk are on the right path. However, to ensure that they reach their destination as opposed to being lost in the wilderness, they also need to know how to use KPIs — and just as importantly, they need to know how not to use them.