Don't sink your service desk reporting

5 Metrics Mistakes Sinking Your Service Desk Reporting and What You Should Do About It

It’s that time of the week, month, year; your service desk report is due and you’re drowning in spreadsheets and graphs. Yes, you could be out on deck helping to field the sea of incident and service request tickets coming in but you know that your service desk performance report will help to optimize the operation of your desk in the long run. That’s if people actually read it and take appropriate actions of course.

I bet you wonder about this – is anyone actually doing anything with the outputs of your 2-5 days of effort? It opens up a can of worm and raises a number of additional questions. Do you start to wonder what you should be including? Why? And with whom you should be sharing the information? Are you caught up in the numbers – too focused on the inputs and process while ignoring the outputs of your work?

There’s no doubt that metrics are your service desk’s compass and map towards success but, continuing the nautical theme, measuring too much can take you off course and into troubled seas. So make sure that you avoid these five common metrics mistakes to give yourself a fighting chance of keeping your service desk afloat and on course.

1. Measuring Everything and Anything

Don’t over plunder your data (Editor: I’m sure this sentence needs to be finished with “me hearties”). It’s easy to drop anchor in the vast ocean of service desk data and then haul in a multitude of shiny stats to impress your stakeholders. But how much of it are real treasures and how much fool’s gold? There are so many metrics that you can fish out of your IT service management (ITSM) or help desk tool but you need to be super-selective. It’s all about quality over quantity.

When developing and agreeing on your metrics, take a moment to question each one and its relevance. Ask whether your customers need to know what the server room’s average temperature was over the last quarter or whether they’d get more value from seeing the average first-time fix levels. And they might not even want or need that information, despite IT’s ongoing fascination with first contact resolution.

Instead create metrics that are meaningful and relatable. Here are six commonly used metrics, you might recognize them, but I’ll leave it up to you to work out which are really important to different business stakeholders:

  • Number of tickets received
  • Number of tickets solved
  • Number of open tickets
  • First contact resolution percentage
  • Mean resolution time
  • Customer satisfaction level

For me, it’s sad to see findings such as this from the Service Desk Institute (SDI) Service Desk Benchmarking Report 2015:

“The main indicator for success is the service desk fix rate, which has overtaken customer satisfaction.”

2. Losing Sight of Your CSFs and KPIs

When you first set sail on your service desk voyage, you set out clear critical success factors (CSFs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) to regularly “evaluate and assess maturity, efficiency and effectiveness, and to establish any opportunities to improve service desk operations’’ (source:

In order to demonstrate the business value, and potentially even the ROI, that your service desk delivers, you must not lose sight of the original CSFs and KPIs. It’s far too easy to get lured in to dangerous waters by the mermaid’s songs about the best practice ITSM metrics. But who says that these are right for your service desk in delivering against the original CSFs? So ensure that your metrics show your stakeholders exactly how you are achieving and meeting their needs.

Plus of course these needs might change over time; so also check that metrics, KPIs, and CSFs continue to be aligned with those potentially changing stakeholder needs. 

3. Measuring Meaningless Metrics

Don’t be a parrot.

Have you ever walked into a pet store and heard a visually beautiful parrot churning out the same lines over and over again? Yes, it sounds impressive but it’s just a crowd pleaser. The parrot is stuck on repeat – the bird doesn’t understand what it means or why it’s saying it. And the audience will most likely learn to filter out the background noise.

Similarly, there’s no point in measuring the same old metrics that just sound and look good. Historically you might have always measured the same metrics, and your predecessors did too, but it doesn’t mean that you have to repeatedly use them, or that they are even useful.

While creating your service desk report, ask yourself: Can we use this metric to make improvements? What does it really tell us that’s of use? If the answers are “no” and “I don’t know” then be ruthless – sling the metric overboard. Don’t waste your time and resource collecting and reporting on meaningless metrics. They are sadly just a thick fog hiding the potential challenges and opportunities ahead of your ship.

4. Showing Everything to All Stakeholders

“One size doesn’t fit all” definitely applies here. Instead you should be targeting your different stakeholders with relevant key headlines and metrics. And by relevant, I mean relevant to them.  

Your stakeholders don’t want to be swimming through all of your metrics to find the few that matter to them. Throw them a life jacket and pull them back to dry land with reporting that includes only the metrics they need to see. For instance, it might only be necessary to share metrics with certain stakeholders that allow them to be assured from a governance or a financial perspective, or enable them to make informed decisions or to do their job better. So don’t show all of your stakeholders everything; create custom reports for individual groups.

My good friend Stuart Rance covers this very succinctly in his 5 New Year’s Resolutions for ITSM Practitioners blog:

“Do you create lots of reports, full of numbers, charts and tables? When did you last talk to your stakeholders about what’s really important to them, so that you could make sure that your reports are relevant and focused? 

A short report that has the information your customers really need is much more valuable than a long report full of numbers that they don’t care about. The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on what you’re reporting and consider whether you could create more value by reporting less. So why not take the time to review what you’re doing, and make changes if they’re needed?”

Remember to talk to your customers before you make any changes, to ensure that you really are improving their experience.

It might also be that different stakeholders need the same metric but want different commentary (and perspectives). Especially when different metrics are grouped together to show a particular picture. Again one size doesn’t fit all here.

Finally, make sure to insert well-considered graphs to grab the attention of your readers too. Visual reports are more stimulating and can more clearly represent trends and predictions. To misquote the old adage, depict significant metrics in a single graph rather than trying to tell the story in 1000 words. It’s an opportunity crying out for business intelligence capabilities.

5. Keeping Your Metrics and Performance Reports a Secret

Some IT shops don’t show stakeholders anything at all. According to SDI’s white paper Demonstrating Service Desk Value Through More Meaningful Metrics, only 32 per cent of service desks don’t communicate metrics targets, with only 50% of businesses using service desk metrics for decision-making. (Please note that these statistics are from 2013.)

Instead it’s important to build trust with your stakeholders by being transparent, demonstrating your performance, and showing how you will improve operational performance, quality of service, and customer service. 

How to Escape a Shipwreck of a Service Desk Report

This blog might appear a little down on service desk reporting but it’s not meant to be. Instead, look at it as a quick sanity check for your service desk metrics and what you, and others, do with them.

So what can you do?

  • Fish out and focus on a few key metrics; it’s about quality over quantity. Yes, you can measure and report on everything, and you will have a massive amount of data at your fingertips, but it doesn’t mean that you should.
  • Keep your CSFs and KPIs in mind. Think back to the beginning of your service desk voyage, what goals did you map out? Now extract and report on the data relevant to these (if still valid of course).
  • Don’t be that parrot; measuring and reporting meaningless metrics is pointless, no matter how great they sound. Make sure that your metrics are actionable even if this means steering your report in a different direction to that you usually take.
  • Show and share metrics selectively to individual stakeholders, don’t make people drown in your data!
  • Don’t go out to sea and come back with nothing, tell tales of your performance and show your value.

If you would like to read more advice on service desk and ITSM reporting, then I suggest the following: 


Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).

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