At Your Service

Enhancing IT service delivery value on campus by leveraging service management data 

GUEST COLUMN | by Steven E. Alter

Arcadia2012-244The quest to deliver quality service is never ending for an information technology (IT) organization. At Arcadia University, I focused the organization’s attention on a single goal: to become a continually improving organization utilizing key performance measures. Effectively harvesting the service management data (a.k.a help desk data) collected by my team and transforming it into metrics has provided a wealth of information that could be utilized as a catalyst for the self-improvement initiative.

The service management metrics collected by individual departments (i.e. applications and infrastructure departments) and the help desk provide the data needed from three perspectives. First, is the measure of performance of your key services (i.e. application and network availability). Second, are the customer’s perspective (end users) and the issues and / or requests customers are experiencing and / or making. Finally, is finding those hidden opportunities that are lurking for organizational improvement. I will focus on those metrics associated with the help desk.

Metrics should not be measures on individuals, but rather organizational measures centering on changing behaviors to improve service delivery. The IT metrics program at Arcadia University is centered on a few key concepts that the whole team understands. First, we monitor our service delivery of key services. This includes service availability and quality measures and also how services are utilized. Service utilization measures are used to justify funding levels while also identifying usage trends that lead to the modification or creation of service delivery opportunities. Second, we analyze service management trends searching for organizational inefficiencies. Identifying these inefficiencies is the key and then modifying individual’s behavior (via increased education), processes and / or technology lead to improved service. The actions taken result in improved organizational performance and help desk ticket avoidance.

The first step is active involvement by the leadership. As Arcadia University’s CIO, I personally invest a significant amount of time in reviewing the service management metrics. Since the service management team is the entry point into my organization, customer satisfaction built upon continued process improvement is paramount to our success. Therefore, I’ve inserted myself into the oversight process as follows:

a) daily check-ins to the help desk at random times of the day,

b) weekly reviews of the ticket traffic which includes as first level resolution (FLR) analysis, escalation, and ticket aging (FLR is those issues that are resolved without the need to escalate the ticket to another part of the organization.), and

c) monthly reviews of overall performance. The monthly reviews identify the overall trends and where “deeper dives” need to be performed.

Based upon this analysis there is now a dedicated individual reviewing tickets on a daily basis and a daily, ticket closure implementation plan. These approaches, first implemented 3 months ago, have resulted in a decrease in our ticket backlog from 345 on September 7th to 59 on December 21st. Additionally, during the same time frame, we decreased our aging tickets from 119 older than 2 weeks to 23. To provide context for these accomplishments, Arcadia University processed over 5000 Help Desk tickets during this time period. (These tickets have not been sorted by issues vs. requests which will be addressed starting January 2013.)

Parallel with the organizational activities, analyzing and mining the help desk data is a key component of process improvement. This data contains all the trouble tickets and requests for services being made by my customers: students, faculty and staff. In addition, help desk data contains the information on how the staff is responding to customers. It can help identify opportunities for improvement in the areas of process documentation, staff training and rotating staff to other areas of the organization where they can be more effective. The first step in setting appropriate measures for the service management process are identifying what issues can be resolved with the first experience with the help desk and then creating categories / groupings for the issues identified.

FLR is a critical measure of success for service management. When Arcadia University started our metrics program, in September, our weekly FLR metric was hovering around 30%, with a goal of 85%. As a result, an improvement program was initiated. First my team defined those issues that could be resolved without escalation. The analysis showed we had improper definitions / expectations. We then reviewed the actions taken by the staff. The analysis uncovered that we did not train our staff appropriately and that our documentation was poor.

Making the appropriate corrections, weekly FLR is now averaging at the 80% level and our overall ticket aging, measured on a monthly basis, has decreased by a day. This results in both greater customer satisfaction, and a more efficient use of staff, since more calls are handled by the help desk without the need to escalate to the technical team. With these improved results, analysis is now underway to determine other issues can be classified as First Level Resolvable, continuing to improve organizational efficiencies.

One other outcome of analyzing the help desk tickets was the need to create ticket categories and then reviewing these ticket categories on a monthly basis. The monthly report shows the top 10 areas where issues have arisen for the past month. We assign an analyst to perform a deeper dive on these tickets to understand these issues. The goal is to understand why they are occurring and to identify a process that can be improved to prevent the issue from occurring. Although this activity is time consuming, it is an important component of our self-improvement program.

Since September, we’ve implemented two process changes which have reduced ticket generation in a given area. These process improvements are associated with the assignment of student logins for the start of each semester and changing the automatic application monitoring process for a key application. Analysis of help desk tickets highlighted opportunities for improved service delivery where the actions taken resulted in less ticket generation, improved customer satisfaction and increased application availability.

Organizational improvement requires a commitment to measuring current performance and taking appropriate corrective actions. Organizations do what they measure and through an effective metrics program can identify key measurements. Transforming metrics into actionable events is the key to a successful self-improving organization.


Steven E. Alter is the Vice President and CIO Arcadia University. Write to:


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