IT Performance Screens – Will any graph do?

On a recent visit to a client, I was asked, “What should we be showing on our performance screens within the IT area? Are we showing the right thing?” My response was, “What are your IT objectives? Are the performance dashboards you’re displaying assisting in underpinning those objectives?”

Has your organization ever been guilty of purchasing a TV/plasma screen, placing it on the wall and then wondering what to show?  When you haven’t been sure, have you taken the approach that any graph will do for now?

If screens are being purchased to improve the productivity (effectiveness and efficiency) of IT, then the information being displayed should add value, demonstrate the current/past performance of a relevant area within IT and potentially highlight areas for concern.

Early this year, I walked past a screen that showed the number of calls (incident and requests) logged during the week, broken down by each support day. I asked the owner of the performance screen what the purpose of the screen was and how they expected it to add value to the IT staff on that floor (or anyone walking past). I was told that the screens were making IT staff aware of the workload coming in, while providing some past information to allow comparisons to be made (e.g.,  Are we logging more calls today compared to yesterday?).

While I didn’t have an issue with the reason, I felt the screen could be showing much more to add value. I’ve always taken the approach that there’s a problem if a performance dashboard leaves you asking more questions.

I advised the client that they may want to add information about the number of calls being raised against those being logged. They could then color code the calls being logged by incidents/requests.

How would this add value? First, it would allow us to see the pattern between the number of calls being logged against those being resolved; the hope is to see good alignment between both. Second, if we have a surge in calls beings raised on a given day, then as an IT support manager, I may not be overly concerned if a large proportion are requests as opposed to incidents.

The key is to ensure that the right balance of information is shown and that the screens are not overloaded with too much information. I like to employ the five-second rule; it should take someone no more than five seconds to look at the screen and understand information. It is also likely that these screens will be in areas with much foot traffic, so it’s important that the information being displayed is clear, unambiguous and to the point.

Hitesh Patel

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