As business technology has become more complex and pervasive and is tied closer than ever to business strategy and success, the measurement and benchmarking of enterprise IT services has evolved into a specialist forensic discipline. It allows for comparisons across real world peers, but also enables decision making, identifying priorities and also informs the IT strategy. The optimisation and tactical opportunities it unveils, in addition to informing strategic shifts to continuously align and improve technology strategy, make it a critical and invaluable tool for transformation.
IT benchmarking as a discipline proves invaluable when seeking to evidence service value and commercial prudence, to executive management or industry regulators alike. A critical question for any incoming technology leader is, “what have I inherited”? IT metrics analysis and benchmarking helps establish an independent baseline, to define areas of focus and concern, before launching ambitious transformation programmes. Enterprises and Services Providers who undertake metrics analysis and benchmarking of IT services, do so in very specific circumstances. However, it highly pertinent to state that given the diagnostic potential of this fact-based scientific discipline, it is best advised to choose a specialist consultancy.
As in all walks of life, using a specialist usually provides reliable, consistent and accurate results, particularly when the discipline involves forensic and diagnostic expertise. A generalist may well be able to provide higher level input, but may lack the expertise, tools or reference data to be incisive and definitive.
Appearances may sometimes be deceptive, given the differing range of services and scope offered by a consultancy, making the choice complex. Like in so many fields, where it is advisable to seek the services of a specialist, metrics analysis and benchmarking of your IT services is a job best assigned to experts in the field. No measurement study is undertaken as an “academic exercise”, as it always involves several layers of management, teams and individuals, both internal and external, committing the organisation to time, effort and money.
Management consultancies and broad spectrum IT consultancies often do not profess to be independent IT benchmarking specialists, despite the occasional claim to the contrary. While a few consultancies may have gathered metrics data from past IT services assignments, more often it is likely to be sourced or supplemented by high level survey data, thus making it unfit for purpose or comprehensive enough. Another credible breed of consultancies offer performance benchmarking in areas such as Finance, HR, Facilities, and so on. These type of advisors do not profess specialisation in IT services benchmarking, mainly due to its uniqueness and complexities.
In addition to the obvious reasons why engaging independent unbiased expertise is advisable in most situations, there are often specific drivers why an IT benchmarking consultancy may be the way forward. Consider situations, which typically surround benchmarking studies. These are normally driven top down, invariably high profile, sponsored by and visible to the highest levels in the organisation. Such studies are often required to provide crucial independent evidence to regulators and auditors.
If an enterprise retains and invests in an internal benchmarking discipline and team, the data held for comparison is unlikely to represent current external real world metrics. This limits the value and credibility of an internal benchmarking study with the board, executive management, regulators, auditors and customers.
It can be tempting to undertake an IT services benchmarking study, using a survey based approach or engaging a non-specialised consultancy or one that is not truly independent. If an enterprise aims to get the best outcomes, insights and value from a review, involving visibility, time, effort and cost, then using a well selected specialist firm focused on IT services benchmarking will provide the best results.
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