How to report consumption of services to customers

By ITIL® from Experience ©

A senior IT executive says: "I want to show this Customer how much his unit is consuming so that he realizes what IT does for him."

This article focuses on Customers 1 “who buys goods or services... the person or group who defines and agrees the service level targets.” A report to Customers on the consumption of services by their Users2 can include numbers such as:

  • Service Requests made
  • Incidents reported
  • Devices and peripherals used (e.g. desktops, laptops, printers, smartphones, tablets)
  • Licenses used
  • Gig of central storage used
  • Network accounts active

At face value any of these appear acceptable. However, this data can be problematic. For example, the number of Service Requests logged can be challenged as the Customer might argue that if IT would provide better services they would not waste time calling the Service Desk for things like the mapping of printer queues which should be done by default for every new PC. Simply reporting the total number of incidents logged by the Customer's people can illicit objections like:

  • "This number doesn't mean anything since not all incidents require the same level of effort"
  • "This number is misleading and does not reflect our true consumption. We wouldn't be calling if systems were more stable!"

These protests are common when data is not used in context and with an objective.

Without context, one can either accept or dispute the fact. It is equivalent of saying "x number of parking spaces are used." On the other hand using data in context turns data into information and changes our level of understanding. Using the parking usage example in context can result in “your department’s use of the visitor’s car park increased by 10% since last year.” Adding Who, Where, What and When adds context (i.e. your department, visitor parking, increased usage, since last year). Moreover, adding “how” and “why” also changes our level of understanding. Thus, progressively adding context using the Data-to-Information-to-Knowledge-to-Wisdom (DIKW) structure 3 4 5 increases understanding of the data.

Nonetheless, having an objective or a desired outcome it is just as important as the context. For example, the objective can be to make a decision such as: “Should there be more parking spaces since employees waste time walking to and from their car –or- can the number of spaces be reduced to meet the organization's commitment to the environment –or- can parking spaces be eliminated since the space could be used to expand the building."

Often using numbers without context or objective results in requests for additional data and reports until, eventually, a story emerges from digging around the numbers. Thus, before starting to look at tools, data, queries, layout and charts, determine the desired outcome and how the report will help explain and support the discussion with the Customer. For example, to alleviate the Customer’s fear that they are not getting as much services as their peers, compare their consumption with other business units. To ensure that they are not abusing I.T. services, report the status of consumption against their budget.

One should be mindful that many sources of data can be used to measure consumption beside the ITSM Tool. Information can come from: Corporate Finance, IT Asset Management, monitoring, email, etc. However, reports must be easy to produce. In one organization the equivalent of a full time person was needed to manually manipulate and format reports to produce four monthly charts for three Customers. Another organization spent $900,000 annually to produce the monthly dashboard as it needed to distribute spreadsheets to people to complete which were then consolidated, manipulated and formatted before being published.

Consumption can be measured in different ways depending of the objective and the conversation IT wants with its Customers. Accordingly the four reasons for monitoring and measuring6 are to:

  • Validate (previous decisions)
  • Direct
  • Justify
  • Intervene

Make sure it has context and an objective otherwise I.T. sets itself up for a challenge resulting in wasting everyone's time.


ITIL Process > Service Level Management (SLM)

1 Source: ITIL® glossary and abbreviations, English, 2011 http://www.itil-officialsite.com/InternationalActivities/TranslatedGlossaries.aspx

User: A person who uses the IT service on a day-to-day basis. Users are distinct from customers, as some customers do not use the IT service directly.
Source: ITIL® glossary and abbreviations, English, 2011 http://www.itil-officialsite.com/InternationalActivities/TranslatedGlossaries.aspx


Data-to-Information-to-Knowledge-to-Wisdom (DIKW): (ITIL® Service Transition) A way of understanding the relationships between data, information, knowledge and wisdom. DIKW shows how each of these builds on the others.
Source: ITIL® glossary and abbreviations, English, 2011 http://www.itil-officialsite.com/InternationalActivities/TranslatedGlossaries.aspx

4 See ITIL® Continual Service Improvement, Figure 3.2 Knowledge management leads to better decisions, ITIL® v3, 2011, p. 38
5 See ITIL® Service Transition, Section The Data-to-Information-to-Knowledge-to-Wisdom (DIKW) Structure, ITIL® v3 2011, p. 138
6 See ITIL® Continual Service Improvement, Section 3.7.2 Value to the Business and Figure 3.3 “Why do we Measure” ITIL® v3 2007, p. 30, 31


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