I’m a middle-aged husband and father of three daughters. I have fond memories of the baby and toddler days, and am amazed we were able to muster the energy to persevere through them! When the girls were young some of the most exciting days were the doctor appointments when they’d get their height/weight measurements and we’d find out their “percentile”.
Had the doctor simply informed us that our child was 24″ tall at 6 months, I suppose we would have found that information “interesting” and probably would have documented it in a baby book. But the fact that we were provided with COMPARATIVE information and given the percentile of her height versus other children gave us RELATIVE data. It seemed so obvious at that time – – of course we’d get percentile height/weight.
Why isn’t the same approach employed by MSPs? Customers need to be able to understand their metrics in the context of how they compare to other organizations at their particular stage. By not delivering metrics in a comparative manner, many MSPs are robbing the customer of insightful information that can be gathered and delivered, and that can provide a meaningful impact to the customer’s business.

How to Know When You’re Doing Well
As an example, “5 nines” availability is a commonly used term in the industry for the accepted level of network, systems and application availability, which translates to just over 5 minutes of accepted downtime per year. Sounds like a number to use as a benchmark, right? Sure, only if your organization has exceptionally deep pockets and a critical need for that high of an availability. Most organizations can’t afford all of the N*2 redundancy required to deliver on that infamous metric. Instead of using isolated or textbook metrics, we should be measuring metrics and comparing to other organizations and those of like-size or application criticality. With that comparison comes a baseline based on other organization’s actual investments in their systems platforms and operational costs. The business will ask for the highest performing systems at the lowest cost possible. In order to meet those goals, know where you stand. MSPs and tool providers have access to this data, but most are not taking the effort to provide the value of that data back to you.

Ok, we have comparable, metrics. So what?

When You’re Doing Comparatively Well
In high school, an 82% is a B. No “ifs, ands or buts.” In college, though, that 82% could very well be an A, or even a C. Why? Because most classes grade on a curve – – the grade is not purely based on the percentage of questions answered correctly, but more about how one individual’s score compared to the class.

IT leaders are provided finite budgets and challenged with delivering Operational Level Agreements (OLAs – internal Service Level Agreements) back to the business. True success is demonstrating raw OLA metrics for the business, and then comparative OLA metrics. When success can be demonstrated comparatively, opportunities exist for bonuses, upward mobility, pursuit of transformative projects and much more.

When You’re Not Doing Comparatively Well
How better to create a case to a CFO about the need to increase IT budgets than to present key metrics that are below comparative norms? Yes, a leader will need to support that the existing people and processes are not the issue, that is a given. Once that foundation is built, a strong case can be made for either new systems, more people, or investments in workflow or automation. Anecdotal or emotional arguments won’t result in increased spend. CFOs want data, and a combination of internal and comparative data will provide the detail that is needed. The choice is then up to the executive leadership: spend more to improve IT delivery to meet the standards of peers, or don’t increase spend and accept a lower performance.

Now What?
The data exists. Our organization provides services to dozens of customers, very similar in nature. We share meaningful metrics around availability, performance, capacity, and support metrics such as incidents/device aggregated across our customer base to demonstrate these comparable metrics. If your provider isn’t doing this, they should. If your tools provider can’t or won’t provide you this data, they’re not putting data to use for their customers. Demand more – – what percentile are you in?

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