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In the Performance Management community, blog posts and articles describing the perfect KPI for IT overwhelm me. The message is clear, if the IT organization only had these 72 KPIs to measure performance, then everybody would be happy. It is described as being just that simple. In the ITIL and COBIT era with focus on raising quality of the IT factory with standardized models, we believe in the “selected truth” that there is a best practice model for each aspect of IT management. Therefore, why should there not be best practice KPIs that we can implement – and everybody can be happy. I am skeptical.

From my perspective, there is no “silver bullet” or standardized solution for IT performance management. In fact, I react to two things when reading about standardized KPIs:

  1. Performance Management is not about KPI administration but rather how to achieve strategic objectives in an organization though a plan/do/check/act framework. If we only focus on KPI administration (limited view on plan and check) we will never create business value but rather only justify our own behavior for ourselves without any business impact. To oversimplify Performance Management to only KPI administration is harmful to any organization and should be avoided. Stop that!
  2. KPIs are in isolated state not valuable. All KPIs must be connected to a strategic direction, vision or an objective. The fact is that KPIs are only proxies of a strategic direction based on an understanding on how the IT organization can support business becoming successful. If we were to use standardized KPIs, then it would mean that we are using standardized strategies, vision and goals – and standardized ways of making business successful. With a unpredictable environment (driven my digitalization), business success is driven by adjustability, self-governing and customer value focus – not standardized strategies and governance models. Once again – stop that!

Obviously, there are many consultants and analysts spreading the word of the “perfect KPI set”. This “selected truth” is moving IT further away from creating business value and success. Successful IT is based on understanding, adjusting, and connecting to optimize business value – not using standardized frameworks to optimize value of IT for IT. The question you need to ask is whether your KPIs actually supports business success or not.

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