Empowered Business Decisions: A CIO’s Journey Through Custom Reporting

A person is walking into the sun along a railroad with bags across his back

Within the organizational structure of any IT operations are separations of responsibilities, goals, and focus areas to achieve those goals. Certainly, the Help Desk Manager is accountable to the daily functionality and performance of the help desk. Supervisors watch over their support staff at the granular level and monitor individual KPIs as well as overall SLAs. But when it comes to the big decisions that straddle the tightrope of smooth operations and service quality while staying within budget, it’s the CIOs who are more frequently on the hook. They’re the ones who face the tough choices of whether to outsource the service desk or manage it in-house. As such, the ebb and flow of either model tend to coincide with the position itself or with the degree of success of whichever choice was previously implemented. No matter what the role, no matter how minute the realm of accountability may be, no one wants to make a false move with regards to IT. To that end, making an educated guess hinges on the thorough analysis of where you’ve been and trending data that indicates where you’re going. When informed decisions are a must, custom reports are the tools of the trade.

Custom report requests are always prompted for a need to see more complex data beyond the scope of what most ITSM systems allow their users to create through the ad-hoc reporting engine.  Standard user-generated reports, while useful and often ideal for dashboards that serve engineers and support team supervisors, tend to focus primarily on the short term operational health of the service desk. By contrast, parsing unique data correlations beyond the ongoing management perspective enables more advanced insight for navigating high-level business impacting challenges.

These challenges may be financial in scope or service quality such as whether to outsource, switch vendors, or even bring the service desk in-house.  So the CIO might request reports that measure the value propositions or benefits of making the switch or address a myriad of questions such as the following:

  • Will replacing internal staffing and management costs with more efficient software as a service and service as a utility (usage based) deliver the best ROI?
  • What is my end-user productivity/downtime versus agent utilization with my current outsourcing vendor?
  • Will there be more ownership and increased resolution of incidents at Level 1, minimizing interruption of internal personnel?
  • Are walkups more efficient for initial contact and resolution or should that be handled remotely?
  • Will leveraging a shared team of remote agents promote higher availability of live support and increased end-user satisfaction or should I just add more staff internally?
  • Will outsourcing really mean no longer owning all of the daily management headaches or am I merely giving up control?

Exposing those true internal or external costs (planned and unplanned) via custom reports and comparing status quo to future state alternatives are entirely possible with the right development team’s guidance.

Other CIO challenges may involve managing an out of control IT budget triggered by a lack of detailed inventory management of company assets.  It may also be grappling with drops in revenue related to poor product quality as a result of improper oversight of change control processes.  While custom reporting is most certainly the answer to addressing these challenges, the information must be captured regardless of whether it is stored in an ideal fashion or not.

Custom reports are very often developed outside of the ITSM reporting system.  Professional developers will harness the veritable gold mine of information that sits within the corporate database.  Using advanced querying techniques and unrestricted table access for joining information not possible through most ad-hoc report engines, developers are free to craft near infinite perspectives into the requested information.  Complexity is no longer a concern as stored procedures, built to deliver report content, can range from several lines of code to thousands. Of course, precautions must be taken to ensure performance and responsiveness during execution.  Procedures can then be called from within more robust reporting platforms such as Microsoft’s Reporting Services or SAP’s Crystal Reports.  Allowing for rich presentation design, reports developed from these products can be made accessible from the web, or they can deliver content directly to users through automated email.  In some cases, these externally created reports can still be linked within the ITSM system to create the perception of a single unified environment for all available reports.

When it comes to examining areas outside of the standard service desk analytical comfort zone, the CIO should not take no for an answer. If the data is there and can be queried, it can be captured in a custom report. And whatever the means of development and delivery, generating data-rich, custom reports with a meaningful context of your current IT operations, will serve as an accurate and detailed roadmap of where you are and your best indicator of which direction to take.