If you are a leader within an IT organization, you likely spend a good portion of your time gathering, analyzing, and presenting metrics. And although these metrics were certainly meaningful at one time, how recently can you say they have been revisited to determine their value and impact? Are you starting to notice your boss’s eyes glaze over when you sit down with them to review the current month’s numbers?

If so, it might be time to rethink your metrics. It’s easy to get into the cycle of reviewing the same metrics, in the same way, month after month, but this may end up being a waste of time if you don’t have the right information to drive improvement in your organization. Although some statistics might be important to track on a monthly basis (incident count, customer satisfaction), others might be more variably used to illustrate a point or celebrate a recent win. And even though recreating your metrics report can be a tedious task, I recommend reviewing and refreshing your primary metrics at least once every 1-2 years to ensure they are still meaningful to your audience and driving positive change within your organization.

Earlier in my career, when I was supervising a team of Service Desk resources who provided support to multiple companies, one of my responsibilities was to prepare monthly and quarterly metrics reports for each of our clients. A piece of feedback that has stayed with me from that time period was that my metrics should always “tell a story”. Sure, the clients wanted to see how many calls we were handling and how quickly we were resolving tickets, but we added value to the report by taking that analysis a step further and attempting to determine what the numbers really meant. Did they just roll out a new product that was causing additional calls? Were we getting enough calls about a certain model of workstation that they should start to consider replacing that model? Does their staff need additional training on creating formulas in Excel? Packing those extra little punches into the monthly and quarterly reports showed that we were really paying attention, and it made them start to do the same.

Unfortunately, telling a story won’t take you all the way there. You need to understand what kind of a reader your audience is, and I’m not just talking about fiction or non-fiction here (just kidding!). Interview your audience to determine what types of visualizations are most meaningful to them. You might even come prepared with some sample reports so that they can pick and choose their preferred format. Also, some leaders have a bigger appetite for details than others do, and it’s not always obvious what they are craving. Try to anticipate questions they might have while you are putting together your metrics reports so that you can do the research in advance and have a few additional reports ready that enable you to dive a little deeper, especially as it relates to the story you are trying to tell in the current reporting period.

Now that you have your story and are writing it in a way that is meaningful to your audience, you’ll begin to realize the power of your metrics. Use them wisely to drive behavior, celebrate successes, and illustrate opportunities for improvement.