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Critical Success Factors and Key Performance Indicators



Critical Success Factor (CSF) is a term for an element that is necessary for an organization or project to achieve its mission. CSFs can be used as a means for identifying the important elements of success.

CSFs are the things that have to be got right in the Service Design and within each ITSM process. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measures that quantify objectives and enable the measurement of performance. KPIs should be set and measured against the design and for each of the processes to ensure the CSFs are met. Together, CSFs and KPIs establish the baseline and mechanisms for tracking performance.

It is recommended that each IT organization focuses on a small sub-set of CSFs and KPIs at any one time. The required CSFs and KPIs should be set at the beginning of the Continual Service Improvement Plan (CSIP).

It is important that CSFs are agreed during the design phase of a service and of the processes, and that Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are set, measured and reported on to indicate the quality of the Service Design and the Service Design processes. There is a requirement to be able to analyse how well the service infrastructure was designed. It is possible to arrive at a good design in a very resource-inefficient manner, and vice versa, so we need to look at the quality as well as resources required to achieve the required quality. KPIs around the success of delivery of the service indicate the effectiveness of the Service Design are applicable – for example, does the service meet the (defined) business requirements for availability, reliability, throughput, security, maintainability, serviceability, functionality etc.? KPIs around the resource estimates, however, will show us how efficient we were in the design.

These should be defined as part of QA planning and release acceptance. These KPIs could be supported by similar component metrics.

KPIs for the process of Service Design include:

  • Percentage of Service Design requirement specifications produced on time (and to budget)
  • Percentage of Service Design plans produced on time
  • Percentage of Service Design packs completed on time
  • Percentage of QA and acceptance criteria plans produced on time
  • Accuracy of Service Design – for example, was the correct infrastructure built to support the service?
  • Percentage accuracy of the cost estimate of the whole Service Design phase
  • Accuracy of SLA(s), OLA(s) and contract(s) – do they really support the required level of service?

To judge service provision and ITSM process performance, clearly defined objectives with measurable targets should be set. Confirmation needs to be sought that these objectives and the milestones set in the Continual Service Improvement (CSI) stage of the lifecycle have been reached and that the desired service quality or desired improvement in quality has been achieved. It is vital when designing services or processes that KPIs are designed from the outset and collected regularly and at important milestones. For example, when designing at the completion of each significant stage of the programme, a Post Implementation Review (PIR) should be conducted to ensure the objectives have been met. The PIR will include a review of supporting documentation and the general awareness amongst staff of the refined processes.



A comparison is required of what has been achieved against the original goals set in the project. Once this has been confirmed, new improvement targets should be defined. To confirm that the milestones have been reached, KPIs need to be constantly monitored. These KPIs include customer satisfaction targets, so there will be a need to survey customers planned at various stages to confirm that changes made are improving the customer perception of the service quality. It is possible that the services have higher availability, that there are fewer incidents and that response times have improved, but at the same time the customer’s perception of service quality has not improved. Clearly this is as important, and will need to be addressed by talking to customers to ascertain their concerns. Confirmation will need to be sought that CSIs put in place are addressing the customer’s primary needs.

For further information on service improvement practices, please refer to the Continual Service Improvement publication.





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