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April 9, 2015

Why Industry Averages Are the Wrong Measure for Service Desk Success

Kevin Gibson
Director, Transformational Services
ConnectWise, Inc.
How to Measure Service Desk Success

Not all service desks are created equal. Different industries require different service level agreements (SLAs), and comparing your unique business to an average is bound to lead to frustration.

In recent years, Gartner came across the concerning fact that IT service desk managers often use industry averages to gauge their team’s success. While that might intuitively sound like a logical jumping off point, it’s misleading.

Your service desk is a certain size and maturity level. Why would you measure your model against that of service desks significantly larger, smaller, more mature and in drastically different markets? It’s like comparing apples to oranges—just doesn’t compute.

A True Measure of Your Success

By making baseless comparisons, you could set unrealistic expectations across the board that cause employees to disengage and clients to lose satisfaction. It’s a slippery slope that needs to be navigated with great care. Instead, take into account these 9 variables Gartner suggests as key considerations for measuring your service desk against industry averages:

  1. Size. A company of 5 can’t expect to hold itself to the standards of a well-established, 3,000-employee company. A small company’s SLAs, challenges and resources vary dramatically.
  1. Reach. Pitting a shop that services 5 clients in 1 city against a global conglomerate that supports 5 countries won’t lead to meaningful improvements. Like I mentioned above, you need to compare apples to apples.
  1. Vertical & Sector. There are so many regulations around certain industries (like healthcare), so it’s necessary to ensure you’re comparing your IT service desk standards to those of companies who work in your space. Same goes for public versus private-sector companies.
  1. Maturity. We can safely assume that companies with decades of experience under their belts have a much better chance of delivering shorter turnaround times than companies just starting out.
  1. Budget. Given the financial resources, a company can achieve almost anything. You can’t be expected to achieve the same results on a shoestring.
  1. Standardization. If the devices your team services aren’t standardized, but the industry standard you’re measuring them against includes mostly companies that standardize, that’s not helpful.
  1. Applications. We all know it’s easier to service a handful of devices than a surplus. Most industry averages don’t take into account the number of devices study participants service.
  1. Expectations. Every service desk has its own goals. Those varying goals affect outcomes. Metrics, SLAs and customer satisfaction goals seesaw between extremes inside industry averages.
  1. Complexity. Undergoing a massive restructuring or platform migration can also have a big impact on a company’s performance. It’s not fair to compare yourself to industry averages when you’re undergoing atypical organizational changes.

So what’s the alternative?


By finding companies like yours and comparing your service desk metrics to theirs, you’ll begin to gain more meaningful data that you can use to (as Gartner puts it) develop a strategy for continuous improvement.

So before you beat down your service desk for performing below ‘industry averages,’ make sure the companies that make up those averages are in the same ballpark. If they’re not, try benchmarking against companies like yours instead. Doing so will help you gain a realistic look into what a company of your caliber can achieve.

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Kevin Gibson Director, Transformational Services
ConnectWise, Inc.

Kevin is an avid racer whose need for speed carries over into his role at LabTech Software. As co-creator of LabTech Ignite®, he’s always thinking of ways LabTech can work faster, so you don’t have to.


One thought on “Why Industry Averages Are the Wrong Measure for Service Desk Success

  1. […] a dispatcher do password resets? Or easy software installs? If you could do that and enable your service desk staff to manage more day-to-day operational requests, instead of just dispatching techs, you’d […]

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