Had an interesting discussion today with colleagues about Benchmarking. What do we mean by it, what can it help us with? We've recently taken part in two very different exercises which have looked at our services in different ways. One was an external benchmarking exercise from ImprovIT which took a limited number of our services including email, servers and storage, desktop, data centres and student record system. This looked at many metrics which including expenditure in each area, but was not restricted to cost. It looked at the complexity and quality of the service we provide as well as metrics around service levels, incidents etc.
The second was the Janet Financial X-ray of IT costs. This looked at all of our services, mapped them to a predefined service list, looked purely at cost, taking into account all costs including depreciation and overheads. Importantly it didn't just look at our (CiCS) costs, but looked across the whole University.
Very different methodologies. Very different outputs. Both useful, but in different ways. Benchmarking is clearly not just about costs, but is about outputs, quality and service levels. However, costing information can be very useful, especially when used as a decision making tool We've now got a very good handle on how much our email service costs for example, (which is a tiny amount which I'm glad about given that we've outsourced it). But, because we didn't do this exercise before we outsourced, I don't know exactly how much we've saved. It also highlighted how little we spend in some areas, which might look like a good thing, but it isn't - it means we're running some services on a shoestring.
Both types of study are useful, and complementary to each other. We had some interesting discussions today about the complexity of the services we offer and support, and how that can be either for historical reasons or can actually be by design. Supporting multiple sorts of hardware and operating systems for example is a conscious decision that we've taken, deciding that where possible we'll standardise on platform, ie the web, for delivery. How important are these sort of decisions when benchmarking our services both within and outside of the sector?
All interesting stuff to consider.
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