Benchmarking is frequently described as being tactically oriented or focused. To derive the maximum benefit from any benchmarking effort, a strategic, cultural, and organizational profile should be developed. This more strategic-oriented profile, the tactically oriented assessment (addressed above), and the service requirements will form the framework to insure the most effective capture of the right data from the right firm.
The analysis of the benchmark data will be totally ineffective without the delineating information contained in a company profile. Much of the information to be incorporated into a company profile may already exist in some form or context within the organization and need only be pulled into a model that can be used as a tool.
This profile can exist in the form of a checklist, a summary of statements, or an annotated graphic that describes how the company views itself.
An earlier section described the need to create a linkage between the business mission and IT services being provided to support and enable business activities. Integrating this information into the framework that will be used to guide the collection, analysis, and implementation of benchmark data is a key to success in this phase of creating a comprehensive integrated service delivery capability.
Maintaining an ongoing business focus during all phases will ensure that the services measured against and ultimately delivered will support management's objectives and therefore be much easier to market and communicate.
A review of business objectives and the services that are currently supporting these objectives will be a worthwhile exercise in conjunction with profiling the company with the benchmarking effort.
Identify corporate hot buttons or vulnerabilities that need to be addressed or quarantined. In addition to understanding and integrating strategies and objectives into the benchmarking process, reviewing current operating measures and performance metrics should be an integral part of building the company profile.
Being aware of current and potential problem areas will ensure that a concentrated effort will be made to collect data that will assist in creating services that will combat the noted vulnerabilities or problems.
Understand the cultural resistance to change, tolerance for risk, and other nonlinear measures. Benchmarking often focuses narrowly on metrics and specific processes. Be aware and sensitive to soft issues. Internally, such areas as satisfaction with existing IT services, the tendency to contract out services, and the frequency of change are indicators that should be referenced during the benchmarking effort. Inspecting the change management process and records can provide invaluable clues as to who is sensitive to what issues at certain times.
Looking at what others perceive to be sensitive and vulnerable in the organization can also be a worthwhile exercise.
In addition to answering the questionnaire developed to aid in data collection at target sites, a general assessment that broadly views all the data center functions will be very helpful.
The following is an outline of a basic assessment tool:
Data Center Assessment
Data Center Management
How are service levels agreed to and monitored ?
How is the data center organized to produce optimum service?
What is the skill level of the staff?
How do the physical facilities support service delivery?
What type of documentation facilitates ongoing operations?
How are changes to systems effected and communicated?
How are emergency changes handled?
What processes are in effect to certify or validate changes prior to being put into production?
How are problems identified, documented, tracked, and resolved?
What are the functions of the help desk?
What types of quality incentives are in place?
What type of backup and restore policies and procedures are in place?
What are the standard storage configurations?
How is data media storage handled?
How is software version control maintained ?
What criteria are utilized to measure the acceptability of software for production?
What support is required for application development environments?
How is the network monitored?
What are the network availability requirements?
How is network expansion managed?
Capacity and Performance
How is resource utilization measured?
What performance metrics are in place?
How are capacity requirements forecasted?
What security policies are in place and how are they enforced?
How is external access to systems controlled?
How are intrusions detected and investigated?
How does the disaster recovery plan work?
How does the IT architecture facilitate disaster prevention and facilitate recovery?
How is the testing of disaster recovery plans handled?
How are asset inventories maintained?
What are the procurement policies and procedures?
How are charges for service accounted for?