The Problems with Task Based Performance Metrics in IT

Task based performance metrics, at their root level, measure someone’s performance based on quantity instead of quality. You get conversations like this one:
“How did we do this week?”
“I closed 87 tickets!”
“You closed 92 last week. Why are you falling behind?”

What are the problems with task based performance metrics in IT?
• Tendency to discount harder tasks and tickets that required extra troubleshooting.
• A metric that drives people to not provide hand-holding with customers who need it, shortchanging customer service for a numerical goal.
• A view of performance that doesn’t encourage improving underlying processes but instead automating and simplifying existing ones; the improved process could end up a codified and sped up version of a mediocre one instead of a simpler, smoother one.
• A tendency to segregate first, second and third level technical support so that rote tasks are completed more quickly by people who know less overall; this limits their ability to handle more complex matters and ones easily mistaken for something else properly.
• The shift to task based metrics and segregation of first level support encourages development of troubleshooting scripts, as well as hiring lower skilled people for a call center to solve issues based on the script quickly. Service levels go down, while the same volume of tickets is closed more cheaply.
• A focus on the number of tickets closed tends to lead to “try this and call back later” conversations, where someone has to call in with four separate tickets to get something escalated to someone who can actually fix it. Their experience is lousy, but metrics look good.
• Preventative maintenance is not the focus of this type of environment. When it remains a priority to management, the goals focus on how many patches, how many servers or the time it took to complete, not necessarily the quality of the work.