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Stephen Mann | June 13, 2019

6 CMDB KPIs You Need to Measure for IT Self-Service

If you’ve been working in IT, let alone IT service management (ITSM), for the last five years or so, then you’ll have undoubtedly been subjected to numerous written pieces and presentations on the miracle-like powers of IT self-service. And that, through the introduction of self-service technology and wider self-help capabilities, IT service desks can improve the employee experience, speed up resolutions and provisioning, reduce costs, and ease the ticket-volume-based pressures on service desk analysts.

Discover 7 tips for getting knowledge management right for self-service.

These special powers are real—but only if self-service is done right. Because the way that self-service capabilities are designed, delivered, and continually improved upon needs to be right in order to drive a significant level of employee adoption.  

However, there’s also another required piece of the self-service-success jigsaw—the need for self-service-based metrics that provide insight into performance across successes, failures, and improvement opportunities. 

This blog offers up six key performance indicators (KPIs) and CMDB metrics your IT organization can employ to better measure IT self-service performance and to improve as needed. But first, it’s definitely worth a quick look at what can, and does, go wrong with IT self-service initiatives—because prevention is often so much easier, and cheaper, than finding a cure. 

How the IT Industry Has Faired with Self-Service to Date 

While there are IT organizations that have succeeded with their IT self-service initiatives, there are many others that continue to struggle.  

The Service Desk Institute (SDI) research quoted below, although two years old, is still a great warning for organizations starting out with self-service (and for those that need to improve what they already have):

“The increase in the adoption of self-service tools is undoubtedly due to the range of associated benefits that comes with the implementation of such a solution, most commonly reduced support costs, increased customer satisfaction, and a round-the-clock support channel. However, the number of organizations that have realized these benefits and have achieved the anticipated return on investment (ROI) are few, less than 12% according to recent SDI research.” 1   

More recent insight into how well IT self-service is fairing, this time relative to other IT support access and communication channels, can be viewed in the publicly available IT support feedback data from employee experience management company HappySignals:


HappySignals Happy score chart on self service portal productivity for cmdb KPIs

Source: HappySignals, https://happysignals.com/happiness-score/ (May 2019) 


By way of a quick explanation, the above chart shows that—based on 303k pieces of feedback during the last six months—self-service (Portal) is not only the least-liked access and communication channel, it also causes the highest level of lost productivity for employees. So, it isn’t delivering against the aforementioned benefits of improved employee experience or swifter resolutions and provisioning. 

Plus, when the relative levels of feedback volumes are considered (the pink percentages above the columns), the self-service capabilities are unlikely to achieve the required levels of employee adoption needed to meet the anticipated reductions in traditional ticket volumes and costs, and thus the anticipated ROI. 

The Common Self-Service Obstacles 

As to why IT organizations struggle with self-service, there are many barriers to success, and most of these relate to not appreciating that the introduction of self-service needs to be a culture change, not a technology implementation initiative.  

The delivered capabilities should be created around employee needs and expectations, with the employee experience front and center. It’s the only (non-draconian) way to drive the required level of self-service usage so that significant financial savings, and the anticipated ROI, are realized. 

You can read more about the self-service barriers that need to be traversed in this blog: 10 IT Self-Service Obstacles (and How to Avoid Them!)

7 tips for getting knowledge management right for self-service

6 Key Self-Service KPIs 

So, once your IT organization has done what it can to ensure that its self-service capability is a success (from an employee adoption perspective), it now needs a basket of KPIs and metrics to ensure that it continues to increase its value. 

To help understand your level of self-service success and to identify improvement opportunities, please consider some or all of the following six metrics (and their variants) as a means of better understanding performance: 

  1. Level Zero Solvable (LZS) – this is a measure that can be used to assess knowledge article strength (and suitability) prior to launching a self-service/self-help/self-care capability. But it also has an ongoing use as a success measure for self-service. Quite simply, it measures the level of tickets hitting the IT service desk that could have been solved using existing knowledge articles. You can read more about how to use LZS here
  2. Self-service usage – this needs to consider various dimensions. Firstly, there’s the absolute volume and then the percentage share of overall volumes. Secondly, there are different usage types to consider—knowledge access, support ticket creation, service requests, automated resolution/provisioning use, etc. Then all this can be both transaction-based and people-based (to understand if a relatively small number of employees are using self-service a lot versus a broader range of employees). 
  3. Self-service success and failure levels – this can be both system-measured and ascertained via end-user feedback. For instance, the volume or percentage of knowledge searches that resulted in a ticket being raised. Or a simple feedback mechanism—it helped, or it didn’t. 
  4. Self-service costs – there’s the month-to-month cost per transaction trend (it will differ based on volumes) and also in comparison with other support channel costs. Plus, the total support savings realized. This could also be extended to understand the business-level view of costs and savings. 
  5. Speed-related measures – whether self-service is speeding up resolutions and provisioning, resulting in lower levels of lost productivity. Again, this can be compared to other IT support access and communication channels. 
  6. Employee experience/satisfaction – as per the earlier HappySignals data, not only is the level of self-service performance against target and across time important, so is the relative level of satisfaction or happiness versus other access and communication channels. 

If you’ve already introduced an IT self-service capability, it’s not too late to introduce some or all of the above metrics to get a better idea of how well it’s doing (and improvement opportunities). And, if you've yet to introduce a self-service capability, please ensure that suitable metrics are included in the business requirements. This might make the difference between its failure and success. 


1 SDI, "Realizing ROI from Self-Service Technologies" (2017)

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Stephen Mann

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals. Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.