The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Do the measures used by IT need to shift?

tape measure.GIFAll too often when someone asks how things are going, various project’s numbers about % completion or the efficiency improvement numbers for existing initiatives are trotted out. Can these measures of performance be shifted to focus more on business impact, not just inside the company but including impact on the market as well? This will take a change in expectation by both the metrics providers as well as their consumers.


Looking for ways to measure competitive differentiation is challenging, but the IT systems should have all the internal metrics. Gathering benchmark numbers for external comparison is still difficult. When looking for future projects to invest, understanding the possibilities and using that to develop an informed strategy is increasingly critical to a business’ long-term prospects. Individuals with these skills need to be developed and possibly rented from consulting/support organizations.


How do you measure success?


Success may not be about getting projects implemented, but instead needs to focus on business measures. This is one of the reasons I’ve been blogging and talking to people about gamification so much, since when it is done properly gamification is targeted at business goals and actually measures the shift in behavior, not just adoption – in real-time. Culture eats strategy for lunch.


It is great to measure an IT initiative like cloud adoption, but what is the strategic impact? Is there new technical debt being introduced or will it be reduced?


Another issue is understanding “good enough”. In most organizations, there are more irons in the fire than hands to care for them. Understanding where to focus attention and when to “throw in the towel” are important skills. Anyone who has done any agile development is well aware of the concept – “fail early, fail fast, fail often”. This means that we need to try many experiments and not all of them will succeed, but along the way questions have been answered. The answers are what is important, not some short-term definition of success. There may actually be a counterpart related to project triage in the IT space and the need to focus attention on a few initiatives but for as short a time as possible – especially in IT portfolio assessment. The days of the multi-year, multi-person effort have definitely come to a close.


One of the other ways that IT organizations (in particular) need to shift their focus is on measuring their breadth of involvement in the organization. It is easy to base organizational involvement on those areas of the business that interact regularly, but are there corners of the organization that are not supported effectively? Why is that? If there is a business reason, that’s great. If it is because there are personality conflicts or a lack of understanding – those need to be addressed, since they will likely come back to bite you in the future.


Measurement and analytics are skills that are definitely coming into the forefront through industry trends like big data, but will only be effective if metrics that can assess actual impact are used and they are viewed from a strategic perspective. 

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