Metrics In The Eye Of The Beholder


A previous post on this blog discussed several reasons for not using case life as a goal for first line support engineers. I was reminded of that post, and the reasons for writing it, while hearing someone state that organizations should “only measure outcomes, not activities”. It’s easy to agree with this statement, after all, outcomes are the only thing that matters in business, right?

Let’s take a moment and try to understand how these outcomes are realized. The obvious question to start with is “what’s the organization’s deliverable to the company?” Over the years, through my own and others’ experiences, I have seen a variety of answers to this question as it concerns enterprise support organizations. Goals ranged from operational objectives through customer satisfaction all the way to maintenance renewal rates and revenues. Surely the organizational deliverable is an important metric to track and report on, but is it the only thing that matters? And more importantly, does it apply to every member of the organization?

Similar to case life mentioned earlier, or to the goals listed above, outcomes are trailing indicators. They, almost by definition, represent an aggregation of a variety of activities and inputs. Making any improvement to the operation requires us to understand the individual components our deliverables are composed of and build a system of metrics that allows us to understand the way we perform on each, identify weaknesses and measure improvements. We should also measure inputs, from the number of cases to the growth in the number of customers and track the way those inputs influence our performance, all the way to delivery on our goal. In essence, we should design a metrics structure that breaks down the goals of the organization into departmental goals supporting it, and into the activities that these goals are composed of

We should also keep in mind that metrics can serve different roles depending on the audience. One group’s outcome is another’s input. Activities represent a major investment for the organization and ensuring their efficiency and effectiveness is a primary concern for anybody running a process driven operation. Any measurement system we design will have to take into account the organizational deliverables for the short and longer term future, the investments it has to make into producing those deliverables, the inputs it requires in order to do that, and the way these measurements apply to every function within the organization. On that in our next post

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