I am a big fan of the Breakers. I am a season ticket holder and go to every home game. I have also followed the team to Australia to watch some of their recent finals success. As a fan of the Breakers, it pretty easy to know how they are doing. As they play the game you look up to the scoreboard and see the score. I can also quickly see some other important information such as the number of team fouls in the quarter (are we going to be giving up free throws) and the amount of time to go.
I can also see the highlights of individual’s performance. How many points have they scored, how many fouls do they have (and the risk that some of our best players may need to be removed from the game), and in some arenas, the number of rebounds a player has. At the end of the game I can go to the NBL website and see the key statistics from the game and as the season moves on I can look at the teams overall performance. What is their win loss record, and season to date statistics for all the teams and individual players for the Breakers and across the league?
If you have no way to demonstrate if you are adding value and doing a good job, it’s like the Breakers trying to proclaim they are champions when the games aren’t scored and we don’t know who won which games.
Over the past few seasons the Breakers have been exceptional. So far this year it’s not so good but I remain a loyal and hopeful fan. The point however is this, there is no mystery about how the team is performing and whether they are on track to win the championship or not and what the key performance issue are.
Now here’s my question? Do you know how you and your team are doing? Are you winning and how do you know? I get to ask these questions a lot as I meet with various people as part of my work. I am constantly astounded at the number of people who cannot answer this question or can only answer it with generalities or anecdotes. They have no or very little objective data. Unlike the Breaker, they have no scoreboard or competition ladder to refer to understand performance.
It’s no wonder then that we hear our CEOs and CFOs saying things like ‘IT sure costs a lot but I can’t see the value’ and the IT team bemoaning how they are misunderstood and people don’t understand how hard it is.
The consequences of this are profound. For example, you have no way of agreeing with your manager and the organisation in general what level of performance is expected or acceptable outside of something like “we’ll play hard or harder”.
You cannot easily and objectively identify areas where improvement is needed. You have no way to demonstrate if you are adding value and doing a good job, it’s like the Breakers trying to proclaim they are champions when the games aren’t scored and we don’t know who won which games.
It’s no wonder then that we hear our CEOs and CFOs saying things like “IT sure costs a lot but I can’t see the value” and the IT team bemoaning how they are misunderstood and people don’t understand how hard it is. This environment is a breeding ground for misalignment and uninformed opinion, because there is nothing else.
So how do you change it? By implementing a clear, objective and agreed scoreboard which defines what success is and tracks key statistics that underpin and leads to that success.
Here is a five-step process to get you started:
Step 1: Research and understand what success is for your team and what are the key statistics you should track as indicators to that success. The work of Heskett el al in defining the service profit chain is a great place to start. It defines the dynamics for service organisations and is appropriate framework for IT service organisations.
Step 2: Define clear quantifiable statistics/measures that you can track to demonstrate success and progress. Discuss debate and agree these measures with your team, with your peers and with your manager. While there are some fairly standard measures available for defining IT performance every team will be different as we all support different organisations.
Step 3: Understand your current performance on the defined measures. It is likely that when you first do this exercise that you will discover there is a lot of data missing. If this is the case set about capturing/creating the data you need. In the interim consider implementing substitute measures to get you started.
Step 4: Agree targets for the measures which everybody understands. Get agreement that if these measures are achieved this will define “winning” for your team. Work with your team to understand what they can and need to do to produce that result.
Step 5: Align your management and reporting processes around these measures. Collect statistics, review performance and progress, learn from your actions and adjust as needed.
Owen McCall is director of Viewfield Consulting and a member of CIO New Zealand’s editorial advisory board. He can be reached through email@example.com and through his blog at www.successfulcio.com.
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