Metrics: How to Improve Key Business Results Part 31
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Whereas I told you to research before you buy any tools (tools are high-cost compared to a book or a membership in an organization), in this section, I recommend you try the resource. If you don't want to buy the book, check it out from your local library. For the most part, to determine the usefulness of a resource, you'll need to have complete access. Most of the resources I offer are either free or low-cost (less than $50).
When you search for resources, depending on your industry, you will find many to choose from. In the information technology arena, I've been hearing a lot about the COBIT framework, ISO/IEC 20000 (international standard for IT service management), and the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
Rather than provide you a list of web sites, I will share some ways to perform a search. Search engines offer results in different formats: video, web, images, blogs, shopping, etc. Most useful will be web, video, and blogs. The web classification is where you'll find everything from articles in e-zines, books, and encyclopedic definitions, to how-to guides for developing metrics.
If you search "metrics" you will find too many results on the metric system of measurement. You'll want to narrow your search. "Performance Metrics" will bring you a lot closer to what you're looking for. Even then, you may want to narrow your search depending on your particular needs and industry. For example, you can search on "IT metrics" or "IT performance metrics" if you are in the information technology arena. You can also search on "business intelligence" (the newest catch phrase for data-based decision making) or "IT solutions."
Depending on your industry, you may find a healthy store of standards, bench-marks, and predefined data, measures, and information for your metrics. The financial industry is one example of a robust metric environment. Another is the manufacturing industry. If you are reading this book, you are not likely in an industry that has an established metrics framework. Chances are you are in need of meaningful metrics for your organization and your processes. Even so, you can learn from other industries and their metrics. You may be able to leverage some existing works for your own metrics efforts.
A simple search via your favorite web-based search engine returns a long list of measurement, statistical analysis, and metrics tools. I won't provide you with a list that you can visit on your own. Instead I offer insights and a short list of resources and references.
While I built the list from tools and references that I've personally used, I highly recommend that you do what I've preached from the beginning--investigate for yourself. I have found some books to be "on target" and others to have views that I would argue strongly against. Every book, blog, and article I've read has been useful in developing my overall view and concepts about metrics. Even the ones I've found outlandishly off-target have proven to be beneficial to the overall concept I offer in this book.
Don't discard the entire work because you find some portions to be "wrong," in your viewpoint. You can learn much from those who disagree with you. One of my colleagues who helped in the writing of this book disagreed with me more often than we agreed; it was one of the reasons that I asked him to be the technical reviewer for the book. I trusted him to provide an honest view, even if it were a totally dissenting one. While I believe in the concepts and tools I've presented, I'm open to other opinions. I welcome them as they should help to make my understanding of how to make metrics work better.
I want you to look at the resources and references listed here, and any others you investigate later, in the same way. There are no silver bullets, there is no holy grail. There is no one right way to do organizational development or process improvement. There is no one way to do metrics. Stay open to new ideas and different opinions. And always make sure what you use works for you. Don't use it because I or anyone else say to, use it because you've tried it and it works for you.
So, let's look at some of the resources and references I've found useful in my metric journey.
The following are web sites that I've found useful.
XPC Palladium Group.
XPC (http://community.thepalladiumgroup.com) is primarily a community for discussing Balanced Scorecard methods, but I have found it a good place to converse on metrics in general. Most of the participants on the site are disciples of Kaplan and Norton and believe in using measurement in ways I disagree with. The good news is they are open to other opinions. It is a well-run web site. Just recently I have heard that they are going to charge for membership-and as you may have ascertained from my opinions on tools, I don't believe in paying for the opportunity to network. As with all of my recommendations, check it out (especially if you have to pay) before you buy.
I like networking; especially networking for professionals. In addition to the LISTSERVs I participate in through different organizations, I enjoy LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com). LinkedIn groups allow for conversations and discussions on pretty much any topic you want-and you can simply create a new group/topic if it doesn't exist. I belong to more than one group concerned with metrics (Performance Measurement, IT Performance Measurement, and IT MetricsCEITPS) and have found them to be very useful. And membership is free.
The Consortium for the Establishment of Information Technology Performance Measures (CEITPS).
CEITPS (www.ceitps.org) is a nonprofit organization that I founded for the sole purpose of developing standards for IT performance measures. It is a very young organization. All standards created by this organization will be made available free to the public via the web site. Membership has a minimal fee and the biggest benefit you get for your money is that you are given the opportunity to help in creating and voting on the standards. The membership income is used to pay for the web presence only.
smartKPIs.com is a repository of Key Process Indicators (measures). Since it offers free access to a good portion of its KPIs, I think it is worthy of mention. I can't recommend paying for any of their offerings (only premium subscribers have access to calculation, references, and PDF export and filtering functionalities) as it goes against my beliefs toward benchmarks and canned metrics. But, if you want to see what others have come up with, the free catalog of examples is a good place to start.
I won't repeat all of the cautions I've offered in the book-but I will suggest that if you use this (or other comparable references) that you do so with a grain of salt and also ask around. Your industry peers should be great sources, and by asking them you'll build your relationships and your professional network.
You might guess which books I'll list here; they're ones I've referenced throughout the book.
How to Measure Anything.
How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business by Douglas W. Hubbard (John Wiley & Sons, 2007). I love Hubbard's positive, can-do attitude when it comes to finding ways to measure literally anything. I especially enjoyed his work on calibrating your ability to estimate accurately. Some of it was a little too deep for me, but I found almost all of it useful and an easy read. All in all, it is a nice text on how to measure and estimate-untethered to any specific improvement methodology. I recommend this book, but suggest you may find yourself picking and choosing chapters to read or reference.
Transforming Performance Measurement.
Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success by Dr. Dean R. Spitzer (American Management Association, 2007) is another favorite. I found it easy to read (with minor exceptions). I consider Dean a kindred spirit. Most of my disagreements come in how to deal with the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that surround metrics. I find that we are on the same wavelength, however, when it comes to the problems and hurdles you have to overcome to make metrics work. I believe we go to the "same church, different pew." Definitely worth the read.
The Intelligent Company.
The Intelligent Company by Bernard Marr (John Wiley & Sons, 2010) is yet another favorite. I came upon it well into the writing of this book and knew that I had found another member of the metrics family. As with Dr. Spitzer's book, I found a fair amount to argue against in Marr's book. But I find this book more useful than one with too much jargon or technical speak. I learn a lot (more) from viewpoints different than my own. Overall there is more that I agree with than I disagree with and it's an "easy" read. I recommend this book for your library.
Measuring What Matters.
Measuring What Matters: Simplified Tools for Aligning Teams and Their Stakeholders, by Rod Napier & Rich McDaniel (Davies-Black Publishing, 2006). I found this book to be less a guide for developing metrics and more a manual for the American Society for Quality (ASQ). That's not a bad thing, but it wasn't as much help with developing metrics as I would have liked, especially based on the title. I like it much more as a general organizational development book than a metrics book. It's worth a perusal.
Why Organizations Struggle So Hard to Improve So Little.
If you're interested in organizational development, I humbly include Why Organizations Struggle So Hard to Improve So Little: Overcoming Organizational Immaturity, by Michael Langthorne, Donald Padgett, and me. I've actually read it twice since it was published in 2010 by Greenwood. It is a very easy read with important insights to why you may be struggling to improve or change your organization. The chapter on metrics makes a good introduction to this book. If you're looking at implementing organizational change, I recommend you read it.
There are books that I wouldn't recommend for the purpose of developing a metrics program, but are useful in performing analysis; and if you have room on your library shelves, it wouldn't hurt to include them. One that I like in particular is IT Measurement: Practical Advice from the Experts (Addison-Wesley, 2002) a compilation by the International Function Point Users Group. I have a special place in my metrics heart for this group since my first metrics mentor, Errol Shim, was a past president of the national group. The 43-chapter book was written by a variety of experts. Some definite gems can be mined here-and hopefully I've given you the tools necessary to find the gems that fit your needs.
Tools are useful for performing the work-designing, creating, analyzing, and publishing metrics. Resources are references that make doing the work easier or better. Unfortunately, tools can be expensive. The good news is that the methods I've offered for developing a metrics program don't require any particular tools. You can do quite well with whatever tools you have already available. But as you become proficient at metrics development, you may want more out of your toolset, so I offered some tools to consider or explore. Remember, it's only a starting point-find what will work best to meet your requirements and your budget.
Resources, on the other hand, should be investigated as early as possible. I'd be flattered if you only used this book: dog-eared it, highlighted the best passages, wrote in the margins, and used it to help you develop your metrics program. But, chances are you won't agree with everything I've offered. Or you may want confirmation through other works. Or you may feel that I left some gaps in your comprehension of the material. I encourage you to read other books, articles, and papers on the topic.
I have faith in what I've been teaching on metrics and I welcome arguments to the contrary. If the concepts within this book are correct, then they will stand up to thorough scrutiny. To that end, feel free to contact me and offer your opinions-be they in agreement or disagreement. Join me on LinkedIn discussion groups, send me an e-mail, or post your thoughts, questions, or arguments on my web site. The bottom line is simple: do something! Learn more, try more, do more. Share your opinions, try the suggestions I've offered, create a meaningful metric and see how it goes.
I consider one of my first mentors in metrics, Erroll Shim, a giant of a man. I consider him a giant in his field, function point analysis and metric analysis. He taught me a great deal and he helped set me on the path that led to the development of much of what you've read here. His expertise was very impressive-he would accurately predict the complexity of a software change and estimated correctly the effort and time required (which were normally very different than our unit had estimated).
But, the problem was that his abilities were his own. They weren't transferrable. It was borne of years of experience. I wanted to develop a simplified method to provide the types of insights he produced independently, to anyone who needed it. These insights were at once more general in nature (they deal with metrics across the business spectrum) and specific in the methodology-building from a root question, using data, measures, information, and other metrics to tell a complete story.
I want you to develop meaningful metrics. I want you to be able to do so without obtaining a certificate in statistics, buying expensive tools, or spending months in training. I hope that this book has provided what you need to be productive in the development and implementation of metrics for your organization.
Metrics: How to Improve Key Business Results Part 31
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