In the big data era, we're told that measuring everything and correlating that data is a crucial goal. However, if you want to improve your business, it pays to be selective about the metrics you emphasise. Here are five myths about metrics to bear in mind when you're measuring any aspect of your technology infrastructure or business performance.
"You can have the best metrics in the world all nicely displayed on a dashboard but they will be utterly useless if nobody actually actively uses them for decision making," Gartner analyst Samantha Searle said at the Gartner Business Process Management Summit in Sydney. Searle presented five common myths about metrics, and explained why they should be ignored.
Myth #1: The More Metrics The Better
"Organisations are so desperate to get visibility into their business, they want to measure everything in sight," Searle said. "By doing so, they're effectively disorienting their employees, bombarding them with too much information."
Searle recommends picking just a few metrics and concentrating on those. "We can easily pull a whole load of different numbers, but we need to figure out which metrics we need to know to make the right decision and get that desired outcome." A useful way of assessing that is with the SMART mnemonic: metrics should specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed.
Myth #2: Financial Metrics Matter Most
Tracking financial performance can often be done at the expense of broader measurements. "Financial metrics are obviously very important, but they're not everything," Searle said. Financial performance metrics on their own won't drive improvements in processes, while other approaches (such as balanced scorecard or net promoter) offer better potential for action.
Myth#3: Metrics Identify What's Going Wrong
Using metrics to track "problems" can become a problem in itself. "People won't use metrics because they're worried they'll lose their jobs," Searle said. "It's important to think about how to build a culture where people understand metrics aren't used as a punishment or to apportion blame."
Myth #4: The Data Isn't Available
While some kinds of data are harder to track than others, Searle counsels against assuming that there are areas that can't be tracked. "Anything can be measured, either directly or indirectly — you just have to think about what information you need to take the right actions and make the right decisions."
"If something's really hard to quantify, it's much better to have some kind of qualitative feedback, even if it's just a survey."
Myth #5: Measuring Past Results Is What Matters
"Organisations tend to just look at what they've achieved to date," Searle said. "And while that is important, it stops them from having an opportunity to intervene when performance does plummet below an acceptable level." Ideally, as well as tracking past performance, you'll embrace predictive metrics that can be used for forward planning.
Measurement picture from Shutterstock