Taming the KPI beast.

Ever been involved in a major systems replacement or change program?

I have!   Memorable journeys all of them.  The initial excitement of the challenge, the frustrations of the build, the stress of the cut over, and the satisfaction of a successful go-live.  Then the fun really started!  Remember all of those benefits?  You may not have promised them, but there is a fair chance that you are going to be expected to deliver some at least; and in my experience, asking management to hold its collective breath for a year, while it all sorts itself out, just doesn’t cut it.  You need managements continued support, but how do you get it?  You are going to need something tangible and that’s where the reporting and metrics come in.

It’s not surprising that a business needs to know how it is performing.  What is surprising is that many businesses don’t do a very good job of identifying the right things to measure and putting in place the appropriate business processes to ensure what they do measure, is accurate and relevant.

You may not even start with a clean slate.  More often than not, most of your initial data is going to simply be what was available before.  If it was good you’re in luck, if not, well now you just have another problem because all the good work you have done may be constrained by that same poor quality data.

While we might not like it, we know that measurement is essential.  You need it to determine goals, establish performance, observe trends and track improvements.   So once you have decided the things you are going to rely on to objectively state performance facts, (the kpi’s), you need to have a good look at the data you are using to assess them.  Data is often overlooked and not recognised as the “business asset” it really is.  Implementing a set of metrics around the data, (measuring the measurements) is not such a silly idea at all.  In fact if you aren’t doing it, there is a very real chance those kpi’s are going to become very beastly, as will the managers that might be accountable for them.  Developing a suite of metrics around data that check its quality (typically accuracy, completeness, relevance, currency etc.) to either make sure it is good, or if not, drive business processes changes to fix it, actually makes a great deal of sense.  Once we have confidence in our data, reporting become easier and kpi’s can be relied upon.

There is a whole other story about lagging or leading kpi’s and whether they measure process or outcomes.  Rather than wake the beast again we will leave that discussion for another day.

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