Getting IT Metrics 'Just Right'

Ann All

Jim Quick of Diamond Management & Technology Consultants tells a pretty sad tale on CIO Insight, an IT version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in which IT either manages to too many metrics or not enough -- but rarely achieves the right balance.


In the meat of the article, Quick offers four great tips for dealing with either a metrics feast or a metrics famine. For those with too many metrics:

  • Stop producing some of your metrics reports. If no one misses them, you'll know they weren't needed in the first place.
  • Go down the list of reports and ask, "What do we do when we look at this report?" Eliminate those for which the answer is "nothing."
  • Ask key consumers of metrics (i.e., the CEO, COO) to pick their top five or 10 most relevant metrics. Pilot a report with just those metrics for two months and then assess the impact. The likely result will be less work and added insights for both the producers and consumers of these reports.
  • Issue a challenge: How can I design a one-page dashboard for this executive?


For those with not enough metrics:

  • Go to a business function with a key project in progress and ask them to pick three key performance indicators worth measuring from the final business case. Explain to the business sponsor how and why IT will monitor those factors during the project and for three months after. Consistently refer to those metrics to demonstrate such things as project status or variance against plan. If this works with one business function, others will come on board.
  • Put yourself in the mind set of the CFO or other business head and ask the question: "What metric(s) would I want IT to bring to my office every month?" Track those metrics manually for three months to learn more about validity of the metrics, effort required to monitor them and best ways of presenting the data. Share your findings in a "what if" conversation that can illustrate the value the metrics can deliver.
  • Identify an inefficient behavior you want to change and develop metrics so you can make a fact-based case that will persuade people to change it. As Quick writes: "Public transparency breeds peer pressure, competition, and ultimately better behavior."
  • Require people to have metrics and, even more important, goals and action plans to improve them. Keep improvement plans focused on bottom-line benefits.


An overarching theme of Quick's advice is for IT to make its metrics meaningful to business. I've written about this before, in one post offering some examples of metrics employed by HP's CIO, Randy Mott. Among them: on-time delivery of IT projects, time IT staffers devote to innovation activities vs. simply sustaining technology, and annual benefit per project. I especially like the second one, regarding time spent on innovation vs. "keeping the lights on."


Finally, project portfolio management can offer a great way for business and IT to work together on determining and monitoring metrics, as I wrote earlier this month.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 17, 2009 8:31 PM Dan Singman Dan Singman  says:

PureShare has an application called ActiveMetrics which can help collect, automate, consolidate and display your data to help with these issues.



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