If you don’t measure something, how can it be improved?

Most people at the top of organisations would probably agree with this sentiment. If they are serious about growing their business they will have performance measures in place at the top which tell them about critical processes such as those to do with providing services or collecting money.

They may also be pushing measurement down to those working within a specific process so that a more detailed picture of process health and performance can emerge. But given that a key process will probably span multiple departments and teams, data about it will have to come from different places and separate systems. That data will then have to be connected together and turned into something useful.

It’s clarity of thought that keeps costs down

This sounds expensive, and those with deep pockets can respond accordingly by bringing technology to bear. All the data in the business can be pushed into a Data Warehouse and interrogated from there. But those without such resources need not be at a disadvantage. Expensive technology isn’t worth much without clarity of thought at the top about the choice of measures that will deliver the greatest value.

Indeed, less may be more. There may be just a few measures that could have a disproportionate effect upon growth. If so, the cost of accessing relevant data need not be an issue at all. But how do you know which? Some key questions need to be answered first e.g.

  • What are the qualities that customers need you to reflect if more of them are to come to your door?
  • Which processes do most to influence their perception of those qualities in you?
  • Are any of those processes working against you in this respect?
  • What do those processes cost now, and what do they need to cost?
  • In what direction is the cost headed and what’s driving it?

Questions such as these are designed to highlight whether something is blocking growth. The worst of all worlds is when quality and costs move in opposite directions – i.e. quality down and costs up, caused by the process failing in some respect. If these trends are spotted then growth is likely to come to a sudden stop.

Some research may be needed to provide the answers, but if you tackle questions such as these you will concentrate effort in a few places where it can do most good. If measures are put in place that can track whether that effort is bearing fruit, improvement will happen. Without the right measures, it probably won’t.

When things are finally heading in the right direction then there’s a decision to be made about whether to keep those measures in place and to embed them properly. If so, you will be on the road to embedding measurement at key points in key processes. You may not need many to feel that you have a handle on the workings of the business, and you will be paying for access to only the data you need rather than all the data that’s available.

Does good performance measurement have to be expensive? Not at all. This is a myth that needs to be busted.

Paul Clarke
Develin Consulting