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5/10/2009
01:28 PM
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You've Got to Keep Score to Even THINK You're Winning

I just had an interesting data moment. I'm at work on a research report about service assurance. Isn't that what everybody does on Mother's day?

I just had an interesting data moment. I'm at work on a research report about service assurance. Isn't that what everybody does on Mother's day?The goofy definition of service assurance might read, "just be nice to everybody, everything will be OK." Well, no. Courtesy without competence is a sure road to technology Armageddon. But, on the other hand, competence without courtesy can be a sure road to employment security Armageddon: there are other people who can do your job.

So, service assurance is all about reaching a balance between good old ubergeeking and good old customer service. (See our recent Informed CIO Service Assurance report for a more formal definition. Separate registration required, for now.) However you define it, I have always wondered how folks manage to achieve success with it if they're not tracking how they're doing. From high school swimming to government to corporate IT, nobody can win if they don't keep score.

One of my focus points, then, of our upcoming report, is that of data collection regarding service assurance. You're familiar, of course, with the famous InformationWeek research survey, where you're allowed to skip questions if you answer "no, I don't do that." So, during edits, I had an editor ask me, "Jonathan, why are you allowing people to fill out what their user community rates them if they don't even ask their users how they're doing?"

I told him I wanted to make fun of them.

And of course, I'm not above making fun of anybody, including myself, so we left it that way. But, you know what? I'm actually surprised. I expected to see the data reflect a lack of self-awareness in the folks who don't collect feedback, i.e. perhaps it would mirror the data of those who did.

But no. I cannot mock these folks in this manner; they did not claim to be "das ubergeeks." While I'm clearly terribly disappointed in that, there are still some interesting learnings to be taken from this.

We had 494 IT professionals participate. About 63% of them do collect customer feedback at least once per year; the rest don't. Without digging back into my archives, I can't tell you for sure that this is a dramatic increase over the past couple of years. As a back-of-the-envelope opinion, though, this sure does seem like a lot more than I've seen.

You'll have to wait for the full analytics report for all of the wild and wonderful trends out there, but here's a little something to chew on. There was a clear pattern among folks who do not collect customer feedback. It was pretty obvious from the charts that these folks perceive that they are not as good as those who do measure. The pattern for most of the data was that they "exceed expectations" less, and that they have more "adequate" down to "poor" performance on most things. So I can't make fun of them for thinking that they are as good without measuring it; and I humbly apologize to all of them for even thinking of making fun of them. Clearly, there is some humility out there.

chart

But, this begs the question: is this perception true? Isn't it a little tragic to have to think that you aren't winning? Doesn't work satisfaction beg a little winning-ness every now and again? So, all kidding aside, isn't it unfair for these folks to think that they're not winning? Maybe these folks are wrong. Maybe they do exceed expectations more than they think.

But they're never gonna know unless they start keeping score.

Jonathan Feldman is an InformationWeek Analytics contributor who works with IT governance in North Carolina. Comment here or write to him at jf@feldman.org.

Read more about IT governance at governance.informationweek.com

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