Performance Metrics: Bringing It Home, Part 3 - InformationWeek

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Performance Metrics: Bringing It Home, Part 3

What do metrics mean to the CIO of today's IT organization? What must be done to align IT resources with business-driven metrics initiatives? The conclusion of our series offers some practical guidance.

Change is what characterizes today's business environment. Prior to the advent of computers, this "statement of the obvious" meant a linear rate of change. Now, Moore's Law sets an exponential pace. Information technology has made opportunities possible that would have been inconceivable just decades ago. Bar codes, radio frequency identification (RFID), and robotics were once science fiction. Real-time data collection has made these advancements part of our emerging reality.

Today's executive has grown up with computer technology and isn't intimidated by it. In endless pursuit of "faster, better, cheaper," executives are eager to explore IT solutions. They aren't bashful about demanding that IT respond to their requirements; their own performance is increasingly measured against aggressive benchmarks. Executives and managers see the value of universally accessible Web portals that draw data from across the enterprise into "at-a-glance" dashboards. Executives devour acronyms — BPM (business performance or process management), BAM (business activity monitoring), RTO (real-time operations) — like candy, and want more. And if IT can't satisfy needs or is perceived to be too slow in adopting new technologies, executives are willing to bypass IT altogether and work directly with third-party vendors and systems integrators, who are adept at convincing business executives that they can meet their needs.

It has been said that you can't manage what you don't measure. While some assail the veracity of this statement, without some way of determining where you've been, where you are, and where you intend to go, progress is strictly accidental. A robust metrics program can provide directional guidelines and a basis for advancement in process efficiency and flexibility — critical differentiators in today's competitive business environment.

With metrics in place throughout the enterprise, the contributing factors to solid business performance gain visibility. Then, initiatives such as BPM, BAM, Six Sigma, and other measures-based initiatives may be achieved in half the time that they might otherwise take. Companies can perform the painstaking identification, selection, collection, and reporting of these measures only once, instead of having to repeat the cycle for each new initiative.

The pressures of competition, financial performance, and increased regulation have made corporate survival a truly Darwinian exercise. Only the most agile and capable enterprises succeed. Metrics are critical.

The View from the Top

CIOs are well aware of the pressures imposed upon their businesses and the IT organization's obligation to support its goals. Most CIOs are fully committed to meeting strategic obligations. However, given the pressing demands already imposed upon their organizations, CIOs need to know what impact a metrics portfolio will have on IT relative to time, resources, and quality:

Time. As metrics gain momentum, requests related to metrics will begin to trickle into the IT queue. The flow may at first be intermittent. However, IT should beware of responding by implementing "one-off" solutions, which have a tendency to become silos that bedevil enterprise goals.

As requests accumulate, patterns will emerge that indicate affinity among the types of requests and the groups supplying them. CIOs should maintain a holistic perspective that looks across the entire enterprise. Better yet, they should initiate a metrics portfolio process in anticipation of inevitable need. The time investment to establish the infrastructure and processes for a metrics portfolio will have measurable results. Among them will be the development of reusable components for a multitude of cross-functional applications, offering accelerated time to deployment.

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