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Organic Performance Management

Published
  • September 09 2004, 1:00am EDT
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Ever notice when you move through the produce aisle at your favorite grocery store that there is always some sort of featured "organic" item of the week. Organic tomatoes. Organic squash. Organic eggplant, strawberries, mushrooms (definitely mushrooms) and just about any other veggie, fruit or poultry you can think of. The idea of organic is quickly coming up on the heels of low fat, low carb, lite and "free-range" as a must-have for your shopping basket. And if you aren't sure your tomato selection is organic, you can always step back and compare with it its "non-organic" mate - organic is always less pretty and a little expensive; however, people swear organic tastes better.

For many organizations, organic is also a reflection of their performance management strategy and their business intelligence deployment. The reality is, your performance strategy is probably growing organically right now and, with a little focus, you have the opportunity to see huge benefits with the potential of reducing your cost. Who wouldn't love the taste of that?

The fact of the matter is organizations of all sizes are monitoring metrics and reporting on information at an ever-expanding rate. Telecom companies measure revenue per user, the Department of Defense measures equipment and people based on mission readiness, call centers everywhere in the world measure call response time the same way sales organizations everywhere measure revenue based on the quota carrying salesperson. The same way Choice Hotels measures RevPar, (revenue per available room), the Boston Red Sox measure runs created in evaluating the worth of a player. Measurement and more measurement. This explains the continuing explosion of reports and focus on performance management strategy.

Now consider this. How many times have you received a PDF report in your e-mail, opened it and scanned for a number or box that has turned red? How many times have you built a business rule into an existing report to set a threshold to change because you know that it is the most common user request and the most useful piece of information you are providing. The answer here is probably "a lot."

When we go out and talk to companies about their performance management strategy, oftentimes the question is where to start. It turns out that a useful leading indicator of their metric and information needs is discovered by a simple audit of data sources and reporting consumption. And when you start to take a look at the reports that are used most, it turns out that business rules and thresholds have already been built in to guide the user to the most important information in the report. You are tracking performance organically at many levels in your business today.

Naturally, in situations like this, we usually make some highly strategic and insightful suggestion such as, "What if we took those 5-10 most important measures and put them in a dashboard so you can see everything in one place?" Suddenly, the idea of performance management doesn't seem so esoteric anymore, and momentum builds around dashboards and scorecards as the first steps into performance management. Great idea, simple concept, so why aren't more people finding success?

The short answer is the lack of BI strategy and lack of common tools. Migrating metrics from reports to dashboards would be much easier if you were only using one set of BI tools (or even a couple), not to mention an ETL vendor. Instead, reality for most organizations is that they have a full complement of BI tools in search of strategy. At a recent Gartner conference (don't you love those meetings?), they used an example of one client with 42 different BI tools. 42! That's not a strategy, it is a train wreck. No wonder they might have some performance challenges.

The reasons why and the challenges of the tools you have are several columns in themselves. In the mean time, if you are looking to generate a quick win in performance management, we suggest you do a little internal investigation into the organic performance management that might be happening all around you in the organization.

Look for ways to harness the measurement and reports you already have and make them more available in dashboards, scorecards and enterprise reporting strategy. While we can't promise this will be as simple as showing up early at the next farmers' market, you might be surprised to find that your organization is willing and ready to embrace an more holistic and strategic approach.

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