Last week, I attended two roundtable events put on by Hewlett Packard. During the lead-in for the event, the moderator asked the attendees about the importance of performance management and the current state of IT management and measurement at their companies.
Management by spreadsheets
What I found fascinating was that every person in each room was measuring and managing the old fashion way—after the fact by manual manipulation of Excel spreadsheets. This is problematic at multiple levels.
According to Derek Abell, “control is different than ‘reporting’ in that it implies the possibility for management intervention if things go out of control. Control implies feedback in which management is actively involved. Reporting, on the contrary, is passive. For control to be effective, therefore, data must be timely and provided at intervals that are effective for intervention.” (Derek Abell, Managing with Dual Strategies, pg. 275). At the very least, this means the IT companies participating in the roundtables are not controlling their IT environments the way they should. And apparently this is true across industries as participants came from commercial banking, healthcare insurance, entertainment, property and casualty insurance, and local government and public sector.
Top ten issues provide much insight to the problem
With this sad news said, everyone attending the roundtables was, in fact, looking for a better way to measure and manage. I found as a result their individual comments on the state of IT measurement very interesting. Here are the top 10 comments that I heard in David Letterman fashion.
10) “We measures 100’s of metrics after the fact but we need to measure key things during the fact.”
9) “We need to move from subjective to objective evaluation of performance.”
8) “What is the top line and bottom line for IT?”
7) “Are we making sense out of the data that we collect today?”
6) “For five years I have been managing, now I want to measure and manage.”
5) “We do a ton of work with spreadsheets and this is in fact the problem.”
4) “Simply put we have a timing and quality of data issue.”
3) “Nobody knows what we do until it breaks.”
2) “Today we can only predict the train wreck; we cannot prevent it”
1) “In God we trust; from all others show me the data”
Everyone acknowledged improvement is needed in how they measure and manage IT. To some degree, comment No. 3 “nobody knows what we do until it breaks” was the most telling. This means that IT is not showing its value except when something negative happens. This is a double negative if I have ever seen one. Simply put, IT organizations need to measure, manage, and communicate the value they generate to the organization as their contributions are taking place. This is what a measurement and management strategy should aim to achieve.
Solution page: IT performance management