Measure the Right Things

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2007-08-03 Print this article Print

At too many companies, technology managers aren't on the same wavelength with the top business executives. Here are 10 ideas for improving that dynamic.

4. Measure the Right Things
One thing that often creates a barrier between I.T. and business department leaders is language. Technologists tend to talk about the things they have set up and that they believe they can control directly. There's often a disconnect between those things and what business managers think about every day.

"The business doesn't care about mainframe uptime; they care about the availability of the order-entry system when they need it," says consultant Curran. This doesn't mean a CIO needn't worry if, say, a system fails, but the point is to look at that event in light of its impact on the business.

CIOs need to become familiar enough with the business so they understand what's worth measuring and what the numbers should be. For instance, for a service delivered over the Internet, anything up to three seconds might be an acceptable transaction time, says Robert Stroud, I.T. governance evangelist at software company CA. "If we're talking about medical systems, it could be you need it in one-thousandth of a second," he says.

One challenge is the impossibility of tying the performance of a system directly to profitability. A more effective approach, Curran suggests, is to decompose what the system needs to accomplish and measure just those aspects that matter the most. It might be the number of bills processed within a given window, if a goal is to get bills to customers more quickly. Or it might be trends in call-center volume if the goal is to push support questions to the Web. "Measure something the business cares about," Curran says. "Show you're working with them to try to achieve their goals."

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