Agile, Uncategorized

Business metrics, the love-hate relationship

I wanna come clean. I hate metrics with passion. The whole concept is just too dangerous.

At the same time though, metrics can be the biggest thing you are missing out on.

In my line of work, in the corporate environment and mostly scaled agile frameworks, where the alignment of hundreds of people is the name of the game, it is one of the few things that can keep you sane. So I find myself asking “How are we going to measure our progress?” and “Which numbers is this increment moving?” on a daily basis these days.

I think it all comes down to how you use them.

You gotta accept the fact that whatever you measure you WILL get. Sounds good but it usually isn’t. Why?

Double-edged sword

You wanted to decrease the complexity of your product, so you started slicing off the process steps your customers must go through. You went from 55 steps to 10 steps. And that’s good! Success and flowing champagne. Only to find out that customers don’t understand what the hell are they supposed to do now.

People like to screw with the numbers

So you started measuring things, goooood, good. You start talking about the results. In numbers, hard cold data. Let’s start rewarding people based on those numbers, perhaps. The performance review is coming up.

I can guarantee you that people will invent thousands of glorious ways to satisfy the metrics. Doesn’t matter if it makes any sense, they just will. Any means necessary.

I saw a company rewarding its developers based on how many lines of code they have written. Call centres rewarding the number of calls. Operations rewarding the number of closed tickets… Oh, the results these produced…

On the other hand, there are metrics that are next level clever. For example one of the call centres measuring whether or not a served customer called again within a week…

Bad data & wrong technique of measurement

This one is pretty obvious. Wrong interpretation of data or bad data, in general, can send your team on an unwanted journey.

Yes, it also matters how you gather the data, happily sitting in your database. It makes a huge difference, for example, if you ask for feedback in person, send an anonymous questionnaire, send a prefilled questionnaire, or have an employee him/herself collect the feedback on how was the customer happy with the service. It also depends WHEN it happens.

There are so many factors…

Well, there is more, but I think you get the gist of it.

I guess the advice here should be: Think it through, use a combination of several CLEVER metrics and be careful with whom you share the numbers.

Hope this helps,

Tom

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