Measuring matters

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When I was little I made a lot of important decisions based on color. Choosing between a red shirt and a blue? I chose blue every time. Blue was a better color. Between Icee pops? Same thing. What can I say I liked blue.

 

Over time I learned that for somethings color wasn’t a great indicator of performance. Choosing a grocery line? It almost never pays to choose based on the shirt color of the last person in line. Typically I like to choose these lines on the basis of current line length and estimated shopping cart items. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t but as far as informal decision support metrics it does ok.

 

Most of us leverage these types of learned strategies everyday. We make choices about what lane to drive in, who to ask for help and where to go next based on models we have developed over time. These models become more fixed over time, although most of us have adjusted our models here and there to account for things like the “excessively talkative checkout clerk.”

 

The decisions we make in the office should be no different. They should be based on models that we build up over time and are updated regularly to take into account for new inputs. I think one of the biggest gaps many organizations have is that by failing to develop formal decision models over time, they fail to understand what led to success and what led to failure and of course because it is informal nobody can learn from either.

 

I’m certainly not advocating for turning every decision into an overly formal exercise in data gathering and evaluation that leads to analysis paralysis. I do however think that identifying key decisions that your organization makes repeatedly and then developing set criteria for evaluation can lead to improved decision making over time. It certainly does hurt to have this information available to others within the organization as well.

 

When we go started with ExAM (ExAM4Enterprise.com) our focus was on data collection and analysis with the belief that by making it easier to collect information about their organization and then helping them to develop decision models based on that information we could be part of changing the way organizations did their business and help them achieve a higher level of performance.

 

What we didn’t know then was that it would lead to so much work in the inspections and compliance space. Looking back at it now, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Most inspections are exercises in data gathering that are supposed to support decision making (No working refrigeration, No Food Service permit).

 

In the end I’m happy that we’ve managed to help so many organizations support these types of decisions. Unfortunately, outside of compliance I think that this type of ongoing evaluation and decision support that is talked about more than implemented. Getting better results requires identifying key decisions, the information required to support the decision and ideally a method for weighing (scoring) that information to support decision making.

 

Of course if all else fails, you can always fall back on choosing blue.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

Almost every IT organization is looking toward a future where more and more of their infrastructure moves into the cloud. Unfortunately, many of these organizations will stumble on their way to the cloud. The problem is often one of understanding the opportunity and how it maps to your business. Even more fundamentally the problem can be a misunderstanding of how IT should work for your organization. I think one of the biggest changes that is coming to complex organizations is that IT is going to become fundamentally about providing services to the organization. As such it will once again be measured on the outcomes it provides–exactly like every other organizational resource.

This may be a bigger shift than you think because for years IT managers have played the complexity card for so many years that in many organizations the “business” has learned its place. They’ve gone through long deployment cycles, built costly custom applications and lived with the enormous costs of dedicated on premise infrastructure. Every time the business complained they were told they just don’t understand, or that the reason was “complicated.” I believe that some of the slow adoption we see in the cloud is related to the fear some IT managers have in giving up the “complicated” card. The problem for these managers is that the cat is out of the bag. People’s lives are being changed every day by services that live in the cloud and securely interact with people. At some point they are going to stop believing that this same level of capability isn’t possible at work.

If external public cloud solutions are evaluated side by side with in house solutions there is a fear that the in house solutions will come up short and thereby lose the confidence of the business.  This is a real possibility given the maturity of some cloud solutions, the inherent advantage they have in achieving scales of economy and the benefits of having in many cases thousands of clients to have developed best practice in a particular domain area.

That isn’t to say on premise can’t win. Some things may simply be judged as too sensitive to perform outside of the business, have legal requirements that prevent movement to the cloud or simply be so custom to the business that there is no cloud model that is applicable. This is becoming fewer and farther in between. Mature cloud environments like those at Amazon, Google and Salesforce provide incredible robust enabling everything from plug and place applications to highly configurable and customizable infrastructure environments.

 

For IT managers the trick is in transitioning to providing advice on when to use these various models when to provision internally and serving as an honest broker between internal and external services.  I’ve seen a lot of adversarial meetings where internal IT resources advocate against cloud solutions in a way that sounds a lot more like they are supporting their internal product rather than serving as a trusted advisor counseling the business on the choices they have for solutions.

IT organizations that fail to take on this trusted advisor role may find themselves losing the trust of the business followed closely by the business of the business. Don’t put yourself in this predicament.  The forecast for the future is cloudy. Positioning your organization as a trusted advisor capable of understanding the tradeoffs that are a part of organizational success in the cloud.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.