Seems every time there is a conversation about metrics, two major groups emerge within the IT community: those that can't figure out what to measure, and those that measure too much. One would think that developing quantifiable criteria by which success can be determined would not be such a difficult area with the IT arena; but based on the countless articles, workshops and seminars on the topic, metrics must be one tough nut to crack.
A search on the word metrics at www.gantthead.com returned 450 articles, blogs and discussions; more than just some light reading. So why then does it seem so straightforward to this old greybeard? As always, I have a theory about the difficult part and it goes like this: IT folks, in general, don't want to be measured or held accountable for the value they deliver. They would prefer just to be trusted to do their best, and at the end of the day go home never to hear their beeper go off or answer a support call on their cell phone. In short, they are just like the rest of us.
Unfortunately, the world of business and good corporate governance doesn't work that way. And besides, metrics done right can be a very good thing. In 2001, in my article "The Only Good Metric Is a Stakeholder-Value Driven Metric" published on gantthead.com, I stated:
"Building stakeholder-value driven metrics is not rocket science. However, building the right metrics does presuppose that you have a fundamental and definitive understanding of what and how value is being delivered to stakeholders and the gap between what is being delivered and what is expected and needed. Without that information in hand, it is unlikely at best, that quality metrics and supporting tracking and reporting systems will yield any returns."
This is as true today as it was in 2001, maybe even more so. But there is a dark side to metrics. Metrics must be weighted and balanced so that no one metric dominates or contributes perverted performance. We all experienced what happened when the shareholder value metric dominated corporate thinking. Some CEOs and CFOs, in order to make their numbers and reap their rewards, resorted to cooking the books just to inflate the price of the company's stock. As a result, we had the collapse of Wall Street darlings like Enron and Worldcom, plus a wonderful gift from the Federal Government called Sarbanes-Oxley. So if you think metrics can't instigate havoc, chaos and destruction, think again.