Measuring SharePoint business value is not always an easy task; it can be hard to measure the value of an intranet or how much a collaboration environment really improves the way we work.
Nevertheless, there are ways to do it -- some are pretty easy while other ways may require a bit more work to get it right.
A good thing to know is that whenever you measure something, the results don’t always have to be a precise measurement that ends in a percentage or other figures. No measurement is ever perfect.
Why do we Measure Anything?
There may be many reasons for measuring, but all boil down to one purpose -- we want to answer a question.
Here are four "why’s":
- Control: measuring helps to reduce variations.
- Assessment: measuring can be used to see how well a process is doing, including improvements that have been made.
- Continuous Improvements: measuring can be used to identify defect sources and process trends, for defect prevention and determination of process efficiency and effectiveness and, finally, as opportunities for improvement.
- Management Assessment: without measuring there is no way to be certain we are meeting our value-added objectives or that we are effective and efficient.
What you need to keep in mind is that, depending on your organizations needs and outcome effects, there will be different areas to measure in.
Know Your “how’s"
Before you can start any measuring you need to ensure that you have the entire “how” defined, i.e., “how” to solve the problem you face. Without having that “how,” you can’t make an exact measurement because you don’t know what to measure. You may think you do, but you cannot be sure you are measuring the areas that need to be improved. (Read more about how to define your how’s.)
Possible Areas to Measure
Below, I have listed a few areas that you may, or may not, need to measure, depending on your project.
A happy customer is a returning customer. An example: on a website it may be very important to measure how many returning customers you have, but also to measure the customers’ satisfaction with the website and your products.
Based on the answers you get, you will have a very good clue on what to improve that, eventually, will bring value to your business. Customer satisfaction may not have to do with your SharePoint environment but, instead, with how you work with your internal process.
Measuring properties: Quality and Timeliness
Most often when we implement IT systems we do this to improve business processes and ways to work.
So when measuring business processes like administration, sales and production etc., the idea may be to see if and where you can cut resources.
If you can make the process run faster and more smoothly, then you most likely can cut down on resources.
Measuring properties: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Quality, Timeliness and Productivity
There can be a lot of reasons to measure your employees. I will add a few of them below.
- Satisfaction: are they happy with the improvements that the project has made? How happy where they before the new solutions?
- Affection for the company: do they feel affection for the company? For example: you may implement a portal to improve affection to the organization, knowledge wise, social wise or just brand wise. Having this measured, and acted upon, may help your company have longer employment terms that result in less knowledge loss, slowed processes, etc.
- Skills development: if you have invested in an e-Learning system it might be very good to measure how your employees or customers develop their knowledge. Knowledge increases could lead to improved business and increased sales.
Measuring properties: Effectiveness, Quality and Productivity
You can measure the profitability of your project or other key areas, but you should also look at investment cost and time of depreciation and measure them against project profitability.
An example could be that you replace some paper forms with digital forms to speed up certain processes. But to do so you need to purchase some extra terminals for employees to access the forms on. In this case it would be very important to measure the profitability of doing this -- will the investment get a payback within your depreciation time?
This kind of measuring is often required to even start a project, as management usually loves their numbers.
Measuring properties: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Timeliness and Productivity
What are the results of having a complex system that is hard to use in your organization? Perhaps you see that many of your processes are not followed, resulting in loss of customer data or other key information.
Usability may be one of the more fuzzy measurements you do. You can measure a system on how difficult (or easy) a system is to use but also on how many employees are not using the system as they should because the system is too complex.
Measuring properties: Efficiency, Quality and Timeliness
Don’t forget to measure your risks. Possible risks in a SharePoint project could be bad user adoption (for many reasons), information governance (lots of old data that can’t be trusted), one-way communication, etc.
It is important to measure the risks; you need to see that you have overcome them, but also see the risks you may have fallen into, how that happened and how to solve those issues.
Measuring properties: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Quality, Timeliness and Productivity (depending on risks)
Measure your Governance Organization
It is extremely important to measure the governance organization. You must be able to unfold the parts your governance organization is not able to handle. You cannot improve your organization until you know what areas you need to improve.
Some ideas of what you can measure:
- Amount of tickets/requests answered and resolved within agreed time
- Tickets with high skill level: who manages them most? (Do you need more training to level out the workload?)
- Is the amount of tickets going up or down? (If up, you need more training for the organization.)
- All governance organizations duties (do they perform them or not?)
- End user satisfaction.
- Measure expired data, sites, etc. The governance organization should be there to prevent expired objects.
- Does the governance organization deliver the correct solutions that support business needs? And do they do it in time? This can also be measured.
The list can grow long depending on what your governance organization looks like.
Measuring areas: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Quality, Timeliness and Productivity
When to Measure?
This is a hard question for me to answer, as all outcomes have different time horizons before they can be measured to truly see the effects.
BUT NOTE! Don’t bother measuring anything if you don’t have the will to complete the measurements after the project or even long after the project is completed. Because spending time to measure before/during a project does not do you any good if you can’t prove that you have solved your issues and needs at a later stage.
Most probably you have done some measurements before the project that leads you to actually run the project. Those measurements probably have to be remade when the project starts and you know your “hows.” How will you ever know that you focus on the right goals otherwise? So to measure before and during the project will be your main focus to start with.
Then, after the project, it is important that you follow up on your measurements. You might know that you will see effects just after you have gone live with your solution. If that’s the case, you should start making new measurements at that time. But you need to continue doing the same measuring (after a week or month or a year) to make sure it wasn’t just startup improvements that you measured the first time.
Some measuring may be real-time, and some may occur once every month. You need to use your own judgment to try and see when to measure; some effects may be as distant as a year ahead or longer.
Simple Measurement Techniques
There are hundreds of ways to measure the measurable and I can’t go in deep on all of them. I will focus on some of the most used techniques to give you a good overview.
I will start by adding a list of possible techniques and, after that, describe some of them.
- IT System measurements & analytics
- Performance measuring
Observing: You will be amazed by how much you can learn by just observing. It might be a fuzzy way to measure something but it does work. This kind of measuring needs continuous observations.
The first time you observe someone, that person will try to do it as perfectly as possible. But if you come back now and then you might see that he/she is doing the same thing, but in a different way. It could even be effects of the change, positive or negative. Also if you observe different people doing the same job, then you can see huge differences.
Poll: This is a very common way to get simple questions answered. Normally you have pre-chosen answers that the audience can check. Polls are very effective on a website or intranet.
Survey: You can make surveys manual (document form) or automated with the help of IT systems. This type of measuring technique often has several questions where the receiver can answer in free text or pre-made alternatives. These are mainly used when you want an answer to more than one question or if you need an answer to a very complex question.
Quiz: With a quiz you can easily measure skill or knowledge of one or more areas/people. Widely used on the Internet today in social media, for fun or for measuring something important.
Interviews: With multiple interviews you can learn a lot about how something evolves. You can see people’s knowledge and understanding increase over time. But you can also get answers fast as well as get the possibility to see if all your interviewees share an opinion or not. Interviews are effective to see if everyone regards objects as the same issue or success.
IT System measurements & analytics: This area of measuring can be very interesting as you can measure so many parts of your IT environment. A few examples of what can be measured here:
- User adoption
- Storage usage
- Page/Site hits
- Network utilization
- Business intelligence
You get the point; the list can grow very long.
Performance measuring: This might be the most interesting part when you look at improving processes.
Some key areas that can be measured with this method:
- How well are we performing?
- Are we meeting our goals?
- Are our customers satisfied?
- Are our processes measured by adequate statistics?
- If and where are improvements necessary?
Most performance measures can be grouped into one of the following five categories. (Some organizations may develop their own categories as appropriate depending on the organization’s mission.)
- Effectiveness (Are we doing the right things?)
- Efficiency (Are we doing things right?)
- Quality: the degree to which a product or service meets customer requirements and expectations.
- Timeliness; measures whether a unit of work was done correctly and on time.
- Productivity; the value added by a process (streamline processes)
All in all, you are measuring to get a question answered, it’s up to you how you measure, and most results you get are not always 100% correct. Anyway, you just have to live with that.
- Measure only what is important, your “hows.”
- Don’t measure at all if you don’t intend to follow up the measuring later on.
- Measure your customers, organization, employees, financials, usability, your risks and your governance organization.
- Measure when you see appropriate for the activity to be measured.
- Make use of methods like observing, polls, surveys, quizes, interviews, IT system measurements, analytics and performance measuring.
Editor's Note: Interested in reading more by Frederik?