tapemeasure painted on sidewalk in Toronto
The main metric to worry about when launching a new digital workplace (or any system) is productivity. PHOTO: Steve Harris

How do you measure the success of a new system? That is one of the biggest questions people ask when deploying a new piece of software. 

Some suggest tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) tied to the utilization of the new system or the reduced usage of the older system, which is fine. But the metrics that signal success are the ones that tell you if more work is getting done.

Why Did You Deploy That System?

Seriously. Ask yourself that question. Why did you just spend a lot of money to deploy your new digital workplace (or any system)? Were you trying to …

  • Smooth communication channels?
  • Make information more readily discoverable?
  • Improve information governance?

For the first two, isn’t the core goal to increase productivity? Why smooth communication channels? Simple, to enable people to share information more readily, increasing the effectiveness of staff, thus improving throughput. 

Why make information more readily discoverable? Same reason.

What you need to measure to determine success is to measure productivity.

How Do You Measure Productivity?

That is a question you must answer today, regardless of if you deployed a new system. How else do you know how effectively people are working? Can you put a monetary value on improvements? For example,

  • How many help desk tickets is customer service successfully processing per person per day?
  • What is your response time to incoming requests?
  • What is your velocity on your development projects?

Once you know how to measure productivity in your organization, then you can look at ways to improve it. If you determine that improved communication from a digital workplace would improve throughput, then try one out. Measure your productivity and see if things improved.

What About Information Governance?

Things get a little more complicated if you deployed a system to improve information governance. In this case, the goal is meeting organizational requirements, such as records management or complying with regulations. Improving productivity of front-line staff isn't a driving force.

The KPIs here are very similar. After the transition period, did productivity return to original levels or better? While before the focus was on improving performance, this time it's making sure the introduction of backend features didn't make things worse for staff.

Additional KPIs also relate to productivity, but measure it for the back-office. Is it easier to prove compliance with a regulation? Are records declared more correctly than before? Can we effectively find responsive information for legal discovery requests faster and cheaper than before?

And when the system is aimed to improve front line productivity, the back-office KPIs still matter. In that scenario, those are the KPIs that need to at least hold-the-line. I’ve seen more than one system deployment rolled back because the back-office was no longer able to keep things in compliance after the rollout of a “better” system.

Don't Shift Old Problems to New Systems

All relevant KPIs boil down to one thing: Can people more effectively perform their job after deployment than before? If the answer is yes, then celebrate.

All too often, the deployment of a new system doesn’t improve things. It simply shifts an old problem to a new platform. Perhaps the problem wasn’t the software but people’s willingness to share information. People hoarding information to ensure job security isn't a new hazard and software won’t fix it.

Measure how you work today. Establish benchmarks. See if some groups are more productive than others. If they are, find out why. Spread what you learn to other parts of the organization. Don’t simply swap an email glut problem for a Slack glut problem.

Measure how you deliver value to your customers, your employees. Improve on that and you’ll know exactly how effective your new system is.