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Lies, Damned Lies and (Productivity) Statistics

5 minute read
Jed Cawthorne avatar
When assessing the efficacy of your business processes, remember: not every number is telling you what you think it is.

Has your organization, your division, your team ever stepped back from the day-to-day operational tasks and done a review of your business processes? It isn't easy. You may need to set up a project team and carve time out of busy people’s schedules to move forward with this kind of review or audit. 

Yet whether you are coming at it from a total quality management, a process management or a knowledge management perspective, it can be incredibly useful to undertake periodical audits, assessments or reviews of your business processes. If your processes are no longer optimal, because environmental factors have changed, or your actual business goals have evolved and morphed over time, there may be inefficiencies begging to be dealt with.

Potential Pitfalls in Measuring Your Business Processes

Part of any review will include examining the data you capture, the data generated by your people going about their daily tasks. How many widgets have they manufactured, how many contracts have been generated, how much money has been generated through sales? You may have a ton of raw data, but do you have a vision for how you want to process it or know what insights you are looking to generate from it?

Putting bad metrics in place and measuring the wrong things can be highly detrimental to your business processes. Two areas in particular can cause this potential pitfall: first, do you have the telemetry in place within your technology platforms and tools to capture the right data? Second, do you have a vision of what you are looking for and what you want to capture? 

And before you ask, I understand this is a chicken and egg scenario. You could start out with the vision, but the tooling may not provide you with the data you would really like to see. What do you do then? Do you modify the vision to fit the data you have, or do you find a way to acquire the data you want? The first approach is likely sub-optimal, but the second approach may require investment and a fair bit of work. However certain approaches and frameworks exist to help you with this: Total Quality Management (TQM) framework, Six Sigma, Business Process Reengineering (BPR), etc. There are consultancies and contractors out there with the right skills (and certifications) to help you.

Related Article: How to Build a Sustainable Agile Culture

Employee Journey Maps Ground Metrics in Reality

Now comes the potentially more difficult part: How do you tie in these older frameworks with the more recent idea that the employee journey is as important as the customer journey? Suddenly the process side of things seems tangible and therefore a bit easier. Six Sigma has many ways to ensure you produce 2.5 times more widgets per hour, but what if your workforce is comprised of "knowledge workers" and their outputs are rather more intangible, such as actionable insights and "value add" knowledge products?

Learning Opportunities

You can take methodologies developed for creating customer journey maps, and apply them internally to create a visual representation of the employee journey, their day in the office (wherever that may be), including their interactions with their physical and digital workplaces. Such a graphical map, or diagram should show all of their touchpoints with all of your various technologies. They may use one or two core business systems, but may also use many different collaboration or social networking technologies as part of their role. This should include everything from using your bespoke mobile app to read corporate news on the train into work, to responding to an urgent email after putting the kids to bed, and everything in between.

An employee journey map created for a number of different personas can help you figure out exactly what metrics are important for tuning the employee journey, and where to focus your measurement. 

Again, we return to the concept of nice-to-have measurement. It would be great to have lots of detailed numbers on a lot of different areas, but is there a positive ROI on getting them? Is it going to be worth the outlay and the effort to get these metrics? Look for the metrics that will bring value, without a lot of investment or work effort, and concentrate on them first. Run with them for a while, check that they are really providing value in helping you tune and enhance the employee journey. If it turns out they are not helping, drop them. Move on to the next idea. Once the cheap and easy ones are providing value, you can then consider looking at the next-level metrics, the ones more difficult to acquire and work with.

Now the bad news: I can't give you a list of what to look for, what to measure or how to use the output of that measurement. All of this is highly contextual and it totally depends on your organization, what you do and how you do it. Just remember, not every number is telling you what you think it is.

Related Article: Fixing the Mess of Collaboration With User Journeys

About the author

Jed Cawthorne

Jed Cawthorne is principal evangelist at ShinyDocs, focusing on spreading the message of the benefits of good data and information management. Jed has over 20 years experience in information and knowledge management, and over 25 years in IT.

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