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IT Project Measurement Exposed Print
Project assurance expert Pelicam warns of the pitfalls of poor measurement in IT projects and calls for higher industry standards.  The company outlines nine key points for effective IT measurement.

It’s one of the oldest adages in management:  “What gets measured gets done”. Yet examples of the unintended consequences of measurement systems continue to abound, and IT is one of the worst culprits. SFor example, a common key measurement is IT spend in comparison to income.  How is this to be interpreted?  A high ratio might equally indicate a company investing in systems to support future growth – or poor cost control.

What ought to be measured, in addition to IT expenditure, is the value IT delivers to the organisation – that is, the output as well as the input.  Good CIOs understand this, but not everybody in IT behaves in a way that recognises it. Some take pride in having ‘the latest’ of everything in their infrastructure, regardless of whether the business actually needs it (and so do some of their end users – witness the competition to see who has got the latest Blackberry model).

Another example of poor measurement in IT is the Service Level Agreement.  Too often SLAs are based on what’s easy to measure, such as percentage availability time on a network, rather than what’s important to the user - such as how often, in critical periods, was the application unavailable; or what was the cost to the business of unavailability?

Poor measurement is also a common feature of IT projects.  Project delivery is generally measured in terms of QCTs – Quality, Cost and Timescale. But even more important is whether the project delivers the expected benefits. This is often neglected both because it’s harder to measure and because the necessary baseline measures are often not taken before starting the programme, so a ‘before and after’ comparison cannot be made. 

Pelicam’s guide to good measurement
Here are a few simple guidelines to avoid falling into the metrics morass:-

1.    Try to measure outcomes, rather than inputs.

2.    Focus on your customers. Understand what’s important to them, and then try to measure that. And don’t try to second-guess them – ask them.

3.    Road-test staff incentive schemes with a sample of employees so that you can spot any flaws in time to correct them. Think of how your people’s likely reactions to your incentive scheme will affect customers?

4.    Don’t just measure something because it’s easy to measure – it may be meaningless or, worse still, lead to bad behaviours. Be prepared to invest in measuring the right things, even if that’s difficult to do.

5.    If you’re running a change programme, make sure that the programme objectives include SMART* measures which are agreed with the Sponsor – and make sure that these are baselined at the earliest possible point. Even if the programme has already started, it will still be beneficial to take snapshots of key metrics before delivering the new system.

6.    Be aware of how your Project Sponsors or Senior Clients are themselves being measured and incentivised. A Sponsor or Client who is being inappropriately measured will behave in ways that you don’t expect, and which may not (in your view) be in the best interests of the project. You need to be aware of this (and, if you’re brave, prepared to challenge it).

7.    Ask yourself – are you being measured and incentivised explicitly (or even implicitly) on doing the right thing? If your own motivations are wrong, you may be adversely impacting the behaviours of those around you.

8.    If you are introducing a complete measurement and incentive scheme for your business, make sure that you are not inadvertently encouraging one part of your organisation to work against another part.

9.    Finally, remember that the opposite of the famous adage also holds true: “What doesn’t get measured may not get done”. Leaving a vital measure out of your scheme could allow people to take advantage of the omission. To avoid this, introduce a Balanced Business Scorecard.

*SMART = Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Relevant, Timely Ends

For more information please contact:
Peter Mayer, Pelicam    CEO

Anne-Marie Coe, Pelicam Marketing Communications


Pelicam Project Assurance
Pelicam is a specialist project assurance and resourcing company helping major organisations manage change by delivering complex projects.

For more information contact:
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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