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Why metrics matter to Enterprise Architects

By March 31, 2021EA Practice Advisor

By Christine Stephenson

One of my favourite wise men, Peter Drucker, said many important things.  One of his most famous quotes is, (and I know you have heard it before), “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” and another quote very relevant to us archtiects is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”.

Given our entire world is about taking enterprises from where they are today to where they need to be in the future, it’s reasonable to ask “How do we know where the future is if we have no sense of the destination”, or “How far are we along the path?”, or even the good old “Are we there yet?”

If you haven’t heard of SMART measures before and you are an architect, you had better get cracking on learning more about it right now. To save you googling it, click here.

I honestly believe that there are a few good reasons why people don’t measure stuff, which can make our lives as architects a miserable one.  You may agree with me or not, but this has been my experience, having worked with far too many organisations where I have seen and heard the reasons why measurement systems either do not exist or are poorly defined. I would love to hear what you think some of these reasons are.  Here are some of mine:

  1. Politicians don’t want to be held accountable to actualy delivering something they can be measured against.  So good luck trying to implement a measurement system in the public sector.  Promises are airy at best.
  2. There is only one measure that’s important in business.  The bottom line!  No point trying to measure anything else because shareholders only care about the bottom line!
  3. Decision makers prefer to fly by the seat of their pants and use their many years of experience to make decisions, also known as ‘gut feel’.  
  4. CEOs only hang around for about 5 years according to a PWC report.  It takes a long time to embed a measurement system and realise its benefits, so no one really bothers.
  5. Everyone wants to make evidence-based decisions.  AI is going to be the saviour of decision makers.  Sadly, the quality of data most companies deal with is rubbish! AI or not, the old adage of garbage in – garbage out, still applies.
  6. Picking the right measure is hard work!  Having worked with many clients, I still have to go through numerous iterations before I come upon the right measure.  You need both knowledge and experience to know what the right measure is and when you and your client find it – ureka!
  7. Data lakes are just sewage pits festering till the next fad comes along. They are a cesspool of stinky measures. If you don’t have any idea of data management and best practice methodologies, you will spend a lot of blood and sweat cleaning up that data lake to find the right diamonds, only to have the business tell you that you took too long and they made a decision anyway.
  8. We don’t teach people in the company why data and data quality is important.  Everyone thinks it’s the IT department’s problem to collect the data and then they wonder why the measures are wrong.
  9. We design really bad systems that allow people to put garbage in.  I remember the discipline I was taught where I had to work out the data type and design it on a sheet of grid paper to make sure it was either alpha or numeric, and the data had to fit the right pattern dd/mm/yy (pre-Y2K).  I have seen so many systems that allow free text in every field!  Don’t know what’s wrong with that? Sign up for one of my courses.
  10. I will leave you with this one…We reward people with the wrong measure.  A service desk outsource provider gets a bonus every month when they close above the Target number of tickets.  Yay! The business wonders why service is getting worse and we are paying the provider MORE!  What’s the logic here people….leave me a comment below when you figure out what’s wrong with this measure.

Don’t forget, we also want to know the subjects that are causing you professional pain. Please email your questions to [email protected], and we’ll select one for a future advice column. The EA Practice Advisor team is here to help!

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