The need for business driven IT performance indicators.

IT like any other business function is using many (key) performance indicators to measure it’s working effectiveness and delivered results. Historically given, many of used performance indicators were of technical nature, perfectly readable and understandable by IT … but far less so by the business.  Just to name a few: average uptime (of whatever system), Incident resolution within Service level agreement, Number of incidents / escalations. While this indicators makes perfect sense for IT department and steering IT operations, one question emerged repeatedly during C=level meetings: “How does this help the business?”

Based on this premise – a new set of IT performance indicators arose, indicators that were designed for business people to understand them. One of such sets is well explained in ITIL v3 as ITIL KPIs Business Relationship Management – Number of Customer Complaints, Number of Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Customer Satisfaction per Service  … .

Inside the IT community many discussions tried to define a set of performance indicators that would bring IT closer to business. Looking at them from IT perspective, they made less sense in from the technical point of view, but once again, the potential of being understood by business (line of business managers) increased. Again a few examples: IT Cost/Revenue ,Availability, Rate of Application Change, Risk, Employee Satisfaction by Kevin Parker.

Taking the approach a step further, IT needs to answer the already mentioned question:  “How does this help the business?” If IT department is announce performance indicators and present them to business, then those numbers must be: 1. Understandable to non-tech personnel, 2. Be related to actual business performance and 3. Express IT contribution to business performance.  While there are some indicators that comply with point one and two – like for example IT Cost / Total revenue, this indicator fails to comply with the point three – meaning to show how IT contributed to business performance.

IT contribution to business is another much discussed point among IT executives. Several discussions are presented here: Creating a Powerful IT Contribution Statement by Dave Aron, CEO of Unisys Provides Four Tips to Align IT And Business Teams by Jacob Morgan, Engaging IT to business by Miroslav Jasso (myself).  If IT can come with measurable criteria how it directly helped to increase company’s income / profit / margin, then a performance indicator can be established that will be understood by business guys, be related with company’s financial performance and show a direct impact IT has on this performance and look like:

IT value to business = measurable direct monetary IT contribution / total income|profit|margin.


Why is Michael DELL right about his plans for working from home.

Recently, when I have read about the fact that Michael DELL wants half of DELL employees to work from home I thought that there is finally a large corporation going against the current of banishing work from home. While I agree that working 100% from home only might have an negative impact on relations with your co-workers and social networking as a whole, there are many pros for working from home.

Cost saving for the employer – once some of your employees are working permanently or partially from home you can save costs for their working spaces. Here we are not speaking about marginal amounts of money – rather the opposite as you have to play less for office space, furniture, energy costs for lights and heating, building maintenance personal, security staff, parking slots …

Improved retention of employees – working from home might help to retain staff with childcare responsibilities, stress and work-life balance problems and people with disabilities … as all those might prefer to work from home compared to the traditional office style of working.

Burden saving for our environment – we all know the image in the morning’s roads – traffic jam. Even a short distance can take long minutes to cross as many of us are too lazy to walk or to take some sort of public transportation, or live too far away from their working space. Driving to the office and back home is everyday’s ritual. But when working from home, you do not have to drive and therefore your environment is saved your daily portion of vehicle emissions.

Saving travelling time – The average travel time to work in the United States is 25.4 minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of course, the exact time depends on the location you are living and your office is located. Multiply the travel time by two (you need to get back from the office as well) and you’ve got the amount of time saving every day. That time can be spend on actual working or for one’s personal interests.

Work-life balance. Last but far from least, working from home might be a huge enabler to improve one’s work-life balance. Without exaggerating, work-life balance is among the most important work condition for most employees.

Making the story short, I applaud Michael DELL for his plans and his progressive thinking regarding working from home.

DELL as a Start-up

First I must say that I worked for DELL in its EMEA Finance center for 2 years, so my views are not entirely unbiased and are affected by my personal experience with the company.

When I recently read about the statement from Mr. DELL about (company) DELL becoming the world’s biggest start-up I thought to myself that this is the right way for the company and that DELL surely has the potential to crawl up the ladder to its former position and glory. But then, the second thought … isn’t DELL and Start-up a contradiction? What would need to happen with the IT giant (that some think it is in its decline) to turn into a fast growing, market acquiring start-up?

There are some thoughts of mine on this matter.

Loose some of the fat (bureaucracy).  Like many giant companies around WW … be it from industry or banking, DELL has grown a lot of bureaucracy through the years or growth. In many cases all the standards and procedures are right in place and really needed to steer a company stretching among several continents and with a head count of 110k employees. But this is the point … for many of the start-ups, one of the secrets to success is the LACK of bureaucracy. When there are rules (and those who enforce the rules), there are cases when procedures takes too long for a fast decision needed to answer market demands, when talented people need to wait years for a promotion, when customers won’t get what they really need because of an (even long obsolete) internal regulation. Last but not least, with many levels of management in place decision from high-up need long to reach all the (long) way to the bottom … and all the great ideas from the field take too long to reach decision makers, if all.

Use the potential of employees outside of US. DELL has many sites around there world and here I am speaking from own experience, there are many talented and motivated people out there, waiting for their chance to show what difference they can make for the company. Creating a forum where their voices will actually be heard might surprise the company about what potential is there that just waits to be used. A successful start-up uses all its sources – including human resources – to all its potential, making no difference between APJ, EMEA or AMER.h

Defragmentation. Again, one of the illnesses of big corporations is the fragmentation to SBUs, segments and other horizontal or vertical lines. While it certainly is needed to some degree, with a company where sales and services are fragmented too much – the final service/deal for the customer might be lacking some of the fine tuning. Fragmentation often means separate sales positions (general sales person – ISR/AE, technical sales representative – TSR, specialist for that – SFT, specialist for something different – SFSD), tight with this are separate incentive goals for (let’s say) PCs,  servers, software solutions, gadget1, integrated solution2 …). Adding pain to injury … when there is (let’s say) not a good cooperation between some of the fragments, a respective sales representative might skip even to try to sell whatever1 together with the bunch of whatever2 to the customer only because he thinks that it will not be worth the hassle with the segment whatever2.

Innovation and risk. What makes a distinction between a start-up and a classic new company? It’s the level of innovation they try to bring to the market. The image of DELL is one of an conservative company that missed some of the big trains (tablets, smartphones, integrated solutions …). TO change the image, DELL needs to bring new innovation on the market and above all … do not be afraid of risk. With risk comes failure but success as well. Many start-ups risk a lot, invest a lot of money (even if the scale can not be compared with DELL) in a single product or solution … and fail. But they do not give up, but quickly learn from their mistakes and try it again … and again. Do not look for selling stars of today, but for ideas for tomorrow.