Align Your Organization Around Meaningful Analytics

Terry Elliott Products & Technology, Tips & Tricks

Analytics are usually provided with most modern systems for managing business processes like sales, marketing, recruiting and project management.  Typically, they appear in the form of dashboards and reports.  However, we think that the analytics component of most process management systems is one of the most under-utilized features of these systems.  For example, in the stack of Jobscience’ customer suggestions for new features, analytics consistently appears at the bottom of the stack.

We suspect that there are multiple reasons behind this:

  1. Many of the dashboards are created by what programmers feel is important, not what people in the field recognize as critical success factors.
  2. There are too many pie charts and dashboards with an unclear axis for many users spending time figuring out what they are trying to convey.
  3. Although analytic tools are provided for do-it-yourself dashboards and reports, the number of customers who actually use these tools is a small minority.
  4. Most analytics present historic data; few forecast expected outcomes based on current trends or suggest what the user might do to change the outcome.
  5. Many dashboards are simple, standalone metrics that have only an implied relationship with the overall objectives and key results that their organization has set out to accomplish.

Many industry organizations and commentators publish suggested “Key Performance Indicators” (KPIs), “Productivity per Head” (PPH) metrics and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and yet there are few systems on the market for defining and tracking the analytics beyond the individual and team level.

Goal management systems are found embedded in HR performance review systems, project management system and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, but typically they are focused on managing only one aspect of a complex organization.

We think much of the operating data required to assess current activity at the user level in order to aggregate it up to the enterprise goal level can be found in the process management systems and that enterprise goals need to cascade down through consistent OKRs throughout the organization.  This has to be a part of the corporate culture and not simply targets created ad hoc at the bench level.  Our sense is that most users of our systems that create dashboards are doing it independently of the goal hierarchy of their organization.

OKR tracking systems, and the dashboards that support them, close over the complexity of this goal hierarchy.  Consistent OKRs often need to be defined for individuals, teams, business units, branches, line of business and enterprises and yet the management planning and control systems used by many organizations do not address these multiple dimensions.

Meaningful analytics require not only useful metrics, like OKRs, and data.   The process management systems that a company uses can provide most of the data required to produce meaningful dashboards but this often requires integration with several process management systems.

For example, Jobscience provides employee and contingent worker recruiting and deployment systems on the Force.com platform.  The users of our systems produce high volumes of data that record activities at each step in the hiring and deployment processes.  However, when we discuss OKRs with our customers, many have OKRs related to sales, marketing and customer service.  Jobscience can capture the data required if the customer is also using the Salesforce Cloud applications or one of the Salesforce industry solutions or applications from the Salesforce AppExchange.  To be meaningful, the OKR dashboards do not just address one or two aspects of a company’s total operation.

Imagine what a consistent, layered view of OKR dashboards with real-time data could accomplish:

  • A clear cascade of company priorities
  • Everyone staying focused on what is important
  • Easily communicate progress at all levels
  • Identify cross-functional dependencies
  • Identify risk areas and potential blockers
  • See real-time progress as work is completed
  • A sense of unity of purpose

The bottom line is that the current analytic tools and templates that are available through most process management systems do not produce meaningful metrics, irrelevant pie charts are ignored by most users and the metrics do not tie directly to the goals of the organization.

Focusing on developing dashboards that support your company’s OKRs and making sure that the data is automatically captured and shared will go a long way to improving the current state of analytics for most organizations.