We hear alot about metrics and their importance. Often it is presented as if it’s the end of civilisation as we know it if we don’t have them.  I agree with much of the underlying sentiment – that we need to demonstrate how we are doing, where we are improving, how long it takes us to carry things out etc. etc. My issue is more around how we go about producing them.
 
In my department, we have always had a nightmare in the guise of time logging.  I won’t bore you with the details of this but it drives how we charge the customer and is pretty elaborate. Lets leave it at that.
 
I once had a manager who went even further:  In addition to doing our time logging (which was – ideally – daily)  he wanted us to enter an estimate of how much effort was left on each task and and a target date for completion. Someone had devised a ‘radar’ system that based on this data would work out when resources would become available, new work could be started, and all manner of statistics and metrcs would be available. The group pointed out that that could mean us all spending up to an hour a day logging time, and where would we log that time to?  So the idea gradually bit the dust.
 
The point is though, that if you are going to produce meaningful metrics – or any information come to that – people must be prepared to put meaningful data in and look at how we interrogate it afterwards.
 
So, Metrics aren’t free: If we’re not prepared to do these things, then it simply demonstrates that the metrics aren’t that important after all and we can live without them.
 
Interestingly, recently I have become involved in looking at how we can improve our time logging and metrics. We use Kanban to organise ourselves, and in the past have tried various methods of producing them.  We have tried Excel sheets with macros, various Lean software tools, add-ons to other tools, you name it. The problem is always the same: keeping the tool in sync with the board. I am trying a slightly fresh approach though:  If we have to do time logging – and there is no likelyhood it will go away any time soon – lets adapt it and structure the data better and get our metrics from that.  It might not be perfect, but at least we are getting some value out of something we have to do anyway.  

 

It will need a bit of development and time and effort;  so lets see if it happens and more to the point whether we really value the metrics…

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