February 03, 2021
A Metrics Tale of Data Collection
When setting up ERP and other operations platforms, you need to think through the story you want the data to tell.
Most modern software platforms make it easy for customers to add fields, allowing you to collect every piece of data that might be informative or helpful. It’s tempting to add an attribute here or an extra field there. Stop. For every field you want to add – for that matter, every field that already exists – think about it critically.
It’s expensive to collect data. Your employees need to touch every field or at least supply the data or source to populate them. When forms require so much data entry, people tend to find ways to avoid the perceived burden. Non-required fields are ignored, free-text fields are filled with the least amount of content allowed, and even pick-lists can be cheated (it’s so easy to pick the first option or leave a default value).
You can avoid all of this by keeping one question at the forefront of all data design decisions: What story do I need to tell?
Align Metrics to Business Goals
People aren’t trying to be lazy. On the contrary, most employees are so busy that they try to finish one task quickly to make it to the next. When planning your system, you must decide what’s important and structure the system accordingly.
How do you know what’s important? If you follow ITIL guidance, you want everything you do to align to your business or customer goals. Therefore, the metrics you collect and the reports you create need to help you assess – and communicate – how well your services are performing relative to your customers’ perception of value.
If a piece of data does not help you tell the value story, if it’s a nice-to-have or if you can reach the same information through other data, then keep the form clean and save your employees that extra time.
Have a Mitigation Plan for Each Metric
Do not collect a metric if you don’t know how you would react to or use the data. If you take the time to collect data and interpret what it’s saying, you need to have a plan to respond. Metrics show us where we need to improve or adjust course, so it’s important to understand what you hope to understand through data and how that will influence your operations.
In addition to building in a continual improvement practice, when it’s time to train your staff on the new ERP system, you will be able to explain the importance of collecting each data element, thereby helping your teams align their work to the bigger mission.
And They All Lived Happily Ever After
ERPs and similar enterprise platforms afford organizations a tremendous opportunity to execute operations and reflect on performance to iteratively improve. Deliberately planning these platforms to help you tell a business value story will ensure work is efficient and mission-aligned, leading to higher quality service and happier customers and team members.