Dawn Stevens, Comtech Services, Inc.

In preparation for this year’s CIDM member benchmark study on gathering and using metrics, we asked the June roundtable participants to describe how they define and measure their success. Participants divided their criteria and measurements into three categories:

  • Organizational success
  • Team member success
  • Personal success

Organizational Success

At the organizational level, participants measure success based on the ability of their departments to meet both internal and external customer expectations. Participants said they are successful when they…

  • Get validation from customers that they are getting the technical content they need.
  • Produce high quality content that makes customers successful.
  • Are considered a trusted partner of the development team.
  • Meet deadlines, are productive, and are recognized for going beyond the call of duty.

Participants use a variety of tactics to gather this data. To gather end user data, some take advantage of web analytics, while others host formal customer and stakeholder satisfaction surveys, and monitor net promoter scores (NPS). Teams also monitor support calls to capture information that they need to improve or perhaps add to their content to reduce those calls.

For measuring internal factors, such as on-time and on-budget delivery, participants believe planning is key.  Some are methodical with their planning: they analyze past projects to predict how the size and required resources for the current project and carefully track actual time against predicted time to ensure they stay one track. Members of agile development teams in particular mentioned that having checkpoints along the way and readjusting at each sprint has helped keep them on track.

Surprisingly, only a few participants use formal scorecards or dashboards to measure their department’s success criteria. They feel dashboards not only give them the ability to see trends and easily adjust, but also gets the attention of upper management. Such tactics are often important because success is not always easy to measure, and the teams are not always valued for the work they do.

Team Member Success

To measure team member success, participants hold individuals accountable for things such as customer satisfaction, conformance to standards, productivity, and teamwork. However, such measurements must be positioned correctly and set appropriately. Managers must take into account how much a person can do and set realistic deadlines. In fact, some participants indicated that a more important measurement in this area is the growth of a person, rather than productivity or quality, “Entry level writers may not be as productive as senior writers, so you have to measure writer growth not productivity.”

Obviously, the success of each individual contributes to the overall success of the department, but at times, managers are forced to balance competing expectations. For example, to keep budgets down (a measurement of department success), some groups outsource writers or hire less experienced staff. However, often these less experienced resources consume more engineering time. In the big picture, engineering costs go up counterbalancing any savings on the content development side, and often quality is also impacted.  Gathering this type of data is critical in order for managers to justify and make needed adjustments.

Personal Success

Finally, some participants measure their own success as a manager based on factors such as team morale and turnover rate, with some companies even conducting periodic employee NPS surveys. Participants agreed that team morale is a significant factor for all other metrics. As one participant said, “A stable team increases all other metrics.” The converse is also true, however. An organization’s performance directly influences team member morale. “If your reputation is high and you have strong teamwork, then your morale is usually good, and you have less turn-over. Team members are just more excited and more productive.”

To impact morale, one participant suggested that the manager must establish “basketball team dynamics”: the entire team must share a common goal and each individual must believe that they have the ability to impact the team’s success in reaching that goal, accepting that at certain times, they will not be the one with the ball, but recognizing that their support role is just as critical.

CIDM Metrics Benchmark Study

The insight from the round table discussion enabled CIDM to put the finishing touches on our annual member benchmarking survey, which this year explores the specific metrics that successful organizations are gathering and how they are using those metrics to guide their actions. Members should look for the survey in their email in the next couple of weeks and results will be shared at the Best Practices conference in Seattle, September 10-12 (bp.infomanagementcenter.com). Not a member? Consider the benefits of membership, which includes not only annual benchmarking studies such as this one, but also conference registrations and training discounts. See infomanagementcenter.com for more information.