A fundamental part of the work we do on our team is to measure things: the costs of deploying desktops, the business value of an application lifecycle management solution, the costs of managing a virtualized server environment, etc. In doing this, we aim to drive scenarios that amplify the value that our future products will have to our core customers. And to do that, it’s important to understand how our customers measure performance, costs, risk, and so forth and put that in a context of how our products are being used.

In a recent survey I conducted of 45 developers, DBAs, and information workers and managers, I wanted to understand what metrics were being used measure the effectiveness of current processes and technologies across a set of application platform scenarios such as building composite apps, managing app servers, and data warehousing to name a few.

What I found is that most respondents had very little sense of what measures were used to track the effectiveness of the work they do. This was especially surprising given the number of respondents who described themselves as having a very mature IT organization.

In his excellent book: How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business, author Douglas Hubbard makes a compelling case for how it is possible to measure just about anything from a business context. The value of his message, in my opinion, is not that you can measure these things or even that you should. Rather, I think the biggest value here is how to measure. Without going into a lot of detail (and spoiling the thrilling end of the book!), he states that even if an organization doesn’t have a specific measure for some process or desired outcome, they will certainly at least have some observable way to detect an improvement that the business values. If not, you wouldn’t do it.

Given that rather straightforward and somewhat obvious statement, it’s clear that every organization in a business context will have measureable processes, technologies, and/or outcomes whether or not they have specific metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs).

What has your experience been in measuring your work against specific measures? How do you measure the effectiveness of your team’s work?

Let me know at erik.svenson@microsoft.com or feel free to post a comment.

All the best,

Erik Svenson, Application Platform Lead, War on Cost Team