Many large successful organisations including Microsoft use the Balanced Scorecard developed by Norton & Kaplan to monitor performance of their businesses, so is there something we can learn from this technique to get better at what we do in the IT industry?

I think there is but before I get to that, what is it and what makes it different from other techniques?  The key is in the title - it’s all about balance and where some organisations pursue one set of goals to the exclusion of all others, the balance scorecard looks at the wider aspect of what success looks like.  In an imaginary company we might define the following key areas we need to focus on to ensure it’s continued existence:

  • Profit. Enough said
  • Operational Excellence means that we are using the revenue efficiently, even charities have a duty of care to be efficient and pass on as much of the revenue they get to the cause they are supporting.
  • People are the most important resource we have and ensuring that we recruit the best, and retain them is essential.
  • Research and Development. No organisation has a permanent technical edge only a short time before any innovation is coped and maybe even bettered, so without R&D a company will sink into obscurity.

What is important with this list is that only focusing on one or two of these areas will cause problems, however rather than discuss the workings of big business let’s apply this technique to ourselves. I am not going to pretend I know what’s important for you so I am going to share my goals that I used in a recent internal career discussion:

1. Earnings and Expenditure.  I do like my gadgets, nice holidays, and I need to ensure I can have a comfortable retirement.

2. Career. I am on career no 3 at Microsoft, and I have already posted on how to find your happy place at work.

3. Health. You can’t earn or advance your career if you aren’t well.

4. Personal Life.  While we all now people who have no life out of work, we are social animals who generally want to support each other.

You may have a different view on what matters to you and you could sub divide these categories to come up with 5 or six areas not four.  However what matters is maintaining that balance across these for example while working hard will help the bank balance and the career your health may suffer, and you may loose contact with family and friends. Within each of these you will have Key Performance indicators and by key I mean just a few (Microsoft has 32 for it’s entire operation).  If I look at what matters to me then I get something like this:

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Balance over the right time span is important in that , we can probably work flat out on a project for 10-12 weeks with no sleep and surviving on junk food but much longer than this, what will impact our health and actually mean that our work is less effective.  Any good IT manager knows this and will force over stretched staff to take time out.  So If I look at my KPIs over a quarter then I can see where I need to focus going forward and then decide on how to move the dials:

  • If it’s my career that needs attention then I might come up with some cunning plan to delight my boss as we have in this months TechNet newsletter. 
  • We can all get better at managing our finances and I would defer to Alvin Hall where I rely on the fact that my wife is a forensic accountant. 
  • My success criteria for my social life are eccentric as I do rather than watch strictly ballroom and I don’t have any children of my own so your metrics will be very different. 
  • For health I am a firm believer in science and I am ore inclined to trust the New Scientist here rather than TV or the popular press. Top tips are having a month a year off of alcohol, combined with locally sources food and 600 cal fast days.

As you can see I am not qualified to help you with three of the four quadrants on your scorecard however If you would like help with the career stuff then we are hosting three evenings in London to get you thinking about your next role. 

Just check out my Careers advice for the IT Professional post for additional career related info and further information on our career evenings.