Critical Process Perspective
The third tier in the balanced scorecard approach includes objectives and metrics for critical processes - processes IT has to do well if it's going to deliver anything in the above two tiers. Your achievements can include better application development and change management processes, improved balance between maintenance and innovative work, convergence to your intended enterprise applications architecture, or improved server up-time (or better performance on any part of your SLA). Just as the customer-perspective tier contributes to - and is a leading indicator of - the financial tier, achievements in this tier support the customer benefits tier and perhaps the financial tier directly. And these achievements are leading indicators as well. The time delay between these achievements and financial achievements is even longer.
So how will these achievements be received? Remember, telling someone you've reduced downtime or improved development responsiveness won't be nearly as persuasive as when they feel the benefits (one tier up). Your achievements in this area are critical. But because the impact is delayed, only the most perceptive will really understand. The CEO might appreciate your achievements, and members of peer organizations with whom you've worked to build new capabilities might understand the coming effects. Except for you and your team, most stakeholders won't care about these.
This tier of strategic objectives in the balanced scorecard approach focuses on capability in staff and tools; this is also sometimes expressed as learning and growth. Some of your achievements could include improving the skills of your IT staff, improving application "coverage" so that you are less dependent on a single individual, reducing the number of vendors to manage, or increasing retention. These metrics are leading indicators with very long term effects on higher tiers, and achievements you've made in these areas will likely go unappreciated, even though they are the foundation of everything else. Thus, the table is not shown because it's empty!
You may have achieved quite a bit. But when it comes to explaining what you've done for the company, make sure you understand your audiences. Your newsletters, your reports to peer and senior management, your news to distributors, and (if it's fitting) communication with the company's customers should focus on what matters to them.
Stephen Lipka, Ph. D., is a Principal of Avatar Strategic Partners.
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