The saying goes, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. However, when it comes to IT, what exactly is it you're supposed to measure? A group of people on LinkedIn's CIO Network group recently had just that discussion, amounting to more than 100 comments.

The discussion fell into several camps, ranging from the people who measure a wide variety of IT metrics such as uptime, to those who said it actually wasn't the CIO's job to measure the department. "The benefits of IT don't accrue inside the IT department so measuring them is not the job of the CIO," writes Bernard Peek, a hybrid/business manager in Manchester, U.K. "This is a job that should be assigned to the CEO."

Of course, there is no single definitive answer, but the discussion itself was interesting and covered a broad span of IT philosophies.

The first aspect, of course, is what is it you're trying to measure? "I'm shocked how many replies have jumped into metric output without asking the key questions a CIO needs to ask," writes Alison Roberts, IT Management Consulting Director for CIO Advisory in Manchester, U.K. "Who are the stakeholders? What are the drivers/goals/objectives? How far along the strategic roadmap plan for current vs. future state? What are the business defined benefits? Each of these answers would require a specific approach to measurement, by and for specific groups."

The second aspect is figuring out what you have now, so that you can determine what's changed, which means figuring out a baseline, and then determining a way to explain that, writes Scott Paddock, IT director for a health provider in Seattle. "If your organization has made significant progress in the area of incident response, but this is only visible/measurable from walk through exercises (meaning your organization hasn't had a high-profile incident, but your preparedness has improved), the stakeholders may not appreciate the gravity of the gain."

CIOs also discussed to what extent key performance indicators (KPIs) should reflect purely IT aspects vs. business aspects. "I'm not suggesting that IT take ownership of a stakeholder metric," write Michael Henry, a Bay Area CIO who led the discussion. "I'm suggesting that IT work with stakeholders to develop KPIs that show how technology is improving parts of the business." If your key metrics focus only on cost, CIOs can expect to be managed on cost, and if they're focused on technology, then the business part of the organization might not recognize the value of IT, he warns later.

"I've heard many ITers espouse how well they're doing based on the 'quants' they track, and report, only to find the LOBs often disagree with their conclusions," agrees Barry Zweibel, founder of Leadership Traction, in Chicago. "'We'll know you're doing well when we stop hearing complaints about IT,' they often say. 'Until then,' they continue,' your numbers are meaningless.'"

The ultimate measurement, of course, is how much people would miss the IT department if it were gone, suggested several commenters, tongue-in-cheek. "If a group sees no value in IT services, just take them all away and try to ignore the screeching, or suggest the screeching infers some sort of value recognition," suggests Doug Goddard, a Toronto CEO.

Simplicity 2.0 is where we examine the intricate and transitory world of technology—through a Laserfiche lens. By keeping an eye on larger trends, we aim to make software that’s relevant to modern day workers, rather than build technology for technology’s sake.

Subscribe to Simplicity 2.0 and follow us on Twitter. If what we’re saying piques your interest, head over to where you’ll see how we apply the lessons learned on Simplicity 2.0 to our own processes, products and industry.

Artificial Intelligence

Have the vague feeling that robots will take away your job? We talk with Carl Gahnberg, Policy Advisor at the Internet Society, to clear out the hype.

Listen Now

Related Articles

By Sharon Fisher, May 15, 2017

Artificial intelligence systems can now beat professional poker players. What does that mean for your business and how can you prepare?

Read More

By Sharon Fisher, December 22, 2016

Any way you look at it, 2016 was a momentous year: a Presidential election, the Olympics, and a leap year. But what were the 2016 top tech stories?

Read More

By Sharon Fisher, December 21, 2016

It's always informative to look back and see which blog posts garnered the most attention. What were our most popular stories this year?

Read More