We’ve heard it for years…
“What’s measured is what matters.” This is true for many organizations, especially as data drives more and more of the business — and it’s often how executives make decisions. Even when data seems to contradict our beliefs, as humans, we tend to cling to certain biases and make decisions based on gut feelings. Perhaps you can relate to this, especially if you’ve been in the water industry for a long period of time. Some decisions begin to feel like muscle memory.
Though metrics have an important bearing in measuring success, there are some issues with the metrics movement.
- Taking Responsibility for Your Own Analytics
This problem is not unique only to utilities and water. Consider this article and pull quote:
“Can you imagine a CFO going to the CEO and saying, ‘I don’t really know how to read a balance sheet, but I have someone on my team who is really good at it.’ We would laugh that person out of the room,” Zettelmeyer says. “And yet I know a whole bunch of people in other disciplines, for example, marketing, who, without blinking an eye, would go to the CEO and say, ‘This analytics stuff is complicated. I don’t have a full grasp on it. But I have assembled a crackerjack analytics team that is going to push us to the next level.’ I think this is an answer that is no longer acceptable.”
Taking responsibility for your analytics is one issue; another is knowing what data to track. Decide what benefits either an investor/partner or a customer — ideally, both — and determine how to track it. Then, analyze the data you collect and report it.
Note: When choosing which metrics to track, don’t be fooled by the “tyranny of old metrics.” This is when we prioritize metrics that last mattered to our industry in the 1990s instead of looking at what we can do with current technology and information.
- Information Overload
Another relevant adage is “quality over quantity.” Information overload, or “infobesity,” leads to analysis paralysis in decision-making. As you collect data and process it, you scrub it, analyze it, and then make a decision as to whether to adjust or continue. This drives efficient decision-making. However, when you have too much data, it slows down the process. Strive for quality data, rather than a multitude of it. In previous blogs, we’ve touched on how technology can help solve this issue.
- Vanity Metrics
Don’t prioritize metrics based solely on whether they look good to your bosses or in your reports. Prioritize what matters to your region and customers. Vanity metrics can occur at almost any touchpoint. For example, social media is often a place where people get stuck on quantity over quality. Seth Godin, author, and marketing thought leader, has this to say about reach:
“Reach is overrated. Why do you care if you can, for more money, reach more people? Why wouldn’t it make more sense to reach the right people instead?”
It’s helpful to look at the intended use of each platform when determining the best metric to measure. Social media’s primary purpose is engagement. Therefore it’s better to have 1,000 followers that regularly engage with your content than to have 10,000 followers who never engage with your messaging at all. There’s more to measure than followers and reactions on social though.
Here’s what you need to parse out:
- What data can we collect?
- What do we need? What don’t we need?
- How will it be scrubbed?
- Who will analyze it?
- Who will turn that analysis into something decision-makers can understand?
- Who owns the decision-making?
- Which of the end metrics matter the most?
- What do our customers want to see from us?
- What are they asking for more of?
Measuring and reporting success metrics is a complicated dance that involves marrying many things — and many utility companies still struggle to do it well. Big data will be the future of our space. We’ve been saying that for a few years now, but we’ve not yet totally arrived. Before we can get there, we need organizations to resolve the issues above regarding potential biases around how data is used and analyzed. This is a powerful time for water and utilities. We reside right at the intersection of tech advancement and human potential in an effort to solve the biggest challenges of our industry. Metrics are a key component of those resolutions, and how we approach those metrics is tremendously important. If we can be more intentional and organized with the information we collect, then we can truly measure what matters and make the best decisions for our communities.