When talking about metrics and dashboards, it’s all a matter of perspective–Who’s going to be looking at the data? Dashboards should be tailored to the audience, and not the data sources or the business units the data is reported to. After all, different business roles require different information, right?

While you may think that it’s all about the numbers and data crunching, would you be surprised to know that there’s a secret to all this? Keep reading and I’ll tell you what it is.

Reconciling Business and Technology

Out of all the upper management roles in organizations today, the CIO (Chief Information Officer) is often caught between two different perspectives: business and technology. While the CIO’s department must be concerned with the delivery and health of the IT part of the organization, it’s hard for them to keep the overall business outcome in mind as they work.

Simply put, CIO metrics don’t often mesh with overall business metrics. It’s the difference between transaction-based metrics and business-oriented metrics. How can CIOs manage this delicate balance?

Learn more about: Scorecard vs Dashboard

The Technology Business Management Council commissioned a study by Forrester Research on this very topic


The report found that there are three areas that CIOs must focus on in order to get that balance just right:

  1. Measure and report the right things.
  2. Upper management should communicate in “business” terms with each other.
  3. CIOs should work with their upper management partners to drive an agreed-upon governance process.

Choosing the right metrics to report on is always a challenge, but especially for CIOs who are trying to maintain that balance of business and IT. In order to do that, the report outlines five ways to ensure that you’re picking the right metrics to report on.

How to Pick the Right Metrics

#1 –Choose actionable metrics

CIO-Dashboard-actionSure, the data should be informative; after all, you want to know exactly where your department stands with respect to overall business objectives. However they’re also a great way to open a dialogue with your business peers and talk about how the technology is affecting business, and vice versa. Perhaps you (or your peer’s team) need to take some action to maintain the forward progress towards the objective, or your IT team could investigate some new technology options for one of your business peer’s teams to help them with their objectives. The point is, the open dialogue lets both business and technology teams exchange information and take action based on the metrics you’re all seeing.

#2 – Establish benchmarks for the metrics


Choosing the right metrics to measure is fine, however if you’re not measuring them against some sort of benchmark or threshold, it’s difficult to know how you’re doing overall. Increases or decreases in metrics make more sense when you understand the benchmark on those key metrics.

#3 – Ensure auditability of the metrics by anyone and everyone


As soon as you start keeping score, and measure your performance against that, people start to get nervous. They tend to feel threatened by “the numbers”, even if they’re doing well! Remove that mistrust by keeping the new dashboards and metrics visible and transparent. The data may be more meaningful to you the CIO, however it’s okay if other teams and your business peers see them as well. It helps feed into their process improvement activities as well, if they see how you’re doing.

#4 – Choose repeatable metrics

CIO-Dashboard-repeatIf your CIO dashboard isn’t easily replicable and it takes you a long time to generate it, it serves no one. The metrics that you choose to measure should be easy to find, track, and report every time.

#5 – Focus on quality metrics, not just quantity


The Forrester report says that the “magic number” of metrics to track is anywhere from 8 to 12. More dilutes the message your report creates, and less makes it meaningless because the sample size is too small. You’ve got to find that sweet spot and run with it.

The secret to the “right” metrics

Finally, we’re at the heart of the matter. At the secret I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Finding and pulling data into a dashboard is easy. It’s the heavy-lifting part of the equation. But where things get murky is in figuring out the “right” metric (or set of metrics) to display in your dashboard. After all, each organization is different, so each CIO requires different information in a dashboard.

This one thing makes it more of an art than a science–and it’s simply being aware of your surroundings. That’s it. By understanding the culture, politics, and people at your organization, you’ll be able to choose the “right” set of metrics. You’ll understand how teams may feel about giving up the data you need, and how others will perceive the dashboard you’re creating. That includes your own IT organization, as well as the rest of your company.

Every team, department, business unit, division, and enterprise company has its own quirks and foibles. Being aware of all this will help you choose the representation of specific IT metrics that is right for your organization.

Need a partner to help get this started?

You’ve come to the right place. Our seasoned executives can help you identify and select the best metrics to communicate between you and your business peers.  Or, if you already have your metrics, we can provide the muscle to create the CIO dashboards  sorting through your data and your infrastructure, and recommending the right tools and dashboards to get your business and technology groups working together better.. Contact us today and let’s see what we can do.

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Amit Raj

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