Life as a manager in any business, small medium or large, often revolves around PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets. (And of course the ever present e-mail systems, but that is another story). We have been conditioned to believe that effective communication requires that ideas are put into presentations and fact and figures into rows and columns. We have become so used to the ubiquitous nature of Microsoft software that to do things differently requires an extraordinary effort.
Even though there are more elegant, less time consuming and cost effective options.
The use of a Balanced Scorecard is a case in point. The majority of organisations using a Balanced Scorecard set out their strategy and initiatives in a presentation and their metrics in spreadsheets.
These are then manually updated on a regular basis and distributed to interested parties for review. The system works and we are comfortable with it. However, it is not the most efficient way to manage a business. It certainly does not provide a single version of the truth. Spreadsheets in particular are excellent personal productivity tools and absolutely essential for finance departments. When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of a company strategy or aligning metrics to business objectives then spreadsheets, at the very best, simply allow us to record numbers. They do not provide a tool to communicate effectively and it is difficult if not impossible to create a consistent view or single version of the truth.
And therein lays the problem. There is nowhere to hide. When creating a single version of the truth and a centralised view, it is difficult to remain hidden. It is a daunting prospect to think that everyone in the company can see how well (or badly) your department is performing. This is a cultural problem. Departmental managers like to have as much control over their departments as possible. They like to believe they are strong enough to face any challenge and any work-load. The last thing they want is to have people ‘helping’ them with their business. But the reality is we could all benefit from good advice. And the evidence suggests that centralised and automated business performance management systems tend to catch problems before they get out of hand and become real issues.
Right from the outset, transparent management of strategy and business objectives forces managers to think hard about what they are willing to sign up for and what they can actually achieve (rather than signing up for everything in the full knowledge that none of it will be tracked anyway).
There are a number of systems available in the market today.
Quickscore is one of them. It is an on-line metric assessment, action planning, and performance collaboration tool. It brings together overall strategy, strategic initiatives, objectives and metrics into one place. It is a Cloud application with an intuitive and comprehensive web based interface. Alerts notify owners when metrics take a turn for the worse, and corrective actions can be put in place to fix problems as they come up. It rolls up all of the metric data and shows progress towards reaching overall strategic objectives.
A system like this takes a bit of getting used to. Not because it is difficult to use but because it provides a single version the truth that is open and accessible to the whole management team. There is nowhere to hide. It means that the control you may have had by owning a presentation or spreadsheet is no longer available. For those businesses that are serious about moving their strategies forward, this is an absolute must have.