There were a swarm of papers published in the late 90′s and early 2000′s surrounding a very, very strange thing: turns out that asking people to fill out a survey about a positively viewed product actually causes them to buy more of that product, buy it more quickly, and become more profitable customers. This is called, in some circles, the “Mere Measurement effect.”Just in case you want to know where I came up with the above, here’s some light bedtime reading: Applied Stochastic Models in Business and Industry.
There are a slew more articles on the subject, a quick perusal on Google Scholar will get you acquainted with the literature.
There’s an older observation related to this new research: “What gets measured generally gets done.” Named for the place where studies were done on production improvements in the 1920′s, The Hawthorne Effect has now been evolved into multiple lines of research and nuance, but the point is simple: paying attention to things improves their performance.
Although today some research points to the fact that only measuring things does not necessarily improve them, the fact remains that measurement is vital to increased performance, especially as a form of attention given to a vital area. If you consider that timing a race is the only way to determine if one has run faster, and that looking at splits or heart rates or pace are also helpful to athletes in a training situation, it is obvious that measurement is a key to improved performance.
So how does Business Intelligence and the software industry as a whole make use of this?
Simple: turns out that any software that measures something, and shows that measurement, and interim measurements, to the people performing that behavior, will cause improvement against those measures. If that software shows those results publicly, or allows them to be discussed, things get even better.
We all see this is enterprise software sales, especially on inside sales teams, where the bell gets rung for each deal, where whiteboards show bookings quarter-to-date, and indeed in the entire performance monitoring industry.
If software not only measured those results, but also caused salespeople to think through and state their intentions (commits) and focus on the growth toward their intentions (pipeline), especially if we view the changes over time, the above research gives us a clear indication that sales performance would improve.
Oddly enough, if we stick with the sales performance theme, we find that most people use a CRM package to look at actual results (bookings) and usually pipeline. But almost all CRM packages don’t show changes in pipeline over time, or bring the key measures that matter to the fore, and track them over time.
This is echoed through most software packages: measurement is for managers – but that’s actually the place where it does the least good.
I say: Measurement for the masses!