Joint Metrics - aligning business and development

"How do we bring business and development closer together?" - the key is to create transparency into what others see.

Start the discussion about what you should make transparent, so that everyone can draw the same conclusions. Making both technological and business information visible to everyone in real time will help you cut down a lot of pointless discussions about the best course of action.

Everybody is right!

Every person has their perspective of what is the most important thing, and often, each perspective is valid. For example, a technical person will consider that technological stability and high quality code are important. Salespeople care for neither - they want to close as many good deals as fast as possible. People in service support feel stuck with tons of trouble tickets, social media marketers want campaigns to go viral. And the CEO just wants a smooth, expansive operation.

A developer can only use their time once. So - what should they focus on? How can a Product Owner know whether it's more important to boost sales or to fix defects?

Classic HIPPO Prioritization

Most organizations prioritize activities like this: Either we do the thing demanded by the person who shouts loudest, or the Highest Paid Person will give their opinion on what should be done ("HIPPO Priority").

Unfortunately, neither the people with the loudest voice, nor those with the highest paycheck, tend to have a full understanding on the implications of their demand. Follow the HIPPO, and everyone else will be unhappy. Disregard the HIPPO and risk being laid off.
Either way, the organization gets stuck under the tyranny of the Urgent - shifting attention between a series of disasters and escalations to fix.
There is no freedom to think of the Big Picture, maximize business value or consider what will happen a few years down the line.

A systemic view is needed

In a healthy organization, developers in their right mind wouldn't want sales to fail - and marketing wouldn't want the technology to fail. They are often simply unaware why their personal goals have such drastic consequences elsewhere!

The solution requires overarching transparency, laying all the cards on the table.
 In most modern organizations, there is some kind of data that people utilize, yet everyone gathers their data from a different source and interprets it in their local context. This is not to advocate a central Data Warehouse, Master Data Management or a specific data representation tool here - the problem can't be fixed technologically: A sysop would look at logfiles, developers at source code, sales at transaction records and marketing at campaign information.

None of the data is related on the surface. Yet, in a closed system, all of these are sides of the same coin (probably, an "infinity dice" would be a more applicable metaphor).

Breaking the local optimization

Every stakeholder can define metrics for their specific area of expertise. Sales is very adept in defining what is great, what's okay and what is intolerable when it comes to closing deals. Hence, it's very easy for them to define a metrical system that creates overall visibility on how healthy sales are. Developers can do the same for their systems, finance for revenue - and so on.

And then we lay all of this information on the table. When everyone has a say in what we're looking at, we have objectivity in whether we're doing great, alright or meh in the big picture. And make it visible to everyone.

Bringing the puzzle together

Imagine you log into your company account - and the first thing you see is where your company is doing great - and where it just plain sucks. From the customer service rep, all the way to the CEO, from technology to business, everyone will have at their fingertip the information where your biggest strength and where your biggest weakness is.

It will become very intuitive and easy to make key decisions, and even when diplomatic compromize is needed, people will at least understand the impact of their choices.

Leaving the hamster wheel

Many organizations are challenged to break free from the hamster wheel of tasks and activities. Product evolution is often nothing more than putting band-aids on cracked pavement. Systems are fundamentally broken, because it's all about meeting short-term goals, and rarely about larger long-term beneficial change. The future gets sacrificed for today's needs.

Planning strategically

We need to figure out where we're constantly fire-fighting, where we're in calm waters, and which problems correlate. We can use the transparency of the data to introduce measurable strategic objectives, such as, "reduce technical debt from 50000 years to 100 years", or "increase conversion rate from 1.2% to 2%". It's totally valid to have multiple strategies with multiple objectives and multiple targets in place at the same time.

Building empathy

Another great advantage of building a common metric portfolio for everyone in the organization is that we start to get empathy for one another. Developers see when sales is struggling, marketing realizes when development is drowning. The discussion moves away from "What do I need next?" towards "Who has the biggest problem and how can we contribute to improvement?"

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