Redefining Performance Metrics

We’re a company of problem solvers. Our individual roles can be hard to describe, and our daily tasks are not clear-cut. We’re an agile company that adapts to things on-the-fly. We hold ourselves to the highest standards—and we’re taking a hard look at exactly what those standards should be.

Metrics are widely used by other companies to track time, productivity, and other key performance indicators (KPIs). Depending on the nature of the company, these metrics can be a clear way of showing if someone is meeting expectations or needs improvement.

For us, it’s different. We’ve had systems in place that track time and other KPIs, but we’ve had little success with quantifying that information. So we’re taking a step back and asking ‘why’. Why are metrics important to have? How does this allow us to make better solutions for our clients?

Why are Metrics Important?

We need to know where our time goes. Our teams have a limited amount of bandwidth, and when we’re taking on a new task, we need to be able to accurately estimate how long something should take—and then deliver the job within that time frame. Reliable estimates will help us project sales more accurately and understand how much a job should cost. The more we know, the better we can communicate expectations to a customer.

In terms of budget, metrics can help us determine what the project should cost and what our timeline will be. If something is taking more time than we thought, we need to understand why. We want to zero in on what’s critical and let go of what isn’t. Our metrics should align with our key organizational goals and objectives. And while this is still a work-in-progress, these conversations are happening daily.

Making Changes

One thing is for sure: Metrics mean nothing if nobody is looking at them.

Years ago, we put a solution in place to track our productivity through various performance metrics. It gave us a substantial amount of data, including a log of time spent that we used to measure a person’s bandwidth. After having this system in place for some time, we realized we were tracking and reporting our time without drawing any conclusions from the data. The value of what we learn from the metrics needs to be more than the effort it takes to review them. By focusing on the ‘why’ behind the information we’re gathering, we can track only what we need and leave the rest behind.

A challenge we’re facing now: How do you track the quality of someone’s work? We can track time all day, but what happens if someone is consistently taking less time than they estimate, and their work is rushed or not up-to-par? We’re figuring out how to balance that and how to track it. One thing we’re exploring is a simple test: did the work done by <person> succeed? Creating a binary yes-or-no metric. We’re also exploring a practice used in Agile development: holding retrospectives. This would give everyone a chance to share what they found successful after a project, and also what needs to continue or be changed.


Metrics would help us in a lot of different ways: estimating projects, measuring productivity, raises and promotions, etc. To find the best system, we’re looking at our existing tools in a new way. What data will help us be most successful? What is the ‘why’ behind what we collect? We continue to innovate and develop as a company by being open to change. Our internal processes should evolve with us as we move forward.