Our Blog

Measuring what matters

Posted June 10, 2014 8:41 PM by Melanie Burton

So, I did it. I ran my half marathon. I’m not sharing my time, because yes, it was that unimpressive and well honestly, quite underwhelming to you regular runners BUT I did it. I finished the race and I’m proud because one year ago, I’d barely/rarely run more than a mile. For me, it wasn’t about beating the other 25,000 runners… it was about finishing – it was setting a stretch goal to help get me to a point of accomplishment that I’d never gotten to.

I know I know, you’re all wondering how I did it. How does someone go from a couch potato to a (half) marathon runner in a mere few months? It was more than just setting a stretch goal (see my previous blog on the importance and power of setting stretch goals here). Progress was about measuring the RIGHT thing. Had I spent every training day focusing on mastering an 8 minute mile, I would have ended my training as a 4 mile runner. Instead, I focused on measuring distance, because for me that’s what mattered. I didn’t want to be the fastest runner, I wanted to be one of the runners. I wanted to finish the race.

Measurement is important – what gets measured gets done. Choosing the right thing to measure drives performance and provides direction, but how do we determine what to measure? There are two key things I think about.

  1. Have several indicators – to paint a picture and allow you to understand the relationships and determine what is actually affecting the outcome you want to achieve. There may be assumptions at the table that something drives progress, when in fact it’s something else entirely.
  2. Have a mix of output and outcome indicators – output indicators give you something to manage to. They help you look at what you’re doing on a day to day basis. You have to look at where you are and be able to predict where you’re going in addition to where you’ve been. Outcome indicators show you where you’ve been – what your past actions resulted in. Outcome indicators are drivers – they give you direction and help you figure out what it is you actually want to accomplish and if you are accomplishing it.

Take my half marathon training for example. Along the way, I measured how often I run, how different factors affected my running – what I ate, what I listened to, what I did the day before, etc. but everything I did, every decision I made, was with the goal of running 13.1 miles in mind. Without the focus of that outcome, I could have gone on the same number of runs but end up prepped to run a one mile sprint instead of a 13 mile jog.

So, since what gets measured gets done, measure what matters and if you can’t manage to, find some indicators you can and measure them all. 

Ascendant Presenting on Nonprofit BSCs in the LBC

Posted May 9, 2014 4:11 PM by Mark Cutler

With Ascendant presenting at a conference in the L-B-C

It’s kinda easy for nonprofits to learn about the B-S-C

While we may be showing our age by paraphrasing Snoop Dogg lyrics, we did want to let everyone know that Ascendant and ClearPoint will be at the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP) Annual Conference in Long Beach, CA, May 12-14.

more »

It's Cinco de Mayo ... Stay Thirsty My Friends!

Posted May 1, 2014 10:11 AM by Mark Cutler

With Cinco de Mayo just a few days away, I couldn’t help but think of the terrific Dos Equis television commercials with “The Most Interesting Man in the World” (MIMW) and his tag line: “Stay Thirsty My Friends!”

I think that line embodies a great attitude or value for an organization to adopt with respect to its performance management system—“stay thirsty,” or said another way, “never be satisfied.”  When measuring and managing your organization’s performance, you should never be satisfied because when you are satisfied and rest on your laurels, that is when your performance begins to suffer and others start to outperform you.

more »

Take a Little Madness Out of Your March

Posted March 18, 2014 1:12 PM by Mark Cutler

Yes, it is that time of year again, March Madness!  To most people in the U.S., this means they are frantically poring over data and statistics to put together what they hope will be the winning bracket in their office’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament challenge. 

To individuals’ whose companies do their management reporting on a quarterly basis, it means they too will soon be poring over data, but not to obtain basketball glory and the accompanying office immortality.  Instead, they are furiously pulling together data from all areas of their business to create the reports they need to hold effective management reporting meetings.

more »

Exceptional CPM Systems are an Exception

Posted February 25, 2014 7:47 AM by Ted Jackson

By Gary Cokins, Founder, Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC; www.garycokins.com

Many organizations over-rate the quality of their enterprise and corporate performance management (EPM / CPM) methods and supporting software systems as well as exaggerate how comprehensive and integrated they are. For example, when you ask executives how well they measure and report their costs and non-financial performance measures, most proudly boast that they are very good. However, this is inconsistent and conflicts with surveys where anonymous replies from mid-level managers candidly score their scaled answers as “needs much improvement.”

Every organization cannot be above average! 

What makes exceptionally good EPM / CPM systems exceptional?

Rather than try to be a sociologist and psychiatrist to explain the contradictions of executives boasting superiority while anonymously answered surveys reveal inferiority, let’s simply describe the full vision of an effective EPM / CPM system that organizations should aspire to.

First, we need to clarify some terms and related confusion. EPM / CPM is not a system and is definitely not a process. It is the integration of multiple managerial methods – and most of them have been around for decades arguably even before there were computers. EPM / CPM is also not just a CFO initiative with a bunch of scorecard and dashboard dials. It is much broader. Its purpose is not about monitoring the dials but rather moving the dials.

What makes for exceptionally good EPM / CPM is that its multiple managerial methods are not only each effective but also they are seamlessly integrated and imbedded with analytics all flavors. Examples of analytics are segmentation, clustering, regression, and correlation analysis.     

EPM / CPM is like musical instruments in an orchestra

I like to think of the various EPM / CPM methods as an analogy of musical instruments in an orchestra. An orchestra’s conductor does not raise his or her baton to the strings, woodwinds, percussion, and brass and say, “Now everyone play loud.” They seek balance and guide the symphony composer’s fluctuations in rhythm and tone.

Here are my six main groupings of the EPM / CPM methods – its musical instrument sections:

Strategic planning and execution – This is where a strategy map and its associated balanced scorecard fits in. Together they serve to navigate the organization to fulfill the organization’s mission and vision and the executive team’s strategy to meet the mission’s calling. The executives’ role is to set the strategic direction to answer the question “Where do we want to go?” Through use of correctly defined key performance indicators (KPIs) with targets, then the employees’ priorities, actions, projects, and processes are aligned with the executives’ formulated strategy.

Cost visibility and driver behavior – For commercial companies this is where profitability analysis fits in for products, standard services, channels, and customers. For public sector government organizations this is where understanding the costs of their outputs that consume processes and resources fits in. Activity-based costing (ABC) principles are foundational by modeling cause-and-effect relationships based on business and cost drivers. This involves progressive not traditional managerial accounting.

Customer intelligence – This is where powerful marketing and sales methods are applied to retain, grow, win-back, and acquire profitable, not unprofitable, customers. The tools are often referenced as customer relationship management (CRM) software applications. But the CRM data is merely a foundation. Analytics, supported by software, leverage CRM data to define actions to create more profit lift from customers. They impact the behavior of customers from being satisfied to being loyal.

Forecasting, planning, and predictive analytics – Data mining typically examines historical data “through the rear-view mirror.” This EPM / CPM grouping shifts attention to look forward through the windshield. The benefit of more accurate forecasts is there is reduced uncertainty. Forecasts of future volume and mix are core independent variables from which so many dependent variables have relationships and can therefore be calculated and managed. Examples of dependent variables are the future headcount workforce and spending levels. CFOs increasingly look to driver-based budgeting and rolling financial forecasts grounded in ABC principles using this group.

Enterprise risk management (ERM) – This cannot be omitted as a main group of EPM / CPM. ERM serves as a brake to the potentially unbridled gas pedal that EPM / CPM methods are designed to step hard on. Risk mitigation projects and insurance requires spending which reduces profits and also steers expenses from resources the executive team would prefer to provide earn larger compensation bonuses.

Process improvement – This is where lean management and Six Sigma quality initiatives fit in. Their purpose is to remove waste and streamline processes to accelerate and reduce cycle-times. They create productivity and efficiency improvements.

EPM / CPM as integrated suite of improvement methods

CFOs often view financial planning and analysis (FP&A) as synonymous with EPM / CPM. It is better to view FP&A as a subset. And although better cost management and process improvements are noble goals, an organization cannot reduce its costs forever to achieve long term prosperity.

The important message here is that EPM / CPM is not just about the CFO’s organization; but it is also the integration of all the often silo-ed functions like marketing, operations, sales, and strategy. Look again at the six main EPM / CPM groups I listed above. Imagine if the information produced and analyzed in each of them were to be seamlessly integrated. Imagine if they are each imbedded with analytics – especially predictive analytics. Then powerful decision support is provided for insight, foresight, and actions. That is the full vision of EPM / CPM to aspire to.   

Today exceptional EPM / CPM systems are an exception despite what many executives proclaim. If we all work hard and smart enough, in the future they will be standard practices. Then what would be next? Automated decision management systems relying on business rules and algorithms. But that is an article I will write about some other day.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER / AUTHOR

Gary Cokins, CPIM

(gcokins@garycokins.com;  phone 919 720 2718)

http://www.garycokins.com 

Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in advanced cost management and enterprise performance and risk management systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC, an advisory firm located in Cary, North Carolina at www.garycokins.com .  He began his career in industry with a Fortune 100 company in CFO and operations roles. He then worked 15 years in consulting with Deloitte, KPMG, and EDS. From 1997 until recently Gary was a Principal Consultant with SAS, a leading provider of enterprise performance management and business analytics and intelligence software. His two most recent books are Performance Management: Finding the Missing Pieces to Close the Intelligence Gap (ISBN 0-471-57690-5) and Performance Management: Integrating Strategy Execution, Methodologies, Risk, and Analytics (ISBN 978-0-470-44998-1). His most recent book is Predictive Business Analytics (ISBN 978-1-118-17556-9), published by John Wiley & Sons. Mr. Cokins can be contacted at gcokins@garycokins.com .

Linkedin.com contact:  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/gary-cokins/0/15a/949

 

We're hiring! Join our team!

Posted February 14, 2014 11:30 AM by Joseph Lucco

Client Account Manager

This is a perfect entry-level position for a recent college graduate with great organizational skills looking for a job at a technology startup with proven technology, a growing customer base, and strong financial footing. At ClearPoint, helping customers is the best way to add value to our brand, and you would be our ambassador in this mission.

ClearPoint Strategy is a cloud performance management application that helps organizations measure and manage their strategy. We work with large publicly traded organizations, state and municipal governments, small to medium sized companies, and nonprofits. We have clients all over the world, and our business is growing rapidly.

You would act as the customer’s champion, ensuring that they have the best possible experience with ClearPoint Strategy.

So, what would you do here?

We are a small company, which will allow you to participate meaningfully in the management and direction of the company, while also gaining great experience on large scale projects with a global impact. Small company. Huge responsibilities and opportunities. Expect to hit the ground running. We are getting slammed with new work, so you will need to learn on-the-job. Expect to contribute immediately because we need you to.

Our software focuses on organization wide performance management and management reporting. We help organizations track their measures and projects against their strategic goals. Organizations do this in a variety of ways including using Balanced Scorecards and dashboards. ClearPoint is extremely customizable, and clients reach out with questions about the software as well as about best practices in performance management.

Responsibilities:

  • Monitor, respond to, and master the help desk
  • Respond to user support requests
  • Diagnose and solve technical issues
  • Create end-user documentation and recommend procedural changes to reduce the number of support requests
  • Multi-task efficiently
  • Test new features and functionality
  • Communicate effectively
  • Setup new clients with configuration and data entry
  • Train end users at organizations onsite and remotely
  • Get things done! Lots of things!

We are a small team, growing quickly, with big ambitions. The below criteria are required, not desired:

  • An incredibly hard worker, even when it’s not so fun. There is a ton of work to do, and a lot of it is not the most glamorous. After all — we are a small organization with huge ambitions and no support staff. We are looking for someone to help execute on all fronts without complaint or supervision, and come back asking for more.
  • A cool person to be with. Not a crazy party animal, just someone we can trust, rely upon, hang out with, bounce ideas off of, and generally interact with in a positive way, both personally and professionally. This is one of the most stringent requirements we have. We typically do an offsite twice a year. In January, we went to Vegas.
  • Has a strong set of interpersonal skills and organizational savvy. In addition to hanging out with us, you will need to be comfortable talking with clients and able to quickly build relationships to achieve common goals. This means being able to identify the politics that impact the work of the organization, listening to others, and responding appropriately.
  • A master of multitasking and exceeding expectations. We’re going to throw a ton of work at you of every possible sort, and you need that magic skill of being able to figure it out even if you have no idea where to start. On any given day, you might bounce between client delivery, finding bugs, testing software, developing training, and marketing. You will also need to figure out how to balance helping our clients and helping our company at the same time. Attention to detail is critical.
  • A really, really fast learner who thrives in a crazy unstructured environment. We don't have time to teach things twice. You will be working in our incubator office space in Rosslyn, VA, and chances are that we will send you to train a client onsite within 6 months, so plan on some travel. You'll be judged on how fast and how well you get things done, not how much time you spend on it.

What we offer:

  • The chance to get in on the "ground floor" of a startup tech company
  • Help transform the performance management space
  • A great job in the booming cloud-based software business
  • The ability to make a difference from day one
  • Fantastic colleagues and clients
  • A competitive salary and benefits, commensurate with your experience

Interested?

Feel free to submit your cover letter and resume through our LinkedIn posting. Please be sure to include a cover letter highlighting your skills, experience, and interests and how they align with our company and this position specifically. The more specific you are in your cover letter and resume, the more likely we are to get back to you. So read this posting carefully, visit our websites, learn about us, and then apply.

We may not respond to everyone, but we will look at every application. As busy as we are, we think finding the right person is critical to our success. If we think there could be a match, get ready for a set of phone interviews and then we’ll find a way to meet you in person. We needed someone yesterday, so, if you are great, expect this process to move quickly.

Desired Skills and Experience

To qualify for this position, you'll need to have a BA or BS, live in Washington, DC (or be ready to move there on your own dime), and be able to go through an extensive interview process where we'll ask hard questions about why you want to work here. Come ready to be challenged. You must also be eligible to get a Department of Defense security clearance and you could be on the road 2-3 days a week.

The Balanced Scorecard Isn’t Just About Measurement

Posted January 5, 2014 4:45 PM by Mark Cutler

Just this past week, I was interviewing a client at a North American unit of a large international organization as part of a project to help align this unit with the Balanced Scorecard of its corporate parent, when the client made an interesting comment to me.

“I’ve been spending most of the past year working on the behavioral aspect of alignment within my sphere of control in the organization,” he said.  “So the timing of your work is good, we should start measuring now.” 

more »

We're hiring!

Posted December 7, 2013 3:22 PM by Melanie Burton

Customer Experience Representative

 

This is a perfect position for a recent college graduate with great organizational skills looking for a job at a technology startup with proven technology, a growing customer base, and a strong financial footing.  At ClearPoint, helping customers is the best way to add value to our brand, and you would be our ambassador in this mission.

 

ClearPoint Strategy is a cloud performance management application that helps organizations measure and manage their strategy.  We work with large publically traded organizations, state and municipal governments, and small to medium sized companies.  We have clients all over the world, and our business is growing rapidly. 

 

 

You would act as the customer’s Sherpa and champion, ensuring that they have the best possible experience with ClearPoint Strategy.

 

So, what would you do here?

 

We are a small company, which will allow you to participate meaningfully in the management and direction of the company, while also gaining great experience on large scale projects with a global impact. Expect to hit the ground running. We are getting slammed with new work, so you will need to learn on-the-job and can expect to contribute immediately.

 

Our software focuses on organization wide performance management.  We help organizations track their measures and projects against their strategic goals.  Organizations do this in a variety of ways including using Balanced Scorecards and dashboards.  ClearPoint is extremely customizable, and clients call in with questions about the software as well as about best practices in performance management.

 

Responsibilities:

  • Monitor and respond to the help desk
  • Respond to user support request
  • Diagnose and solve technical issues
  • Create end-user documentation and
  • recommend procedural changes to reduce the number of support requests
  • Multi-task efficiently
  • Test new features and functionality
  • Communicate effectively
  • Setup new clients with configuration and data entry
  • Train end users at organizations onsite and remotely
  • Get things done!

 

We are a small team, growing quickly, with big ambitions.  The below criteria are required, not desirable:

 

  • An incredibly hard worker, even when it’s not so fun. There is a ton of work to do, and a lot of it is not the most glamorous. After all — we are a small organization with huge ambitions and no support staff. We are looking for someone to help execute on all fronts without complaint or supervision, and come back asking for more.
  • A cool person to be with. Not a crazy party animal, just someone we can trust, rely upon, hang out with, bounce ideas off of, and generally interact with in a positive way, both personally and professionally. This is one of the most stringent requirements we have. We typically do an offsite twice a year. In January, we’re headed to Vegas.
  • Has a strong set of interpersonal skills and organizational savvy. In addition to hanging out with us, you will need to be comfortable talking with clients and able to quickly build relationships to achieve common goals. This means being able to identify the politics that impact the work of the organization, listening to others, and responding appropriately.
  • A master of multitasking and exceeding expectations. We’re going to throw a ton of work at you of every possible sort, and you need that magic skill of being able to figure it out even if you have no idea where to start. On any given day you might bounce between client delivery, finding bugs, testing software, developing training, and marketing. You will also need to figure out how to balance helping our clients and helping our company at the same time. Attention to detail is critical.
  • A really, really fast learner who thrives in a crazy unstructured environment. We don't have time to teach things twice.  You will be working in our incubator office space in Rosslyn, VA, and chances are that we will send you to train a client onsite within 6 months, so plan on some travel. You'll be judged on how fast and how well you get things done, not how much time you spend on it.

 

What we offer:

 

  • The chance to get in on the "ground floor" of a startup tech company
  • Help transform the performance management space
  • A great job in the booming cloud-based software business
  • The ability to make a difference from day one
  • Great colleagues and clients
  • A competitive salary and benefits, commensurate with your experience

 

Interested?

 

Feel free to submit your resume through the LinkedIn posting below. Please remember to include a cover letter highlighting your skills, experience, and interests and how they align with our company and this position specifically. The more specific you are in your resume and cover letter, the more likely we are to get back to you. So read this posting carefully, visit our websites, learn about us, and then apply.

 

We may not respond to everyone, but we will look at every application. As busy as we are, we think finding the right person is critical to our success. If we think there could be a match, get ready for a set of phone interviews and then we’ll find a way to meet you in person. We needed someone yesterday, so, if you are great, expect this process to move quickly.

 

Desired Skills and Experience

To qualify for this position, you'll need to have a BA or BS, live in Washington, DC (or be ready to move there on your own dime), and be able to go through an extensive interview process where we'll ask hard questions about why you want to work here.  Come ready to be challenged.   You must also be eligible to get a Department of Defense security clearance and you could be on the road 2-3 days a week.

 

Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself, Develop Measures Before Initiatives

Posted October 27, 2013 2:15 PM by Mark Cutler

In working with lots of mission-driven organizations to help build and implement their Balanced Scorecards, I’ve noticed a certain over-eagerness to invert the BSC development process by moving from development of strategic objectives to developing and implementing the set of strategic initiatives before settling on a set of strategic measures and then moving to initiatives.

After witnessing this desire to gloss over measures and dive right into initiatives a number times, I think I’ve figured out why organizations tend to do this and I want to warn against it.

more »

Why you should set aggressive goals

Posted October 1, 2013 8:20 AM by Melanie Burton

As a novice runner, and by novice I truly mean novice, I have a unique aversion to running. I’ve always wanted to but I find it a truly daunting undertaking. I recently ran my first mile in… 10 years?? I’ve been talking for years about how my dream is to run a 5k, but did I ever successfully make it even a mile? No. That is, until I signed up for a half marathon. You must be thinking, as was everyone who knew me… Melanie, you hate to run WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Well, I am taking what I learned through my work experience and applying it to my personal life. Throughout my life, I’ve always been told to set attainable goals, to tell myself that I’m going to run half a mile, because I’ll feel good having done something I know I could accomplish. Don’t set yourself up for failure they said. I’ve since learned that taking the “attainable goals” route leads to inactivity. I know I can do whatever the task at hand is, so I don’t worry about it. It’s pushed to the back of my mind, replaced by things more pressing, things I’m more worried about.

Now, I am a convert. Forget the SMART goals you’ve heard about – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound and start setting goals that motivate, goals that push you beyond what you knew you could do - go for goals that are specific, measurable, aggressive, relevant and time-bound. I understand that there is a fear and stigma against failure driving us to set goals we know we can accomplish, but use that fear to your advantage. Let’s think about this. Say an author sold 10,000 copies of his book last year, so he decides that a good goal is to sell 10,000 again this year. But what’s wrong with this? If you were that author would you continue with the status quo, pushing this goal aside because you know you can achieve it? Or, would you focus on it, worry about it, and try something new to make it happen? You would continue as you are and because of that, maybe you wouldn’t even manage to meet that safe, attainable goal. Aggressive goals force themselves into every conversation; they force you to make a plan (like how I’m going to run a certain number of miles each day until my marathon). They make you think about the future and what you need to do to ensure that you reach that goal, or at least to get close to that goal.

Stretch goals take your fear of failing and use it as a motivator, as a driver. The goal is set, we can’t back down – so what are we going to do about it? My favorite thing about stretch goals, is that even if you miss the goal, say of selling 50,000 books this year by 15,000, you still sold 35,000 books – 25,000 more books then you might have otherwise.  Stretch goals translate to results in a way attainable ones usually cannot. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from making a difference. Set aggressive goals. 


more entries »