Saturday, July 24, 2004


Scorecards, can't tell the players without a scorecard

My current project is one that Scott Adams would have a field day with. We're looking at implementing enterprise dashboards and balanced scorecards for a Large Investment Bank (our relationship with them to date has been sufficiently innocuous to the point of not having assigned a nickname to them, although in my previous dealings with them they've been all talk and no spend). The problem with this is a generic one in that the idea of an enterprise dashboard is pretty nifty, actually getting the information to flow in something approximating real time is going to be a nightmare, and the client is also looking for some kind of risk picture about their IT infrastructure. This is ordinarily a very simple understandable thing for the propellerheads, using the OpenViews, Patrols and Netcools of the world, but then we get into an interesting eighth and ninth OSI layers debate,  as how do you weight infrastructure components in terms of their overall risk to the enterprise? I mean, is a router connecting to Reuters (oooh, cool alliteration) more important than the router connecting to SIAC, and are either of them as critical as the PBX? It probably will make for a very interesting exercise in mental masturbation, but the dashboard view of infrastructure can't take into account non-quantifiable things, like what happens when the next MS service pack comes out? Anyone with large enterprise experience will tell you that there isn't a heck of a lot of time to test the service packs before the business mandates they roll out, and you never know just what those service packs will break.

The balanced scorecard is one of those management toys that absolutely makes me cringe. Apparently the term "balanced scorecard" has even been copyrighted, trademarked or in some way registered by some consultants so as to make even using the term squirrelly, but the clients are asking for it, and being good little consultants we shall provide same to them. Most of my previous experience with them has been in an HR context (my opinion of HR is somewhere in the same vicinity as my opinion of Hamas), and of course these scorecards try to take the most subjective of opinions and turn them into quantifiable measurable criteria to use to decide if the employee will be granted the privilege of continuing to toil under conditions that are Disapproved By Bad Housekeeping Magazine, or given the Soviet-style retirement plan (e.g. kiss on left cheek, kiss on right cheek, bullet in back of head). The only measurement that counts on these things anyway is productivity, whether it be billable hours or lines of code produced.

My reading assignment for the weekend is to wade through a huge amount of intellectual capital (read as marketing bullshit) and try to make sense of it in such a way as we can say to the client that we can indeed give them what they want. The problem here is that the client has been astonishingly vague in what they've communicated to us, and without specifics it's Not A Good Thing to start throwing out mid-eight figure project costs unless we know what we're supposed to deliver. The sum total of requirements we've gotten is a bullet list that's about a third of a page long. Failure to plan is planning to fail, boys and girls.

On the Gallic gall front, the following note was posted to the French consulate's door in New York:  
 "Visas for France are not a right. Persons applying for visas are requested to show due respect for Consular personnel. Failure to do so will result in the denial of the application and denied entry into any of the EU [European Union] countries."

I say:


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