Two years ago I had a rush of blood to the head and decided to run a balanced scorecard against my operating division. By balanced scorecard I mean a performance monitor that assessed and tracked the critical inputs and the resultant outputs of the team. That was the year my head exploded and I have only now recovered sufficiently to recount my experiences without breaking down.

I thought I set out well informed and suitably cautious. I got some guidance on the key inputs and activities that may be worth monitoring and how to structure the scorecard across financial, customer and activity axes (my personal axes of evil!). I was also determined not to swamp myself with an enormous administrative and data collection burden and therefore limited the criteria within each axis to data and information I thought I could reasonable extract from the business.

At the end of the year had I discovered anything new? The results confirmed my findings from previous less structured approaches but I learnt little new information. I put that down to the limits and constraints that I put on myself at the start (not too much administrative burden et al) and the lack of committed involvement from others in the value chain. What I really learned is how draining and demanding a balanced scorecard process can be, even when so limited as mine.

What I learnt most was that I wouldn’t do it again without addressing these two strategic errors. I didn’t get full buy in from other people who were responsible for a range of my inputs, and, I set out to manage the scorecard in Excel. There lay the path to madness.

All sorts of useful inputs come from the domains of others. For a meaningful scorecard you need their buy and commitment. They need to appreciate and be aligned with the purpose and the goal and step up to provide their parts in an accurate and timely way. I had not done that well but that of course was overcome by a significant ramp up in the administrative burden on me that I had sworn to avoid. A costly mistake.

And then of course there was Excel. Don’t get me wrong, Excel is great. I use it extensively for all sorts of ad hoc activities. But it has a fatal flaw; every cell is its own threat to the truth. It is so easy to make simple errors in formulas, copy the wrong things, etc, etc. It is also not a great environment for multi-person collaborative input. Addressing my first strategic error, I would ensure that all data was to be input by the person responsible for it. Don’t be emailing it to me in some haphazard format and think the job is done! Secondly the scorecard needs to be encapsulated in a tool that minimises the threat of cell and formula errors. It needs an operational corporate performance Management (CPM) or business intelligence (BI) framework that codifies all the elements and business rules and can be accessed by all parties for online entry.

Balanced scorecarding is a team sport that needs the right equipment to hand. Next time I will use either Infor ION BI or Board. No more Excel.

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