Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mixing It Up for 55 Years

After 55 years of mixing it up... Betty's Sunbeam Mixmaster Junior finally mixed it's last cake . The cake is to celebrate the 55th wedding anniversary for Betty and Bob Meder, my mother and father-in-law.

Betty loves her Mixmaster and has used it exclusively since she received it as a wedding gift in 1954.

I have certainly benefited by 25 years of marriage to their daughter, kim, as Betty always prepares a variety of desserts when we visit (primarily pies). :)

I think it is time to get Betty's Mixmaster repaired. I'm off to check with Sunbeam and see what we can do.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Finding Value

I'm part of a task force for ISU Extension evaluating reporting systems and procedures.  Specifically, how do we (ISU Extension) better communicate our value to our stakeholders.  Simple in theory; you have a service, you define objectives for this service and you measure and report on your success in meeting these objectives.  However, there are a few challenges.

  1. Defining measurable objectives.
  2. Collecting measurement data.
  3. Ensuring your objectives tell a compelling story.
In a separate meeting today with IT leaders across campus, I participated in another discussion on performance indicators, but for IT services.  I want to share a few points which I found very helpful in the discussion. 

The following three sets of indicators can help you in defining objectives for a specific service.  These were summarized by Jim Davis, ISU CIO.

  1. Capacity.  Can you meet the needs of your clients and scale the service as necessary or desired?
  2. Effectiveness and efficiency.  How well do you provide the service? 
  3. Value. How does it impact your clientele?
While I have thought about these indicators as "outputs and outcomes", you might consider what Chris McCoy (a colleague in Engineering) refers to as "looking in and looking out".

The first two sets most likely measure "outputs"; indicators which help you manage your service and plan for the future, "looking inward". The third set of indicators would more likely measure "outcomes"; indicators which help you understand the value of your service and tell a story, "looking outward".
We are pretty good at defining indicators in the first two sets (when we take the time).  The third set (value) of indicators are more difficult, not only for IT, but for other service providers as well.  Of course if you are fully cost recovery, then you could argue that value is measured by revenue.  I believe this is a dangerous simplification that will lead to certain irrelavency in the future.

So, how do you measure value?  I have to believe the value of a service is measured by how much it increases the value of those it serves.  So, I measure the value of Extension IT by measuring how it increases the value of Extension.   Interesting to me is the continuous nature of this question.  How does the Extension measure its value?  I would assume by increasing the value of its clientele.  :)

It's an interesting discussion based mostly on experience, I probably need to visit some literature on this subject.

Image by vtengr4047 on flickr.