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  • John Marshall

Defined Always-on Metrics can Liberate Leaders from the Back Office

Updated: 5 days ago

Leaders work each day to balance two things: (1) what they want to do to grow their business, against (2) what they must do in response to what has gone wrong. In a typical firm, that balancing act requires meetings and ad hoc conversations with subordinates, vendors and/or clients to uncover which is the correct choice: push forward on expansion work or put out fires.


Always-on metrics can take that process of determining whether to do the “want to” work or the “have to” work and shrink it down to seconds. Who would not want three numbers and two charts in the palm of their hand to tell them whether they must put out a fire today? It sounds great, and of course it is, but the biggest value comes when the numbers tell the opposite story: there are no fires to put out right now. That is nothing short of liberation for an entrepreneurial leader whose finite time is best spent on the business’s frontier: new clients, new services, new markets, new opportunities.


What to Measure

A good exercise to undertake is to ask what numbers would keep a leader from having to work on the back office. Each organization’s situation calls for its own measurements, but here are a few common examples:

  • Invoices more than X days past due

  • Total open orders vs staff working

  • Number of past due bills

  • Items awaiting approval (for any process that requires it)

Reaching the Daily Level is Important

We call these metrics “always on” because they can change daily (or intraday) in a way that changes the potential response action. These are not big management Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like year-over-year monthly revenue, which are best reviewed on a longer cycle. Rather, these are the metrics that enable leaders and staff to focus on what is most important each day, and to arrive at those decisions efficiently. Consider the image of three numbers and two charts in the leader’s pocket. The decision about whether to spend an extra hour on that pitch deck versus helping fill orders will be apparent in those numbers before the leader walks in the door. The leader can now confidently focus on that pitch deck, or pivot into fulfillment before it becomes a client delivery issue.


The Job Requires a Tool

Pulling these numbers together daily – let alone multiple times daily – is an onerous task without automation. Fortunately, tools are out there that enable that automation.


Microsoft Power BI is our go-to tool to bring the “three numbers and two charts” scenario even to smaller businesses (including our own!) It allows one to connect into systems (e.g., Quickbooks, Excel, databases, etc.) and convert data into any conceivable metric, then deliver that data via web browser and mobile app to anyone with a license ($10/user/mo). One can even set alerts so that the user does not even have to check the numbers; they will just be pinged when something becomes an “exception.”


Another option – short of bringing things to a mobile app – is to use Excel, with Power Query. An intermediate Excel user should be familiar with Power Query, which can automatically connect to the data as well. As a more familiar tool, it may be easier to start with, though the metrics will have to be opened and refreshed (a single button click) to view the latest.


Concluding Thoughts

On the surface, this piece is about defining metrics and bringing them to life. However, we are really driving at how much a leader’s time is worth. Consider how much more the business can push forward if the leader is able to focus on expansion of the business, knowing when they are fully unburdened from the daily internal fire fights.


Just two hours a week turns into over two weeks of extra time in a year. How many new clients is that? How many extra days of revenue for a new product? Or, for some, how many more evenings at home with the kids?


If your business is experiencing these issues and looking for sustainable, scalable solutions, then please contact us. We will be glad to run a free assessment and tell you where the opportunities are.

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