Why you need a Chief Metrics Officer

By Barnaby Golden, 5 October, 2023

How do you ensure that individuals and teams are aligned with the company strategy? How do you validate your company strategy?

The answer is typically to have good data. When we measure outcomes our organisation become more transparent.

Good data is hard to find though.

The larger an organisation is, the more complicated it becomes and the harder it is to associate cause with effect.

It is not at all unusual to watch the leaders of a department present a series of positive metrics even though the organisation itself is struggling. Fragmentation of large organisations allows this to happen: "Our part is working well, the problems are elsewhere".

Also, individuals and teams are incentivised to show success. They may be selective on what they measure and they may game their metrics.

For these reasons it seems clear that each organisation should carefully assess their metrics and their data. There is a lot to this, including:

  • Checking to see if metrics are being gamed
  • Checking to see if metrics are driving the right behaviour (perhaps gaming can be a good thing in a well designed metric)
  • Ensuring that the metrics in use are valuable
  • Ensuring that metrics that reveal problems are not being hidden or ignored
  • Ensuring that decisions and initiatives have a measured outcome

You could argue that the responsibility for all of this is spread across the organisation. It would also not be unsual to see this as a part of the responsibility of a PMO.

However, I would point you back to the causes of the data problem: Difficult of associating cause with effect and the incentive to only show success. How do we ensure that the people who are responsible for assessing metrics are not subject to these drivers?

My argument is this is why you need to have somebody at the 'C' level who takes responsibility for metrics. I would describe this role as the Chief Metrics Officer.

Why does it need to be a 'C' level role? For two reasons.

Somebody at the 'C' level has the influence needed to do the work that connects cause with effect. This work is likely to have an associated cost: to do the analysis, to build better metrics and possibly also to alter the organisation structure to make outcomes easier to measure.

Secondly, somebody at the 'C' level is less likely to need to only show success and hide problems. Of course there will still be political pressure, but less so than for somebody more junior in the organisation.

That is why you need a Chief Metrics Officer. Have confidence in your data, know your outcomes and know your business.