By Matthew Fraser, Socitm technical consultant
The infamous Lance Armstrong once said: ‘It’s not about the bike.’ We now know that to be true – it was really about the performance-enhancing drugs. However, I still broadly agree with Lance concerning bikes, and life: throwing money and technology at a problem doesn’t guarantee results.
Yet, as I prepared for a recent cycling event, I found myself questioning if my current bike was up to the job. When I started cycling again (around three years ago), I bought one of the cheapest bikes I could find – just in case I decided it wasn’t for me. Many cycling magazines will recommend spending double what I did, and enthusiastic riders may happily pay 10 times as much.
As the big day approached, I began to wonder if the bike would hold me back; if I’d be consigned to telling friends I finished last; that the deck was already stacked against me.
I’ve come across a similar opinion when I discuss the Socitm Improve service with people. They believe that due to the size of their organisation, a worthwhile comparison is impossible to find.
Small organisations feel that, as they do not benefit from the economies of scale that large organisations have, they are destined to appear expensive and in-efficient. While these are qualities that are often desirable in luxury items like sports cars, I can understand why no organisation would want this description.
But is this assumption correct?
Thanks to the new dashboarding options available within the Socitm Improve service, I put this theory to the test.
Here’s the science bit (he says, calling on his inner Jennifer Aniston from her shampoo-selling days): I ranked each participant by multiple aspects of size to give them a ‘size ranking’. Then I did the same with multiple cost metrics to develop a ‘cost-efficiency ranking’. Finally, I plotted the two rankings against each other.
Tell me, what do you see?
I think if you join the dots you may get a picture of a pony – but there is no evidence that the size of an organisation affects its relative IT spend.
But perhaps size affects performance? Some large organisations worry that they will have an added level of complexity, due to their magnitude. Obviously, they don’t want to appear to perform worse than those who have a simpler service to deliver.
As before, let’s test this with data:
You may not believe it, but I find this chart quite interesting. Notice how the bottom left of the chart is completely empty? That tells us that none of the small organisations that gave us data are performing poorly. Well done, my diminutive colleagues.
But looking at the right of the chart, we also see that top performers come in all sizes. So again, we have no trend.
(Note: The eagle-eyed will notice that a few of the data points are x rather than o. This is because those participants didn’t complete one of the measures I used, and I thought it would be cruel to exclude them.)
What can we conclude? Well, in much of life size makes a difference. Taller people can easily reach high shelves. Smaller people are more comfortable on long-hall plane journeys. But these charts show that when it comes to comparing your organisation to others, size is not as big a factor as we may imagine.
But what about the big question? I know you’re keen to know how my cheap bike performed.
Well, if a good bike ride is measured in smiles, it was a top performer. Every time I passed a bike that I knew to cost considerably more than mine, I found myself grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps not physically – as it is difficult to smile while gasping for oxygen – but certainly smugness swelled up in my heart.
Cycling might be ‘a bit about the bike’, but it was clearly only one factor among many.
Similarly, your organisation – like every other – is unique. Size is just one of your defining features. But I hope you’ll agree that you shouldn’t let your size exclude you from gaining insight through comparing yourself to others.
Why not challenge your assumptions about your ICT service? Are you lean and efficient? Do you provide a gold standard level of performance? Have you found the holy grail of attaining both great performance and high efficiency? We’ve found some organisations who have.
Socitm Improve helps you to analyse your ICT service in the context of your peers and facilitates group learning between participants.