Measure The Problem

With a problem statement in hand, the next action is to measure the size of the problem. Metrics are the fodder of modern business. They are collected, crunched, charted, reported, reanalyzed and, finally, posted on a wall somewhere to awe the work force. Changing an organization's direction involves determining where you are, identifying where you want to be, and planning a way to bridge the gap between today and tomorrow. The definition of where we are today is known as the baseline. Baseline metrics provide the "how much" description of the problem statement. It is the point from which all progress is measured. It also educates company executives on the magnitude of the issues.

Measurement can be accomplished for the complete population of something. This means every one of what is being counted is counted. So if a measurement was the number of servers in the computer room, they could all be counted. Counting every one of something can be very tedious. It also requires that every item in the population sit still long enough to only be counted once. However, it is the most accurate measurement.

Measurement can also be through inference. Instead of counting every desktop and notebook personal computer in every company facility, we might infer that there is one unit per office worker. Printers can be calculated as a percentage of the desktop units (such as one for every ten people). Inference means that being "close enough" is adequate for the task. Sometimes being 95% accurate is a better value than spending a significant additional amount of time chasing down the final few items to measure 100% of a population.

Measurements require identifying:

▲ What to measure - units, watts, kilowatts, number of entire systems, a unit's useful life, etc. Deciding what to measure determines the answer's units of measure.

▲ How to measure - such as using a wattmeter or a physical count. It is important to ensure that the process for measuring is accurate. Otherwise, all of the work is wasted. For example, if a wattmeter is used to measure the amount of electricity consumed, then it must be validated as accurate before use. If utility bills are used, ensure that all of them pass through the same place and that some are not received and paid by different sections of the organization.

▲ Time period - over what period of time will the measurement occur? It should be long enough to gather an essentially accurate idea of the magnitude and frequency of the issues. The results can be skewed by season of the year or if the measurement period occurs during a company's annual business cycle.

▲ Where to measure - at the wall outlet, at the loading dock for departing salvage materials, or even at the invoices sent over by the electrical utility company. This must be consistent when measuring the same type of thing at different locations.

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