ROI is often perceived as a buzzword – it’s far easier to say than to successfully measure. However, ROI and success metrics are a critical component of any issues management strategy. But what are we really saying when we talk about ROI and setting metrics? At the core, we want to know if the work we’re doing is having an impact on the issues we care about.
How do we go about measuring the activities and resources our teams are undertaking and how do we know if they’re making a difference? Let’s discuss how some of the best organizations measure and connect their actions to outcomes.
Define what success means to your organization
First, define the outcomes you want. Outlining goals is the first step in defining the metrics that matter for your team. For example, some organizations might want to build partnerships with nonprofits to build their CSR functions, get legislation passed to incentivize market growth, or execute a media push to counter a reputational backlash for your brand. Outline your desired objectives and work backwards: how will we know if we’re making progress on Goal X?
Filter out unuseful data and metrics
It’s ok if you don’t know what success metrics are for your goals just yet. At first, asking the right questions is more valuable than identifying the right metrics. Approach your metrics like an ongoing experiment. What can we learn that we didn’t know yesterday with the data we have? Collecting data is an important first step, but beware of data overload. It can be tempting to track all the data you can get, but ask yourself this: which metrics give you insight on your efforts and which just add noise? Industry standards are best practices, not rules; stay open to experimentation and drop metrics that aren’t working for you.
Automate your processes as much as possible
Often, pieces of data you need are logged across systems, managed by different teams and departments, and entered on different schedules. Finding the data, getting access, gathering and standardizing it can be a major stumbling block for teams trying to start this process. The chance of human error increases as data is downloaded and moved from system to system. Using a single system of record helps reduce inefficiencies, misalignment, and knowledge slipping through the cracks.
Evaluate and reassess regularly
Once you’ve set goals and identified metrics to go with them, it’s important to revisit your metrics regularly. Are we learning what we need to move forward? Do we need to adjust our strategy? Some teams set metrics and wait up to six or even twelve months to assess them, hoping to first gather enough data for significant results. In that case, the cost of a useless metric is exponential. Team processes may have changed to support the metric; opportunities deferred to “wait and see” the result of this particular effort, all before figuring out the value of the metric. Companies that follow this strategy lose valuable time.
All said, metrics are a moving target, not a final destination. Your issues management goals evolve as the socio-political climate evolves. This means that your measurement tactics should be evaluated on a recurring basis to maximize value and ROI for your organization.