2009: the year of bad measurement?

by Viv on February 3, 2009

Having been at Learning Technologies, I got the sense that the e-learning industry is maturing to the point where there’s little radically new. However, what we will see in 2009 is even more pressure being exerted on L&D departments and suppliers alike to get more from less. This will inevitably lead to more effort on measuring results as a means of prioritising scarce resources. So my tip for a trend to watch in 2009 is bad measurement…and lots of it.

Here’s a few examples of how focusing on one measure can lead to the wrong conclusions being drawn:

1. You may recall the eye catching headline last Autumn that all UK government departments would pay their SME suppliers witinin 10 days. So you’d think that departments with a reputation for slow payment would have improved. One of our clients did pay us within 10 days of putting their invoice on the system. What’s not so obvious from this measure is that it took them over 8 weeks to set us up as a supplier beofre they would process the payment!

2. Various e-learning companies use for marketing purposes the metric “days to build e-learning content”. This looks good compared to the 8-12 week development cycle that is often quoted. What people don’t often measure is how long the client took to get its content to an e-learning production ready state. For the record, our team’s quickest “days to build” is 3 days.

3. L&D teams might claim that building an hour of e-learning with an authoring tool only cost £1,500. Aside from the need to measure the impact that the learning had, it is rare for in-house teams to measure the opportunity cost of staff time used. If it took 50 timesheet days at an average salary of £30,000, that’s a cost of approximately £10,000 which has been ignored. And then there’s the subject matter expert time to factor in…

Measures and KPIs are important ways that in a time pressured world you can understand what’s going on. However, take care that the measure is a valid indicator of what you think it is, and that you are seeing the whole picture…and the really tough bit, when you’re not wanting to rock the boat, is to be prepared to challenge your stakeholders not to rely on the wrong measures.

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