IT performance metrics and high school physics

Usually, I talk only about Asset Management topics, but the announcement of HP’s IT Performance suite (ITPS) is so broad I wanted to start with a general post on ITPS and follow up with a specific  post on Asset Management later in the week. Personally I am very excited by the launch of this ground breaking solution.  I have always enjoyed analytics.  I realize I am a bit odd in this way. I once designed my own analytic hierarchy process tool for Excel. I’ve also built a handful of other investment analysis tools that would run for days to compute scenario outcomes based on the historic interaction of risk characteristics for various asset classes.  I was very close to becoming a quant jock on Wall Street.


I share this with you just to say that while I enjoy working with numbers, that is not why I am excited about the launch.  Perhaps the best way to frame why I am excited is in terms of my high school physics class and something my dad once taught me about perception.  Let me explain the background on these two and then connect them together to frame why I support the new ITPS and Asset Manager.


High school physics lesson


Growing up I took physics.  One day, I came across a question about work.  I can’t remember the source of the question, but I can remember how surprised I was by the answer.  The question was basically how much work is accomplished if you exert all your energy against a rock in order to move it some distance, burn hundreds of calories in this isometric effort but fail to move the rock any distance whatsoever?  The answer (of course) was zero work was accomplished.  When I heard” zero” I remember thinking, “no way!” Surely if I pushed against something all day long and applied all my force against it, I would have worked harder than if I expended some trivial amount of energy but moved something like a feather some distance by breathing on it.   But, when I was reminded that Work = Force x Distance, I had to yield and agree that if no distance was accomplished than no work was achieved.


Lesson from my father


The second framing element for why IT Performance Suite is so interesting to me is something my dad taught me about leadership when I was a new officer in the military.  He said, “Son, perception is reality.”  At the time, I didn’t believe him. But, I soon learned he was right.


Now these two came together for me years later in my career when one day I was thinking about how someone demonstrates their value to an organization.  It dawned on me that high school physics was at the heart of it.  In business, we show our work through the metrics we achieve.  Akin to that high school thought experiment, if distance did not change then no work was accomplished. Someone could show up, be the brightest bulb in the box, take on the most important projects, spend more time on task than even the most dedicated team members and potentially be the most valuable employee of the company. But if they didn’t move a metric, then they really didn’t accomplish any work.  Furthermore, if they can’t communicate what they did in terms of metrics,(that are valued by the organization,) then the perception begins to solidify into a permanent condition that they simply don’t produce, they don’t make a difference, other than to the expense line, and they don’t add value.


Like the individual, so goes the business function.  So I am excited by ITPS because it is the dawning of a day when IT will take a quantum step forward in having metrics they can demonstrate that their talent and energy have changed. They can share those key metrics with crucial stakeholders and they can get the credit they deserve for the time, energy and talent they contribute to the mission of their organization. 


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MikeShaw | ‎06-02-2011 12:54 AM

Good post Steve. I think that IT performance measurement and management is very important. However, we must make sure that we're making decisions based on good numbers. This is why I think it's good that Asset Management data has been linked into the solution from the start - unless you have a handle on exactly what you've got out there and what it's being used for, your service costings are not going to be accurate.


I also think that this helps when "fighting" public cloud providers. They will come to the CIO and say, "we can do service X for less than it's costing you today". In order for IT to defend such attacks, we need an accurate measure of exactly what each service IS costing us today. And it's really hard to get that unless we know what each service is using in order for us to deliver it - asset management, and particularly, the discovery part of asset management. 

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