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Metrics in the firm – Inside and Outside

I have spent the last few days thinking further about metrics (supply chain metrics, financial metrics and all sorts of other metrics) but I haven’t hit upon a foundational idea (or a set of ideas) to order all my thoughts. So the rummaging continues and I took some of that rummaging online:

A thought process when thinking about metrics (any sort of metric) is to ask, how the other metrics in the firm look like. An example of that would be stumbling upon such as this observation by Brad Feld,

Several years ago, some of y’all may remember an event called “the bursting of the Internet bubble.” Immediately preceeding this event, companies (and investors) focused on growth at any cost. This growth took various forms ranging from the one key financial metric that everyone cared about at the time (revenue) to non-financial metrics such as eyeballs, click-throughs, and affiliates. Shortly after the bubble burst, people started focusing on net income, cash flow, cash on hand, and other financial metrics. Not surprisingly, these were things that most rational business owners had paid attention to since – oh – the beginning of time.

Brad is talking about metrics in an industry that for a short period of time saw tremendous growth – the one financial metric used was revenue along with a host of other metrics such as eyeballs, click-throughs and perhaps even today – page views.
As Brad notes further down in his blog, the staple of financial metrics as used internally within a firm would be more along the lines of,

Monthly data we collect (and consolidated so everyone in the firm sees it on a weekly basis) includes revenue, cost of goods, operating expense, EBITDA, headcount, cash burn, cash on hand, debt, projected insolvency date, additional cash required to breakeven, and projected first quarter of profitabiity.

Another interesting take on operational metrics is the following that comes from the profession of lawyers (i.e. a service/consulting type of environment):

The Law Practice Business Model was introduced in 1984 by David Maister as a mathematical expression. Maister’s formula is as follows:
NIPP = (1+L) * (BR) * (U) * (R) * (M) where,
NIPP = Average partner income
L = Leverage (ratio of associates to partners)
BR = the “blended” hourly billing rate
U = Utilization (client hours recorded)
R = Realization (revenues divided by “standard value” of time recorded)
M = Margin (partner’s profit divided by revenues)

M. Thomas Collins notes further that

Maister’s model doesn’t tell the whole story. The financial manager has to be just as concerned about metrics that measure unbilled fees (work-in-process) and billed but uncollected fees (receivables). The managing partner has to be concerned about metrics that are not reflected in the financial numbers but will impact those numbers in the future. For example, are we opening new matters faster than we are closing old ones? Are the partners meeting their individual marketing goals? Is client satisfaction on track or veering off-course? While the Maister model is not the whole story, it is at the heart of the story.

The above mathematic expression is really a current snapshot and I assume that such a snapshot is taken at the end of some period such as a month or quarter. In fact, it can be characterized as a trailing metric (the stock market analogy would be ) and as such is not forward looking because it doesn’t take into account an unfolding reality.


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About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

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