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the balanced scorecard s rise to prominence: solving three fundamental it challenges
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Born from a research study conducted in 1990, the Balanced Scorecard has since become a critical business tool for thousands of organizations around the globe. In fact, recent estimates suggest a whopping 60 percent of the Fortune 1000 has a Balanced Scorecard in place.3 Further evidence of the ubiquity of the Balanced Scorecard is provided by The Hackett Group, which discovered in 2002 that 96 percent of the nearly 2,000 global companies it surveyed had either implemented or planned to implement the tool.4 Before discussing the structure of the Balanced Scorecard, let s examine its origins and attempt to determine just why it has become such a universally accepted methodology. Three fundamental factors affect every organization, at times in gamechanging ways: (1) a reliance on financial measures of performance to gauge success, (2) the rise of value-creating intangible assets, and (3) the difficulty of executing strategy, all of which impact today s IT departments. While separate and distinct factors, the trio is bound together by the inspiring ability of the Balanced Scorecard to overcome and maximize them to their fullest potential. Financial Measurement and its Limitations As long as business organizations have existed, the traditional method of measurement has been financial. Bookkeeping records used to facilitate financial transactions can literally be traced back thousands of years. At the turn of the twentieth century financial measurement innovations were critical to the success of the early industrial giants like General Motors. That should not come as a surprise because the financial metrics of the time were the perfect complement to the machine-like nature of the corporate entities and management philosophy of the day. Competition was ruled by scope and economies of scale with financial measures providing the yardsticks of success. In the twenty-first century, however, many are questioning our almost exclusive reliance on financial measures of performance. Perhaps these measures are better served as a means of reporting on the stewardship of
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chapter 5
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funds entrusted to management s care rather than charting the future direction of the organization. And as everyone knows, stewardship is an increasingly vital issue in light of the many corporate scandals witnessed over the past several years, and the surge of shareholder value and job losses left in their wake. Here are some of the criticisms levied against the overabundant use of financial measures: Not consistent with today s business realities. Today s organizational valuecreating activities are not captured in the tangible, fixed assets of the firm. Instead, value rests in the ideas of people scattered throughout the firm, in customer and supplier relationships, in databases of key information supplied by IT, and cultures capable of innovation and quality. Traditional financial measures were designed to compare previous periods based on internal standards of performance. These metrics are of little assistance in providing early indications of customer, quality, or employee problems, or opportunities. The rise of intangible assets is discussed in the next section of this chapter and again in the final chapter of this book (see 8, p. 342). Driving by rear view mirror. Financial measures provide an excellent review of past performance and events in the organization. They represent a coherent articulation and summary of activities of the firm in prior periods. However, this detailed financial view has no predictive power for the future. Experience shows that great financial results in one month, quarter, or even year are in no way indicative of future financial performance. Even so called great companies, those that once graced the covers of business magazines and were the envy of their peer groups, can fall victim to this unfortunate scenario. Witness the vaunted Fortune 500 list; two-thirds of the companies compiling the inaugural list in 1954 had either vanished or were no longer large enough to maintain their presence on the list s 40th anniversary.5 Tend to reinforce functional silos: Financial statements in organizations are normally prepared by functional area: individual department statements are prepared and rolled up into the business unit s numbers, which are ultimately compiled as part of the overall organizational picture. This approach is inconsistent with today s organization in which much of the work is cross-functional in nature. Today we see teams comprised of many functional areas coming together to solve pressing
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