Performance Measurement Framework for Applications

Sections of this topic

    Practical Framework for Measuring Application Performance

    This article introduces a performance measurement framework for applications. The framework provides a simple and effective approach to measuring the performance of any application, identifying areas of improvement, and taking corrective action to optimize performance. By following this framework, businesses can ensure that their applications meet performance goals, enhance user experience, and achieve optimal efficiency.

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Adapted
    from Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development

    Suggested Pre-Reading

    of Performance Management Process for any Application

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Where do I focus my performance
    efforts in the organization?

    How do I identify which organizational
    results to measure?

    How do I know what measures to
    make to evaluate results?

    What about measures after I’ve
    made efforts to improve performance?

    (Author’s note: The publication “Performance Improvement
    Theory and Practice” (in Advances in Developing Human
    Number 1, 1999, by Richard A. Swanson) served as
    a very valuable resource while developing the contents of this
    library page. Professor Swanson’s document suggests approaches
    that answer some basic questions when undertaking efforts to improve
    performance. I only hope my overview does justice to his fine
    presentation of ideas.)

    Where Do I Focus My Measurements in the Organization?

    Look for Domains (or Areas of Focus) in the Organization

    Swanson suggests four performance domains in organizations,
    including 1) mission, 2) process, 3) critical performance subsystem, and 4) individual. These domains suggest areas in which to focus
    improvement efforts. More explanation follows.

    Mission Performance Domain

    The mission is the ultimate purpose of the organization. The
    mission of the organization is identified or updated usually during
    strategic planning. Typically, reaching the mission requires providing
    certain outputs or services to external customers. Identify results
    by establishing units of performance with these products or services.
    Describe these results in terms of quantity, quality, time, and
    cost. For example, results might be increasing market share by
    25% over the next fiscal year, increasing profits by 25% over
    the next fiscal year or ensuring that at least 90% of unwed mothers
    under 18 years of age in the Hopeful Neighborhood can read and

    Process Performance Domain

    Swanson cites a process as “a series of phases designed
    to produce a product or service.” Quality and reengineering
    efforts focus on the process performance domain. Swanson explains
    that processes typically cut across various subsystems. There
    are numerous processes in an organization, too many to mention
    here. Start by thinking about where problems have appeared in
    the organization, or where improvement will be needed to meet
    goals identified during strategic planning. To get in the mindset
    for identifying processes, think about, e.g., processes of market
    research to identify customer needs, product design, product development,
    budget development, customer service, financial planning and management,
    program development, etc.

    Critical Performance Subsystems Performance Domain

    This domain defines internal performance subsystems that always
    directly connect to the internal environment, and frequently with
    the external environment (the mission domain always interacts
    with the external environment). These subsystems differ from processes
    in that processes cut across multiple performance subsystems.
    Examples include:
    1. programs (implementing new policies and procedures to ensure
    a safe workplace; or, for a nonprofit, ongoing delivery of services
    to a community)
    2. products or services to internal or external customers
    3. projects (automating the billing process, moving to a new building,
    4. teams or groups organized to accomplish a result or an internal
    or external customer

    Individual Performance Domain

    Swanson asserts that performance professions have generally
    focused too much on this domain. Individual performance management
    typically focuses on the individual working to achieve results
    and goals with some performance standards. These results and goals
    are recorded and referenced during a performance appraisal process.
    Ongoing training and development is provided as needed. Ideally,
    the supervisor and employee exchange ongoing feedback during the
    appraisal period to enhance the individual’s performance.

    How Do I Identify Which Results To Measure?

    Look for System Outputs as Results to Measure

    An organization is comprised of very complex and dynamic processes,
    coordinated by various structures and other controls. In addition,
    the organization is continually exchanging various resources and
    information with its external environment. Consequently, organizational
    performance management can be very complex. There are numerous
    results, measurements, and standards to consider among the numerous
    levels and related areas (or domains) in the organization.

    When thinking about results, measurements, and standards in
    the organization, it helps a great deal to think of the organization
    as a system. This system has various aspects, including inputs,
    processes, outputs, and outcomes. Ongoing feedback occurs among
    these aspects of the system. The overall system has various subsystems,
    e.g., financial management processes, departments, teams, employees,
    etc. Ongoing feedback occurs among aspects of these systems, as
    well as with the overall organization and its external environment.

    As noted above, when looking for what results to measure, consider
    outputs from the system. Measure results in terms of units of
    performance, considering timeliness, cost, quantity, or quality.

    How Do I Know What to Measure to Evaluate Results?

    Look for Outcome Measures and Driver Measures

    Swanson describes outcomes as measures of effectiveness or
    efficiency relative to the core outputs of a system or subsystem.
    Outcomes are generic across organizations. Drivers “measure
    elements of performance that are expected to sustain or increase
    system, subsystem, process or individual ability and capacity
    to be more effective or efficient in the future” (p. 33).
    Swanson adds that drivers are leading indicators of future outcomes,
    and tend to be unique to the organization.

    For example, a) management development and change, and b) employee’s
    noticing the change and increasing productivity may be drivers
    to the outcome of c) increased sales.

    Must View Outcomes and Drivers Together

    Drivers and outcomes should be considered together. Otherwise,
    one gets a flawed picture of the performance system.

    For example, focusing on drivers alone might lead one to believe
    that the driver (e.g., learning) always produces the outcome (e.g.,
    units of sales). Focusing on outcomes alone might lead one to
    take short-term actions (e.g., massive layoffs) which adversely
    affect long-term outcomes (e.g., sales).

    Classification of a Measure (Outcome and Driver) Depends on
    the Context

    A measure can be either an outcome or a driver, depending on
    the situation. For example, a specified increase in customer satisfaction
    might be a driver for the organizational outcome of a specified
    increase in sales. However, the specified increase in customer
    satisfaction might also be an outcome measure for the Customer
    Service Department.

    Consider Outcomes and Drivers Relative to the Performance

    For example, the performance driver measures of knowledge and
    expertise in the individual performance domain may produce the
    performance outcome measure of productivity for that domain. The
    drivers of innovation and leadership might produce the outcome
    of team effectiveness for the critical subsystem domain.

    What About Measures After I’ve Made Efforts to Improve Performance?

    Driver Results Assessment Matrix

    There are a wide variety of results to measure and numerous
    types of drivers that can produce these results. It may seem much
    too complex to know what to measure and when. Swanson disagrees.

    He explains that assessing outcomes from modifying drivers
    to affect performance improvements (that is, from efforts such
    as training people, instilling quality management, etc., made
    ultimately to improve performance) differ in only two basic ways:
    1) predictability of performance results and 2) timing of performance

    Four Types of Assessments of Outcomes

    Swanson designed a two-row, four-cell matrix to depict four
    types of drivers, or types of efforts to improve performance.


    Outcomes are known in advance and expected to occur soon. An
    example is training. Standard assessment techniques work well

    Type 1

    Improvement efforts are rather straightforward, but take a
    longer time to show results. An example is management development.
    In this case, it’s useful to develop a “pattern of events”
    (e.g., managers learn and change, employees notice and become
    more motivated, and ultimately sales increase). Each step of the
    pattern can be measured. Phases before the end result are drivers
    to measure. The end result is an outcome to measure.

    Type 2

    Here, performance results may appear anywhere and take longer
    to appear. An example is developing a learning organization. Open-ended
    assessment strategies should be used. Emerging outcomes should
    be measured, since known outcomes do not exist. Conduct ongoing
    assessment over time and compare results.

    Type 3

    Here, results are still less predictable, but they occur more
    quickly. An example is instilling a quality program. The same
    assessment approach used in Type 2 is useful here. However, measurements
    can be conducted sooner and usually only once.

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