People track data so that they have usable information to review later to determine how well/successful/efficient/whatever their efforts have been. It doesn’t matter if you are tracking progress toward paying off a personal loan ahead of schedule or a multinational corporation tracking efforts toward meeting multi-year growth projections; tracked data is invaluable. If you start a project but don’t track related data then how do you know that you are on track to meet or exceed your goal? Data recorded on the back of an old envelope is better than nothing at all.
Great goal, no tracking
The spark for this blog post was an article related to how the US government had devised a goal of closing 40% of its data centers in an effort to consolidate and save taxpayer dollars (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/051413-us-agencies-cant-track-savings-269758.html). The goal was an admirable one but thus far the various agencies involved in the effort have been unable to determine the actual savings gained from their efforts this far. Which begs the question – if you can’t determine how you will measure something, how will you know that your efforts are achieving anything? A follow-on question might be: if you can’t measure it then is it even worth doing?
How did this happen?
So how does a situation like this arise in the first place? Individuals, charities, small businesses, multinational corporations etc. all utilize various methods to track data. Numerous methods exist to manage projects and track data. Universities offer degrees in this subject matter. And yet government agencies apparently see nothing wrong with embarking on a multiyear project suck as this without incorporating any data-tracking methodology in the process?
Maybe the first clue is contained within the titles of the offices and agencies interspersed throughout the article: Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Data Center Consolidation Task Force, U.S. General Services Administration. The titles are clearly not reflective of the actual nature of the related entities.