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30 April 2008

Efficiency and effectiveness and getting on with business

Efficiency and effectiveness are often cited as reasons for running a project. "We need to be more efficient and effective"

But are they the same thing? No. And in many instances they are opposite forces.

Take for example taxation. A review of Australian tax laws is on the table at the moment and one of the things the experts are going to have to address is the balance between ease of execution (efficiency) and achieving the right policy outcomes, which are about equity and economic growth (effectiveness.)

In a corporate environment you can find many examples of efficiency and effectiveness being counterpoints. The more you sell the more expensive customer management becomes. Often the larger you get the lower your margins. The faster your call centre staff churn through calls the less satisfied your customers become...

Project professionals are in a fantastic place to influence the choices organisations make about how they grow into the future. But you need to understand the implications of these choices.

When you put efficiency and effectiveness into your project goals for the product or service you are building you need to consider which one of these is most important and why. Does enabling call centre staff to handle 100 calls per day make them better than answering less calls but doing a better job of dealing with the customer enquiry?

Deep knowledge about information systems and technology solutions doesn't help you with questions like this.

I think our focus on technology and process has led us to miss some key strategic questions, which mean that today our experience as consumers is often one of frustration and disappointment.

A deeper understanding is needed by project people about how and why business works. Even if you are at the tactical end of the spectrum it will help you develop your views on requirements management and project strategy so that your projects deliver better long term outcomes.

Here is a couple of resources to consider in your journey to a better knowledge about the business side of project management and analysis.
These are Wikipedia entries. You'll have to dig further to get the full view, but each is essential for your professional toolkit.

Lastly, don't forget further study; Online classes can make you and your business more efficient. 

Picture thanks to Dru! @ flickr
This post is sponsored