Blowing-up Watermelons

Blowing-up Watermelons

The watermelon effect occurs when suppliers meet their performance targets, but business stakeholders (including the end-users) are not happy. 

In outsourcing, the risk of watermelon SLAs is real. A widespread example is a KPI for outsourced service desks that specifies the number of calls per agent per day, or the average length of time to close a call. Agents will do whatever is needed to meet the targets you have set, even if it means delivering inferior service as an outcome.

What are watermelons?

Watermelons show green metrics on the outside (KPI attainment) and red on the inside (your customers’ hearts and minds). Not good. We need to blow up these watermelons.

A cornerstone of agile is to focus on business outcomes by thinking and working holistically. Similarly, thinking about outcomes is also the best remedy to designing metrics that rather than looking like watermelons, look more like kiwi fruit: green on the outside, green on the inside, and small.

The outcome we’re talking about here is the impact of IT on your day-to-day business, on your customer experience, and the impact on your competitive dynamics, like the time to market for new services. The secret is to start with the outcome and work backward to the metrics you will need to run the​‘IT machine’ accordingly. 

Here’s how to blow-up watermelons: 

  1. Admitting that SLAs feel like watermelons is the first step. The desire to stop​‘watermeloning’ is the first requirement. 
  2. Get and use stakeholder feedback and insights on what matters and when they feel IT lets the customer or end-user down. 
  3. Adopt​‘outcome first’ as a mindset and borrow from agile to define the outcome. 
  4. Design a framework of holistic XLA KPIs that reflect the essence of great performance. These KPIs should trigger pride and the positive reinforcement of desired behavior.