Balanced scorecard

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General background

Balanced scorecard is a way of managing an organisation (or a coherent constituent part of an organisation) by using a set of indicators chosen to balance financial and non-financial performance information - rather than the older approach of managing by financial indicators only.

The indicators should be chosen to view the organisation from four perspectives, in our world called categories:

  • learning and growth (that is, organisational learning - including staff development)
  • business processes
  • customers (students in the case of universities)
  • financial

The concept comes from seminal work by Kaplan and Norton.

The indicators, while not being financial, will typically be metric indicators - that is something that can be measured numerically, like income earned per full-time employee - but there seems no reason why they cannot be criteria scored on a short numeric scale such as 1-5.

Typically there are around two dozen indicators - in other words, a rather similar number to the number of criteria in modern benchmarking systems.

It is not part of the pure concept of balanced scorecard but it is quite common to represent the values of the balanced scorecard indicators on a digital dashboard, with the data represented on screen by dials, pie charts, thermometers or whatever else seems most evocative - and in some cases (such as indicators measured on a discrete scale) traffic lights can be used.

Balanced scorecard has been applied in universities. It has also been applied to coherent constituent parts of organisations - such as libraries in universities. However it is a moot point as to whether it can be applied to thematic slices of an organisation such as e-learning - the main objection being that indicators outside the scope of the slice could drive the slice off-course.

Balanced Scorecard for e-maturity

Becta has developed a set of strategic outcomes to describe the impact of the DfES e-strategy at its highest level. The strategic outcomes are grouped within a particular balanced scorecard under the following headings, representing the four standard perspectives:

Capability and capacity of the workforce, providers and learners

(learning and growth perspective)

Outcomes and benefits for learners and children

(customer perspective)

Fit-for-purpose technology and systems

(business processes perspective)

Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money across the system

(financial perspective)

The strategic outcomes in the left-hand column of the scorecard will increase the capacity of technology within the education system and the capability to use it effectively.

The strategic outcomes in the right-hand column of the scorecard represent an assessment of system performance that will be delivered as a result of increasing capacity and capability and then engaging with practitioners, institutions and learning providers to embed this in the system.

Using the structure of the balanced scorecard as a framework, Becta aims to identify and develop proxy indicators for each element of the four quadrants of the scorecard. This will be undertaken at four levels to show the picture for the schools, learning and skills, and higher education sectors, and for children's services.

The Harnessing Technology Delivery Plan gives a further breakdown (see page 8). For this we use the standard Balanced Scorecard word "perspective" rather than "element" which is in danger of being overused in very different contexts.

Perspective 1

Capability and capacity of the workforce, providers and learners:

1.1 Leaders have the knowledge and skills to ensure technology for learning can be harnessed for the benefit of learners

1.2 Institutions and providers plan and manage technology for learning effectively and sustainably

1.3 Practitioners exploit technology consistently to offer engaging and effective learning experiences

1.4 Practitioners, parents and learners can share and use information and data effectively for the benefit of learners

1.5 Improved learner capability in using technology to support their learning

Perspective 2

Fit for purpose technology and systems:

2.1 All learners and practitioners have access to the appropriate technology and digital resources they need for learning

2.2 Every leaner has a personalised learning space to enable them to learn when and where they choose

2.3 Technology-enabled learning environments are secure, supported and interoperable

2.4 There is a dynamic, vibrant and responsive technology market that can meet the needs of the system

Perspective 3

Outcomes and benefits for learners and children:

3.1 There is a greater choice in learning opportunities and modes for all learners

3.2 Learners have increased motivation for engagement in learning

3.3 Fewer learners under-perform or fail to succeed in education

3.4 An improvement in the quality of learning provision is accelerated

3.5 There is improved child safety and child protection

Perspective 4

Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money across the system:

4.1 Learning providers collaborate and share information and resources

4.2 The management and administration of learning and institutions is more efficient

4.3 There is a greater level of effective, learner- focused assessment for learning

4.4 Practitioners collaborate and share good practice and learning resources

4.5 There is good use of information to support learner transitions between institutions and sectors

There is a great deal of work going on within Becta and in commissioned studies to take this forward.

Further reading

  1. "What is the Balanced Scorecard?", at the Balanced Scorecard Institute.
  2. The Wikipedia article on balanced scorecard.
  3. The article on balanced scorecard in the Value Based Management glossary.
  4. For an article on how to apply the balanced scorecard at a departmental level see the balanced scorecard article about Library Services at the University of Hull.
  5. CIMA, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, has a series of downloadable articles on balanced scorecard available at their balanced scorecard summary page.

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