Interview Matthias Harenburg: Aggregate data – but please without ‘copy & paste’.

‍Matthias Harenburg is Communication Performance Manager at Siemens Healthineers. Over the past two years, he – together with other colleagues – has developed a cross-channel, interdisciplinary and interactive key performance indicator system for the communications activities of the DAX40-listed medical technology group. All in all, Matthias Harenburg has been involved in performance measurement and the improvement of communication processes in various functions for more than 15 years.

The interview was conducted as part of the webinar “Aggregating data – but please without ‘copy&paste'”, which was hosted by IMWF on April 29.
The questions were asked by Oliver Lönker, Head of Corporate Publishing and Campaigns at Siemens Healthineers and co-leader of CommTech Working Group 3 ‘Reporting & KPIs’.

Oliver Lönker: Matthias, why was the ‘without copy & paste’ aspect in the webinar title so important to you?

Matthias Harenburg: I myself have often experienced that communications experts had to spend a great deal of time compiling files, tables and other data by hand before they could even make statements about the performance of the communications. So working with data starts with a rather negative experience. In my view, such manual work with data is no longer appropriate in 2022. They can be replaced by fully and partially automated data collection options – without any additional workload for the colleagues involved.

Oliver Lönker: Can you briefly outline how you developed the KPI system at Siemens Healthineers?

Matthias Harenburg: We wanted to build a system that would help us make statements about the performance of corporate communications as a whole. As a first step, we formed a team consisting of colleagues from the various departments of our Group Communications. Of course, we didn’t start from scratch. Performance measurement in various forms has been taking place in the different subject teams for many years. What was missing was the overarching perspective. I have therefore presented a model with which such integrated reporting is possible: the impact level model of the German Public Relations Association (DPRG) and the International Controller Association (ICV). Using the impact levels presented there, we then systematized the existing key figures and data and assigned them to the levels. This was then the blueprint for the technical implementation in an interactive online dashboard, to which basically every employee in Group Communications has access.

Oliver Lönker: What gaps in the database have you identified?

Matthias Harenburg: With our existing trade show activities, we had a very strong focus on the respective publication channels such as social media or the web. What reach do we achieve? Do users interact with our content? While these metrics are important, they do not provide an integrated view of communications performance. Therefore, we have added KPIs that target output: which of our topics do we play and with what frequency? Looking at our communication goals, we quickly realized that we needed in data on our reputation with different stakeholders at a much higher rate. It’s not enough to measure reputation once a year when all other data is available daily or even live.

Oliver Lönker: How was the project received by your colleagues?

Matthias Harenburg: Surprisingly positive! The creation of an overarching KPI system was embedded in a larger change project towards more agile collaboration in our Content Lab and strategic topic focus. In workshops, our employees clearly stated their expectations. “We want to move away from gut feeling and become more data-driven.” This is a very good prerequisite for integrating data analysis and performance controlling more strongly into everyday work. By the way, performance measurement or “communication controlling” is often mistranslated with the German word “Kontrolle”. In fact, the English word “controlling” means “management based on key figures”. And that’s what matters to us, too. We do not want to control what colleagues have done well or less well. We want to increase the value of our communications by managing on the basis of solid data and learning from mistakes.

Oliver Lönker: Where are you today with the project?

Matthias Harenburg: Today, data on around 95 percent of our activities flows into our dashboard, so we have achieved a high level of integration. Now it is a matter of ensuring that employees also work consistently with the data – something we are still some way from achieving. Due to the high aggregation of data, an interpretation in the overall context is always necessary. The numbers do not speak for themselves. We now need to ensure that we discuss and analyze the results together in order to then arrive at valid conclusions for our work.

Oliver Lönker: What would you recommend to others who face the task of developing an integrated measurement system for corporate communications?

Matthias Harenburg:
Three points:

  1. For such a task, one needs a basic model that provides orientation and guidance. We used the impact level model of the DPRG and the ICV for this purpose. Such models create acceptance and help answer the “why” question.

  1. Data should never stand on its own, but should always be a cause for discussion. Everyone has their own perspective on the information behind the data. Only in joint discussion can real recommendations for action be worked out.

  1. Do not neglect the change aspect! Even though there is a great willingness to be data-driven, putting a dashboard in front of people is not enough. You have to pick them up again and again, explain how the connections are (but also where the limits are), and show examples. This is the only way to integrate data into everyday decisions.