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Operational Dictionary: Common Terms are Fundamental to Utility-Wide Communication and Tracking Operational Performance

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A common understanding of terms is essential to effective communication. Although individuals within a discrete work team may have a common understanding of a definition or use of a specific metric, when the circle of communication expands, the ability to ensure equal understanding of the definition becomes challenged. In order to clearly communicate across the organization, water and wastewater utilities must be diligent in clearly defining the terms used to describe operational performance.

Development of Metric Master List (Dictionary)

What internal metrics can currently be measured, both reliably and accurately, within the utility?

Does the metric accurately represent key steps within a critical process or does it capture an overall business process?

Are benchmark metrics (and definitional details) already established within the industry or utility sector?

Who are the critical stakeholders, individuals, departments or functional areas that use the metric?

Elements of Metric Definition

Definition of the metric, including units of measure.

Indicate if the metric a discretely measured value or is calculated from other measures.

Detail how the measure is to be collected and provide critical parameters relating to the measurement (eg. measurement frequency, instantaneous measurement or composite).

Detail how the measure is to be reported (eg. instantaneous measure, average over a period, cumulative sum, rolling average or sum).

Indicate the system that will be used to store the data and the reporting tools or mechanisms available to users.

Indicate the metric sponsor that is responsible to validate and report the data element as well as resolve any issues or instances of nonconformity.

Establish a central repository or other means of sharing the master list of metrics and definitions.

Water and wastewater utility service providers can more effectively communicate internally (and externally) when stakeholders have a common understanding of the metrics used to describe their organization. This presentation will provide specific American Water examples of metrics used to describe key operational processes, elements of these metrics that aid in understanding by eliminating misinterpretation, and describe metric development techniques that allow for commonality across a geographically diverse organization.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2008

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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