What Is a KPI? (Complete Guide)

Karola Karlson |  November 29, 2016 |  Last updated: November 29, 2016

what is a KPI?
 

MONITORING KPIs helps you to evaluate your organization’s performance and make data-driven decisions to grow faster.
 
If you’d like to find out what is a KPI and how to use it, this guide will answer all your questions and more.
 

What is a KPI?

 
A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a numeric value that indicates whether your team/company is reaching its targets. KPIs are used by teams and leaders to evaluate the performance of business processes and individuals.
 
KPIs are also known as performance metrics, performance ratios or business indicators. Read more on Wikipedia or Investopedia.
 
Examples of KPIs:
 

  • Net Profit Margin
  • MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue)
  • Operating Cash Flow (OCF)
  • Sales Growth
  • Planned (Project) Value
  • Schedule Variance

 
If you’d like to learn about different performance indicators, here’s a complete list of 136 KPI examples.
 

Types of KPIs

 
Depending on your organization’s goals and objectives, you can track various Key Performance Indicators.
 
Selecting the right KPIs right at the beginning is crucial for getting actionable and helpful information about your company’s performance.

 
Each business department measures different KPIs because they all have different tasks and goals.
 
There are five main types of KPIs:
 

  • Business KPIs
  • Financial KPIs
  • Sales KPIs
  • Marketing KPIs
  • Project Management KPIs

 

Business KPIs

 
Business KPIs help to measure the achievement of long-term business goals. By tracking business metrics, companies are able to navigate between important business processes and identify the areas of slow growth.

 
Examples of popular business KPIs:

 

  • Revenue Growth Rate
  • Churn Rate
  • Acquisition Rate
  • Relative Market Share
  • Return on Equity

 

Financial KPIs

 
Financial KPIs are usually monitored by an organization’s leadership and the financial department. Financial metrics indicate how well a company is doing in terms of generating revenue and profits.

 
Examples of financial KPIs:

 

  • MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue)
  • Net profit margin
  • Operating cash flow (OCF)
  • Working Capital
  • Current Ratio
  • Budget Variance

 
For a complete guide of 29 financial KPIs, click here.

 

Sales KPIs

 
Sales KPIs are measurable values used by the sales team to monitor the achievement of their key objectives and goals. Sales metrics help to keep track of month-over-month results and attain sustainable sales growth.

 
Popular sales KPIs:

 

  • Monthly New Leads/Sales
  • Lead-to-Customer Conversion Rate
  • Cost per Acquisition
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
  • Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)

 
If you’d like to learn more about sales KPIs and best practices, see this article.

 

Marketing KPIs

 
Marketing KPIs help marketing teams to monitor their success across all marketing channels. A quick overview of marketing metrics shows how well the marketing team’s doing in terms of acquiring new leads.

 
Examples of marketing KPIs:

 

  • Website Traffic Per Source
  • Cost Per Acquisition CPA
  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Conversion Rate

 
Want more? See the complete guide to 37 popular marketing KPIs.

 

Project management KPIs

 
Project management KPIs are used by project managers to monitor project progress and the attainment of goals. Organizations use project metrics to identify successful projects and meet important deadlines.
 
Popular Project management KPIs:
 

  • Planned Value (PV)
  • Actual Cost (AC)
  • Earned Value (EV)
  • Cost Variance (CV)
  • Schedule Variance (SV)

 
To learn more about essential project KPIs, read this article.

try KPI dashboard

High-level vs. low-level KPIs

 
High-level KPIs demonstrate the company’s overall performance. Examples of high-level KPIs include Annual Growth, Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), and Relative Market Share.

 
Single individuals have no impact on these performance indicators as they’re the result of teamwork across multiple departments.
 
Low-level KPIs indicate the performance of specific departments or individuals. Low-level business metrics are tied to people’s day-to-day work and more actionable.

 

How to use KPIs?

 
KPIs can be used to monitor your company’s performance across all departments.
 

Add your metrics to a KPI dashboard for a quick overview of each important goal.

 
KPI dashboard is a real-time reporting tool that collects, groups, organizes, and visualizes the company’s important metrics. You can set up multiple KPI dashboards to track the achievement of each department’s goals.

 
The greatest value of  modern business dashboards lies in the ability to provide real-time information about a company’s performance. As a result, business leaders and teams can make informed and goal-oriented decisions, acting on actual data instead of gut feeling.

 
A real-time comprehensive business dashboard helps to instantly notice problem areas and find solutions to important issues.

 
Here are the five essential questions everyone should answer before creating a KPI dashboard:
 
1. What are my desired business results (goals)?
2. How can the KPI values be improved by taking action?
3. Do we have all the relevant data needed to monitor the KPIs?
4. Who is going to use the KPI report and what do they need to know (ie. which KPIs and metrics should be included)?
5. How to visualize specific KPIs (graphs, metrics, diagrams, etc.)?
 
Read more: What Is a KPI Tracking Dashboard? The Complete Guide

 

How to choose the right KPIs?

 
To choose the right KPIs, you need to define your business goals. Each KPI you track should be measurable and tied to the achievement of specific goals.

 
It is better to focus on a few key metrics instead of many irrelevant ones.
 
Only monitor the Key Performance Indicators that are relevant to your organization. Ensure that every single one of your business metrics meets the SMART criteria:
 
SMART KPIs are:
Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant
Time-Bound

 
Understand that Key Performance Indicators are different for each industry, growth stage, and project phase.
 
Follow the industry standards only if the match with your own goals and objectives.

 
Also, remember that the metrics you measure will change as your company grows and scales. Use the examples mentioned above to identify the right KPIs for your business and team.

 
Leading a successful business is easier when you use KPIs that provide a graphical overview of where you stand. You’ll get insight about historical trends, current progress, and problem areas; and can use this information to maintain sustainable growth.

 

Key takeaways:

 

  • A KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is a measurable value that indicates whether a team/company is reaching its targets (benchmarks).
  • The five main types of KPIs are business KPIs, financial KPIs, sales KPIs, marketing KPIs, and project management KPIs.
  • KPIs are frequently monitored with a real-time reporting tool – KPI dashboard.
  • Each KPI your monitor should meet the SMART criteria, i.e. be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
  • Only track the metrics that are relevant to your organization and business goals.

 
Useful resources:
 
The 75 KPIs Every Manager Needs To Know
How to Set Up Your First KPI Report (The Complete Guide)
How to Create a Perfect Business Dashboard With Scoro

try KPI dashboard

Like this?

Get the best tips, hacks, and tricks delivered to your inbox once a week.

This seems to be an invalid email address

One more thing! You will soon receive a subscription confirmation email. Please open it and confirm.