What Do Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Mean?

Last Updated on May 17, 2023

Key Performance Indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable measures that businesses use to monitor and assess variables they believe to be essential to their success. Effective KPIs concentrate on the company operations and processes that senior management believes are most crucial for tracking advancement toward achieving strategic objectives and performance benchmarks.

Depending on the company’s priorities, KPIs vary from organization to organization. For instance, a public company’s stock price is probably one of its key performance indicators, whereas a privately held startup may use its number of new clients added each quarter as a KPI. Even direct competitors in a given industry are likely to keep an eye on various KPI sets that are specific to their own management philosophies and business objectives.

Depending on their positions, various employees in the same business may pay varied attention to different KPIs. For instance, a CEO might perceive profitability as the most crucial KPI for a business, whereas the vice president of sales might place the biggest importance on the ratio of sales wins to losses.

As various departments and business units evaluate their own KPIs, the organization incorporates a mix of performance indicators. These indicators target corporate goals and specific operations.

Also read: The Importance of Businesses Collecting Data

Types of KPIs

There are numerous types of key performance indicators. Others are used to track long-term progress rather than monthly progress toward a goal. The fact that each KPI is connected to a strategic goal is the one thing that unites them all. Here is a summary of some of the most popular KPI kinds.


These broad-based key performance indicators keep track of company objectives. Typically, executives use one or two strategic KPIs to measure the performance of the company at any particular time. Examples include market share, revenue, and return on investment.

Functional Unit

Numerous KPIs are connected to particular functions, like finance or IT. While IT might track time to resolution or average uptime, finance KPIs track gross profit margin or return on assets. These operational KPIs may also fall under the strategic or operational categories.


These operational KPIs focus on shorter durations, assessing performance across processes, sectors, or regions. Management addresses identified issues using these KPIs. For example, executives investigate struggling product lines when revenue decreases.

Leading/Lagging KPIs

Whatever kind of key performance indicator you choose, you should be aware of the distinction between leading and lagging indicators. Lagging KPIs track what has actually occurred, but leading KPIs can aid in outcome prediction. To make sure they are monitoring what is most crucial, organisations employ a combination of both.

Also read: What is a Business Intelligence (BI) Platform?

Characteristics of Good KPI

For a key performance indicator to be considered good enough to monitor, it has to have all of the following characteristics.

  1. Alignment with business objectives: A good KPI should be directly linked to the overall business objectives and strategy of an organization.

  2. Measurability: A good KPI should be quantifiable and capable of being measured in a reliable and consistent manner.

  3. Relevance: A good KPI should be relevant to the goals and objectives of the organization and should provide valuable information for decision-making.

  4. Timeliness: A good KPI should be timely, with data that is updated frequently enough to be useful for decision-making.

  5. Targeted: A good KPI should have a specific target or benchmark, which can be used to measure progress and identify areas for improvement.

  6. Actionable: A good KPI should actively guide actions, providing insight into what needs to be done to achieve desired outcomes.

  7. Collaborative: A good KPI should actively engage and involve all levels of the organization, fostering collaboration and teamwork.

How to Choose the Right Key Performance Indicators

Here are some tips for choosing the right KPIs for your organization:

  1. Align with business objectives and strategy: To choose the right KPIs, align them with your organization’s overall business objectives and strategy. This will help to ensure that the KPIs you select are meaningful and relevant to your business.

  2. Select a mix of leading and lagging indicators: Leading indicators are those that can predict future performance while lagging indicators reflect past performance. It is important to select a mix of both types of indicators to get a complete picture of your organization’s performance.

  3. Ensure data availability and reliability: Make sure that the data needed to measure your chosen KPIs is readily available and reliable. If the data is difficult to obtain or of poor quality, it will be difficult to accurately track and measure your KPIs.

  4. Involve all levels of the organization: Involve all levels of the organization in the process of selecting and defining your KPIs. Choosing meaningful and relevant KPIs ensures stakeholder commitment and drives desired outcomes.

  5. Regularly review and adjust: Regularly reviewing and adjusting KPIs ensures their relevance and alignment with business objectives. Be open to changing or replacing your KPIs if they are no longer serving their intended purpose.

Read: Measuring Success: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Best Practices for Managing and Tracking KPIs

  1. Set clear targets and benchmarks: It is important to set clear targets and benchmarks for your KPIs so that you have a way to measure progress and identify areas for improvement.

  2. Regularly monitor and review: KPIs should be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis, such as weekly, monthly, or quarterly. This will allow you to track progress and identify any trends or patterns.

  3. Use data visualization tools and dashboards: Data visualization tools and dashboards can be useful for tracking and displaying your KPIs in a clear and easily understandable way. This can help to make data-driven decision-making more efficient and effective.

  4. Involve all levels of the organization: It is important to involve all levels of the organization in the process of tracking and monitoring KPIs. This can help to ensure that everyone is aware of the goals and objectives, and is working towards achieving them.

  5. Use KPIs to drive improvement: Use the insights gained from your KPIs to drive continuous improvement in your organization. This can involve making changes to processes, setting new targets and benchmarks, or implementing new strategies and initiatives. Overall, the key to effectively managing and tracking KPIs is to make them an integral part of your organization’s culture and decision-making processes.

Importance of Key Performance Indicators

KPIs measure progress and guide decision-making for organizations, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Clear targets and involvement at all levels foster communication and accountability within the organization.

Data-driven decisions are facilitated by KPIs, identifying trends, and informing necessary changes. Regularly measuring and tracking performance through KPIs ensures business success and desired outcomes.

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