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KPI information boards.

A performance indicator or key performance indicator (KPI) is a type of "performance measurement.[1] KPIs evaluate the success of an organization or of a particular activity (such as projects, programs, products and other initiatives) in which it engages.

Often success is simply the repeated, periodic achievement of some levels of operational goal (e.g. zero defects, 10/10 customer satisfaction, etc.), and sometimes success is defined in terms of making progress toward strategic goals.[2] Accordingly, choosing the right KPIs relies upon a good understanding of what is important to the organization.["citation needed] What is deemed important often depends on the department measuring the performance – e.g. the KPIs useful to finance will differ from the KPIs assigned to sales.

Since there is a need to understand well what is important, various techniques to assess the present state of the business, and its key activities, are associated with the selection of performance indicators. These assessments often lead to the identification of potential improvements, so performance indicators are routinely associated with 'performance improvement' initiatives. A very common way to choose KPIs is to apply a management framework such as the "balanced scorecard.


Categorization of indicators[edit]

Key performance indicators define a set of values against which to measure. These raw sets of values, which can be fed to systems that aggregate the data, are called indicators. There are two categories of measurements for KPIs.

An 'indicator' can only measure what 'has' happened, in the past tense, so the only type of measurement is descriptive or lagging. Any KPI that attempts to measure something in a future state as predictive, diagnostic or prescriptive is no longer an 'indicator' it is a 'prognosticator' - at this point its analytics (possibly based on a KPI).

Points of measurement[edit]

Focusing on the word "performance" as a measure of an 'element' of an activity. An activity can have four elements as: input, output, control and mechanism. At a minimum it is required to have two elements: input and output. Something goes into the activity as an "input"; the "activity" transforms it by making a change to its "state"; and it produces an "output". An activity can also have enabling "mechanisms" that are typically broken into "human" and "system". It can also be constrained in some fashion by a "control". And lastly, its actions can have a temporal construct of "time".

Identifying indicators of organization[edit]

Performance indicators differ from business drivers and aims (or goals). A school might consider the failure rate of its students as a key performance indicator which might help the school understand its position in the educational community, whereas a business might consider the percentage of income from returning customers as a potential KPI.

The key stages in identifying KPIs are:

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are ways to periodically assess the performances of organizations, business units, and their division, departments and employees. Accordingly, KPIs are most commonly defined in a way that is understandable, meaningful, and measurable. They are rarely defined in such a way such that their fulfillment would be hampered by factors seen as non-controllable by the organizations or individuals responsible. Such KPIs are usually ignored by organizations.["citation needed]

KPIs should follow the "SMART criteria. This means the measure has a Specific purpose for the business, it is Measurable to really get a value of the KPI, the defined norms have to be Achievable, the improvement of a KPI has to be Relevant to the success of the organization, and finally it must be Time phased, which means the value or outcomes are shown for a predefined and relevant period.[3]

In order to be evaluated, KPIs are linked to target values, so that the value of the measure can be assessed as meeting expectations or not.


Marketing and sales[edit]

Some examples are:

  1. New "customer acquisition
  2. Demographic analysis of individuals (potential customers) applying to become customers, and the levels of approval, rejections, and pending numbers
  3. Status of existing customers
  4. "Customer attrition
  5. "Turnover (i.e., revenue) generated by segments of the customer population
  6. Outstanding balances held by segments of customers and terms of payment
  7. Collection of bad debts within customer relationships
  8. Profitability of customers by demographic segments and segmentation of customers by profitability

Many of these customer KPIs are developed and managed with "customer relationship management software.

Faster availability of data is a competitive issue for most organizations. For example, businesses which have higher operational/credit risk (involving for example credit cards or wealth management) may want weekly or even daily availability of KPI analysis, facilitated by appropriate IT systems and tools.


"Overall equipment effectiveness is a set of broadly accepted non-financial metrics which reflect manufacturing success.

Professional Services[edit]

Most "professional services firms (for example: management consultancies, systems integration firms, or digital marketing agencies) use three key performance indicators to track the health of their businesses. They typically use "professional services automation (PSA) software to keep track of and manage these metrics.

System operations[edit]

Project execution[edit]

Supply chain management[edit]

Businesses can utilize KPIs to establish and monitor progress toward a variety of goals, including lean manufacturing objectives, "minority business enterprise and diversity spending, environmental "green" initiatives, cost avoidance programs and "low-cost country sourcing targets.

Any business, regardless of size, can better manage supplier performance with the help of KPIs robust capabilities, which include:

Main SCM KPIs will detail the following processes:

Suppliers can implement KPIs to gain an advantage over the competition. Suppliers have instant access to a user-friendly portal for submitting standardized cost savings templates. Suppliers and their customers exchange vital supply chain performance data while gaining visibility to the exact status of cost improvement projects and cost savings documentation.


The provincial government of "Ontario, Canada has been using KPIs since 1998 to measure the performance of higher education institutions in the province. All post secondary schools collect and report performance data in five areas – graduate satisfaction, student satisfaction, employer satisfaction, employment rate, and graduation rate.[4]

Further performance indicators[edit]

Human Resource Management


In practice, overseeing key performance indicators can prove expensive or difficult for organizations. Some indicators such as staff morale may be impossible to quantify. As such, dubious KPIs can be adopted that can be used as a rough guide rather than a precise benchmark.[5]

Key performance indicators can also lead to "perverse incentives and "unintended consequences as a result of employees working to the specific measurements at the expense of the actual quality or value of their work.[6][7]

Sometimes the collecting of statistics can become a substitute for a better understanding of the problems so the use of dubious KPIs can result in progress in aims and measured effectiveness becoming different. For example, US soldiers during the Vietnam War were shown to be effective in kill ratios and high body counts, but this was misleading when used to measure aims as it did not show the lack of progress towards the US goal of increasing South Vietnamese government control of its territory.[8] Another example would be to measure the productivity of a software development team in terms of lines of source code written. This approach can easily result in large amounts of dubious code being added, thereby inflating the line count but adding little of value in terms of systemic improvement. A similar problem arises when a footballer kicks a ball uselessly in a match in order to build up his statistics.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carol Taylor Fitz-Gibbon (1990), "Performance indicators", BERA Dialogues (2), "ISBN "978-1-85359-092-4 
  2. ^ Key Performance Indicators – What Are Key Performance Indicators or KPI
  3. ^ Key Performance Indicators: Establishing the Metrics that Guide Success, accessed 23 April 2016
  4. ^ "Key Performance Indicators" (PDF). Colleges Ontario. Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  5. ^ Daddis, Gregory (June 1, 2011). No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War. "ISBN "978-0199746873. 
  6. ^ Robert D Austin, "Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations"
  7. ^ Martin Fowler (2003-08-29). "CannotMeasureProductivity". Martinfowler.com. Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  8. ^ Daddis, Gregory (June 1, 2011). No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War. "ISBN "978-0199746873. 

Further reading[edit]

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