Archive for September, 2010 Performance Architect update 36/2010

A taxonomy of sources used for KPI selection

Working with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) requires selecting a group of relevant KPIs first. There are many options for this: start with a blank page, review other sources, or get someone else (such as a consultant) to do this for you among others.

Some of the general rules to follow on embarking on such a journey are:

1. Do your research. Selecting KPIs is a learning experience, a journey in itself. There are many insights to gain by taking it step by step instead of just getting to the destination. Research is an important component of this journey.

2. Acknowledge the uniqueness of your environmental settings. While some KPIs are widely used across organisations (i.e. % Satisfied customers, $ Sales revenue and % Profit rate), others are unique to each organisations as they reflect their strategy and specific conditions of operating. Each organisation should select the KPIs based on their relevance and not on their popularity.

3. Clarify what you want to achieve. If you want to improve things and learn from KPIs, you should not avoid selecting challenging KPIs, difficult to measure or difficult to improve. The easy choice is selecting KPIs that make you look good. While this may serve some purpose on the short term, on the medium to long term it will impact the relevance and credibility of KPIs in the organisation.

Having these general rules in mind, the question is: “Where do we do our research to inform the KPI selection process?”. The main sources of information can be grouped in three categories:

Primary Sources

  • Front-line employees input – they are at the core of the value generation chain and know what matters for operational success.
  • Input from managers – due to their perspective across the value generation process, role in shaping strategy and their relationship with various stakeholders.
  • Board input – in many instances they mandate the use of specific KPIs and their selection in strategic / operational is non-negotiable.
  • Input from suppliers – their insight in the supply chain is valuable as they can bring an external perspective to what needs to be measured and improved
  • Customer input – their opinion matters.

Secondary sources

  • Strategic development plan (3-5 years)
  • Annual business/strategic plan
  • Annual reports
  • Internal operational reports
  • Competitor review reports

External sources

Individually or in combined, these sources can generate a list of prospective candidates for KPI selection, anchored to organisational objectives. Ultimately the decision on which KPIs will be used should be based on discussions within the organisation to determine the most relevant ones. Consultants can be useful in this process as facilitators, but not necessarily as “fountains of truth”. Their role should be more as guides on this journey, providing tools, information and advice, but not developing the final list of selected KPIs in an ivory tower. Enjoy the journey!

Stay smart! Enjoy!

Aurel Brudan
Performance Architect,

Walker, Rob 1992, “Rank Xerox – Management Revolution”, Long Range Planning, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 9 to 21 Performance Architect update 35/2010

10 Key Performance Indicators for 2010 contains over 5,000 KPI examples from 14 functional areas and 24 industries. A question raised by many is: ‘If you are to pick a handful, which ones would stand out?’

I have selected below 10 KPI examples of what we consider to be smartKPIs: they are widely used and relevant, the superstars of KPIs. This is not to say any company should use them. Simply, a list of 10 KPI examples anyone should take note of:

% Net profit rate – A profitable business is a sustainable business. It is however important to have realistic expectations. Returns of over 30% may be speculative, while in some economies returns of under 5% are lower than interest rates.

$ Revenue – Growing revenue is an expression of having the right product/service mix, supported by the right team delivered at the right time. Converting opportunities in sales is the essence of a sustainable business.

% Profitable customers – getting the balance right is the basis for financial success. Although oftentimes it is difficult to track, it is ads a great deal of insight and informs decision making. Activity based costing is key to getting this indicator right.

# Net Promoter Score – having customers that are not only satisfied, but are actively endorsing a company/product/service. Recently is has become a favourite indicator of customer satisfaction, due to its simplicity and relevance.

% On-time delivery – an operational focused KPI with wide reaching implications. It can be used in a variety of industries and functional areas, as time is an important resource to anyone. Oftentimes it acts as a bottleneck as it is influenced by many indicators and it impacts a great deal of other indicators.

% Projects on time, on budget and according to specifications – getting the triangle right is difficult and priorities may vary from one project to another. It is however a useful base to start from. Can be customised as per the preference of project boards and project managers to cover only specific aspect of the triangle.

% Processes optimised – one key managerial responsibility is creating the right environment for the staff members to operate in. This includes using a management system that is well thought of and refined. Mapping and improving work processes is key to using a performance oriented architecture.

# Employee engagement – Some say money can’t buy it. It is that extra level of commitment that is induced by motivating purposes, inspiring leaders and working environments that facilitate happiness in the professional life.

# Proposed improvement ideas per employee – inspired by H.W. Heinrich’s work in the 1930s or “the Pyramid Theory” as some call it. They main results are visible at the top, but you need to monitor the base to ensure the right outcomes are achieved.

$ Investment in learning per employee – Not the ideal indicator of training impact, but a widely used substitute. It monitors both training spend and the wide allocation of funds to avoid serial trainees.

An issue with KPI examples is that names don’t tell the complete story. To find out more about each of these examples and thoroughly understand them a separate blog post would be required for each, complemented by a complete KPI documentation form. In the meantime, is available to further explore relevant and well documented KPI examples.

Stay smart! Enjoy!

Aurel Brudan
Performance Architect,

Walker, Rob 1992, “Rank Xerox – Management Revolution”, Long Range Planning, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 9 to 21