How to Use Key Performance Indicators to Deliver Value to Your Organization

How to Use Key Performance Indicators to Deliver Value

Give your organization an edge with the right KPIs.
Find out how to use KPIs.
June 27, 2016


Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a powerful part of any good business intelligence toolkit. KPIs are used to measure the success of a business (or initiative) by measuring data.

While there is plenty of debate over what to measure and how many metrics to use, most agree that looking at the right data at the right time will yield positive results.

Easier said than done, right?

How do you know which KPIs you should be tracking? Should you share those KPIs with everyone else at your organization? How and when should you use KPIs to measure your business?

Learn how executive dashboards make it easy to track KPIs >

Which KPIs Should You Be Tracking?

IT teams are being called on to take a more strategic role in the business and step outside of their usual domain. A good example of this shift is requests for KPIs (and other vital business information).

You could take the lazy way. Identify a static set of metrics for each business unit and deliver what appears to work best in an organization's industry. But the lazy way is never the right way.

Now, it’s always a good idea to look at what other companies are tracking. But using the same metrics without a clear alignment to business goals is not an effective long-term strategy for using KPIs. There’s no best set of KPIs, according to Forrester analyst Rachel Dines.

Since the best KPIs don’t exist, focus on determining which are the right for your business.

And, when considering the right KPIs for your business, take advice from Forbes. There’s quantitative data, like how many calls your sales team makes each month. Everyone likes cold, hard numbers—but don’t measure data just for the sake of data.

Numbers convey little value on their own. Qualitative data—like how the conversations went—add context to the numbers.

So the right KPIs:

  • Provide numeric value
  • Get measured consistently
  • Keep costs down
  • Show clear relevance to business strategy and objectives
  • Give direction to decision-making

Should You Share KPIs?

Who you should share KPIs with depends on your business.

There can be challenges with sharing KPIs. For one, there’s the balance challenge. Is it possible to share KPIs with business teams without compromising the security of that information?

That depends on the tools you have in place for measuring and monitoring KPIs. It can be scary sharing them if you’re not confident in security. If your reporting tools include robust access control features and monitor activity, sharing KPIs isn’t so scary. Plus, if you have a secured system (like IBM i), sharing them is a no-brainer.

How and When to Use KPIs

When done right, KPIs can have a measurable impact on raising revenue or customer happiness.

Here’s how to use KPIs. Make sure you’re providing comprehensive enough information. Someone should be able to understand them well enough to gain insight quickly.

Here’s when to use KPIs. Provide KPIs to individuals at your organization in a timely manner. The information should be up-to-date. And it should have enough context to be meaningful.

Applying KPIs in the right way at the right time can:

  • Improve worker productivity
  • Increase potential for operational improvements
  • Identify of problem areas
  • Facilitate incremental goal setting

For example, marketing teams can quickly look at conversion rates to get an idea for the effectiveness of their efforts. If conversions are low, they can investigate the issue. They can gather more detailed data and asking critical questions, such as whether they're targeting the most promising leads or if a more comprehensive overhaul of strategies is in order. 

Not Sure How to Use KPIs?

See how Urban Outfitters used Sequel Data Access to find and track their key performance indicators (KPIs). 

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