A KPI report is a great place to get proper measures in place.
Not only do you have to select the KPIs that are appropriate for your industry (i.e., municipal KPIs aren’t going to work in the financial sector), you also have to figure out how to report on them appropriately and accurately. This can be a tough step, but it’s an undeniably important one.
Below is everything you need to know about KPI reports, including what a KPI report is, why it’s critical to your company’s success, and the most important elements to include in one. As a bonus, we’ve also included five KPI libraries you can use to guide your organization’s performance management efforts. Start reading below, or use the Table Of Contents to skip to a particular section.
In order to understand why KPIs are important (and thus, be able to create a successful report) you need to have a clear definition of what a KPI is.
Every organization has objectives, or high-level company goals. Key performance indicators (KPIs)—also called “strategic measures”—are both actions and tools of measurement used to monitor the progress toward achieving these objectives.
In its simplest form, a KPI is a measurement device that helps you understand how your organization is doing in regard to its goals. Effective KPIs are actionable, crucial, and easily communicated throughout the organization.
So why are KPIs important? Because they act as a proxy between your organization and the goals you’re looking to achieve.
Any strategic planning discussion is likely to include some specific terminology that, unless there’s a common understanding between participants, can potentially be confusing. In this case, KPIs, metrics, and goals are all related terms that can make things a little murky. Here’s some clarification:
Goals (also sometimes called objectives) are key elements of your strategy that describe the behavior you want to see in your organization. They are high-level and typically conveyed as an action statement. For example: Our goal is to improve fundraising.
KPIs, metrics, and measures are synonyms—they all refer to indicators of progress that you track as part of executing your strategic plan. They are more measurable and clearly defined than goals. An example KPI for the goal listed above would be the total dollar amount of donations.
That said, some organizations may use the terms KPIs, metrics, and measures distinctly. In that case, KPIs might be the top 10 measures for the organization; measures are the tangible numbers you can get from tracking information; and metrics are the intangible, less concrete indicators of performance. But in the world of strategy planning, they all have the same meaning.
Tracking is a key element of strategy reporting—you need to consistently collect the data associated with your identified KPIs in order to understand progress, and then report on that progress regularly to stakeholders. Two useful tools for evaluating measure statuses are KPI reports and KPI dashboards.
A dashboard is a type of report, so sometimes you might see these terms used interchangeably. But there is a slight difference in these tools, as explained below.
A KPI dashboard offers a highly visual, bird’s-eye view of performance levels. It usually provides a collection of various metrics in one location and presents data in various chart formats. Since the primary function of a KPI dashboard is to give an at-a-glance summary of performance (with no deep-dive analysis), stakeholders often refer to them frequently—even daily—to see how they are progressing toward their goals.
Different stakeholders have different goals and organizational areas of focus. Use dashboards to provide them with the context and specific information they need about your KPIs. Examples of some common KPI dashboards are:
Overall KPI Dashboard
An overall KPI dashboard shows the status of the highest priority measures. The strategy team and executive leaders are the audience for this dashboard—the format makes it easy for them to quickly understand KPI status and progress in order to make informed decisions.
This is an overall KPI dashboard. You can build specific KPI dashboards for each department, as we’ll show you below.
Executive dashboards are focused on high-level performance. Your organization’s senior leaders need to see a clear snapshot of the status of strategic (versus operational) KPIs. The dashboard should condense broad sets of relevant information so executives can make analytical decisions that relate to strategic goals.
A financial dashboard includes KPIs related to revenue, profit margins, expenses, operational costs, etc. Any measure or project tied to your organization’s financial health would appear here, including charts that show progress on strategic financial goals and priorities. The audience for this dashboard would be the finance team and executive board.
See how individual departments, ranging from sales to account management, are performing with customer-related metrics using a department performance dashboard. This dashboard has a narrower focus than the previous examples. It showcases a specific department’s key performance metrics, projects, and goals, but can be tied to the organization’s overall strategic goals and KPIs. The audience for this dashboard is department leaders and the executive team.
Human Capital Dashboard
KPIs around recruitment, retention, and employee performance and productivity can be displayed in an HR dashboard. These dashboards are unique because they often show metrics at varying levels, ranging from organization-wide data with the ability to drill down into team and individual information. The HR leadership team would be the audience for this dashboard.
Local Government Dashboard
KPI dashboards can also be tailored by industry. Local government dashboards are often used for benchmarking. Once a municipality has created its KPIs, it’s helpful to compare progress and performance to other, similarly sized governments. This helps organizations set realistic, achievable strategies and goals. The audience for this type of dashboard would be the city council, as well as community members.
Healthcare is another industry that relies on dashboards to report to various stakeholders that the organization is meeting certain standards and providing high-quality service to the public. Healthcare reporting dashboards focus on the operational performance of the facility and its staff. The audience is the healthcare department’s executive team.
Keep in mind that every organization will need to customize its dashboards, depending on the goals and the audience you’re providing information to. Having a software like ClearPoint that’s flexible enough to allow you to build as many dashboards as you want, without duplicating information, is really important.
A KPI report provides a more detailed look at performance levels. It includes more data points, usually in grid style, for analysis purposes. KPI reports are a great way to display data over time so you can identify trends. They are also a good mechanism for housing qualitative analysis around performance. For example, if your organization didn’t meet a certain KPI target in the first quarter of 2021 due to the lingering effects of COVID, that commentary could be included in a KPI report.
The report below, for example, shows measures in the far left column, followed by reporting frequency, measure owner, monthly status updates, and RAG status. Summary views like these work best for financial personnel or others who are number-oriented.
Another example of a KPI report is the “Red Alert” report. It highlights all “red” or critical measures, including who owns them, the context behind them, and when someone last updated them. This is a great tool for team accountability, so you can determine who’s responsible for these metrics, whether they’re providing updates and helping the metric along, etc.
Let’s walk through the essential elements based on the below report template, for a KPI focused on increasing website visits and contacts.
Objectives: As previously stated, objectives are high-level company goals. The reason you’re tracking a KPI in the first place is to ensure that this particular goal is met. It should be stated in your KPI report so you keep in mind why you’re tracking a particular KPI or what you’re trying to improve in regard to your strategy. The objective listed here is to gain “new visits and contacts.” As you can see, your objective is brief and straightforward. You shouldn’t include excessive detail and reasoning at this level.
Status Icon: A colored indicator next to your objective (a yellow square, in our example) shows the current KPI status, in a quick glance. This icon can be updated from reporting period to reporting period, using easily understood red, yellow, and green visual indicators.
Measure Source and Formula: You can think of a “measure” and a “KPI” as one and the same. In our example, the report includes the measure itself and where you can find the data source that’s used to monitor and measure this KPI: The measure is the number of new visits and total new contacts, with the CRM system providing the data. There is no formula that needs to be applied to the data source involved in this example, but if there was, it would appear in this section as well. Remember, this step needs to be actionable, crucial, and easily communicated across the organization.
Measure Intent: This section should explain the why factor. When a KPI that lines up with a particular objective has been decided upon, the team assigned and the KPI owner should be able to describe (in detail) why they made the choice they did—and what tracking this KPI will reveal. In this case, the measure will help stakeholders understand the effectiveness of marketing efforts to attract and convert site visitors.
Measure Data: This is the actual data you’re using to track your KPI (CRM data, in this case). To make your life easy, build calculations to automatically show percentages. This section shows measure data in a list view, versus more graphic presentations...that’s next.
Graph: With every KPI, you have to determine how you’re going to share the information that you collect. For example, is it more important to see target, actual or your year-to-date performance, or a benchmark? Decide what is most valuable and create a meaningful chart with that information. Make sure you’re consistent and use the same chart each month, quarter, or year, so the team can track performance over time. Our example includes two visuals—an area chart displaying visits by quarter and a bar graph showing tiered contacts by month. In ClearPoint, you can add as many charts as you’d like, but only create what you need to best communicate your results.
Analysis: This section explains the qualitative reasoning behind the current status of the KPI. The KPI owner provides context that can’t be ascertained from the other sections of the report. Using language like “another record-breaking month” and “focus on converting a higher percentage” serves as further explanation of the KPIs’ status and progress.
Owner: To be successful, every KPI needs an “owner” who is tasked with tracking it—this establishes accountability. The owner can delegate reporting pieces to others as needed, but is ultimately responsible for this KPI. Clearly state the owner in this section.
Using both tools—KPI reports and dashboards—in tandem will help your organization better define and track the numbers you want to hit. KPI reports of any kind allow your organization to improve performance by efficiently tracking progress against targets. Having the ability to quickly visualize how your company is performing (through a dashboard) and analyze the detailed data (through a report) are the keys to staying on track over the long term.
Also, keep in mind the other elements that go along with KPI reporting: assigning an owner to be responsible for each KPI, continuously analyzing your overall objectives, and presenting the data on a regular basis. Without all these elements in place, you shouldn’t count on reaching your goals anytime soon.
Ready to get started creating your first KPI report? To do it right, follow these steps:
1. First, determine your audience.
Is it executive leadership, department heads, single department members, or some other group? Your answer will determine the type and level of information they need. Also, be mindful of how often your audience will be viewing the report—on an annual basis or every month? Nail down this information before moving on, because it will also impact the following two decisions as well.
2. Determine the different KPIs the audience needs to view.
Be thoughtful about what you’re showing on the report. People tend to report on data just because they have it, but the problem with showing too much data is that insights can easily get buried. Keeping your audience in mind, choose KPIs that are relevant for the audience and are most impactful in reaching your goals. Save the rest for another report—or another audience.
3. Determine the different fields this audience would find helpful.
When you track a KPI, you’re probably tracking several different things about it (various data points, qualitative analysis, visualizations, etc.)—we call these “fields” in the strategy reporting world (you may have heard of this as metadata in other contexts). In most cases, you don’t need to show all the fields in every report. Instead, think about which fields will be most helpful and relevant to your audience. For example, you might have a “description” field that explains the meaning of “total dollar amount of donations.” External audiences might need the description information to understand the KPI, but internal audiences likely would not. And will they need to review individual data points or just summary calculations? Whatever you decide, keep it simple.
4. Use ClearPoint to create and format the report.
Reporting takes time. If you’re serious about creating truly useful strategy reports that your organization can rely on as part of its strategy execution efforts, it’s well worth the investment to employ KPI monitoring and reporting software that can help you do that in a minimal amount of time.
ClearPoint already houses all your important strategic data, making it fast and easy to assemble meaningful KPI reports of all kinds. In fact, our reporting feature dramatically cuts down the time you spend building reports, while providing more insights than any other program. In just a few minutes, you can create exactly the type of report you need with exactly the information you want, whether it’s a high-level dashboard or a detailed KPI report. Our users also benefit from:
With ClearPoint, you’ll always be able to answer the question “How are we doing?” quickly, which leads us to the next important discussion: what to do when you’re missing KPI targets.
It's happened to the best of us. Your KPI monitoring indicates that things are going well, but all of a sudden, your KPI reporting metrics turn against you. As a manager, you have to take the heat. Here is a solid five-step process to turn those numbers around.
1. First, don’t panic.
If there’s one thing that “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” taught us, it’s “Don’t panic.” (That, and “Bring a towel.”) Once you’re calm, you can begin to look at the root causes of the issue at hand.
2. Second, communicate, communicate, communicate.
Yes, it’s bad news. Yes, it’s scary when your key performance indicators turn against you. But what’s worse than bad news? Bad news when it’s too late to do anything about it. Every big problem starts with a small problem. So let your boss know that something is rotten in Denmark. Never try to sweep it under the rug. We all know how that story ends. Great leaders have to overcome great adversity. This is your challenge.
3. Third, break it down.
Look at the problem dispassionately, like those expensive consultants your boss hired a few years back. Is this a sales problem? If so, is it a problem everywhere, or in just one place? Is it a problem with a specific product or service? Look into the numbers. If it’s costs, what costs? When? How much? Anticipate the questions your boss might ask. Find the answers.
4. Fourth, build a plan.
Once you’ve done some analysis and have figured out what the problem is, start thinking about alternatives. What can we do? What should we do? Start making plans to FIX the issue. Don’t focus on blame or on a flaw in the reporting process – focus on solutions. Bosses love people who solve their problems. Be one of these people. Say, “we’re getting beaten on sales in Wisconsin. But here’s how we can fix it…”
5. Fifth, execute the plan.
A plan is great. A man, a plan, a canal, Panama! But a plan is only as good as the team that executes it. Once you have a plan – a good enough plan – start working on executing it. Build the team, task the team, manage the team. That’s what management is all about. Problem solving. Doing more with less. Finding creative ways to do things.
6. Finally, learn from it.
Stuff happens. Even to nice people. And that’s just the way it is. But learn from the “stuff.” Look beyond the short-term fix to the fundamental issue. If you’ve identified a problem, figure out a way to solve not only that problem, but all the problems that that problem could create. Always be learning, and always be growing as a manager.
When you monitor your KPIs in a tool like ClearPoint, you'll know as soon as your KPI turns red so you can create a plan of action to get it back on track right away.
If you’re looking for some examples to get started, here are a number of KPI libraries you can download from our resource center:
Financial measures are important in every organization—even nonprofits and municipalities. Staying on top of your finances by monitoring the right key performance indicators is critical.
Consider these examples of financial metrics:
Your customers are the lifeblood of your company, so it’s smart to monitor metrics that will help you understand if (a) your customers are purchasing from you regularly, and (b) your marketing or product development efforts are impacting sales.
Consider these examples of customer metrics:
Top organizations all over the world are constantly trying to retain the best talent—and their ability to do so is a major indicator of company success.
Consider these examples of HR metrics:
It isn’t possible to determine whether you’re achieving your local government strategic plan without the use of KPIs. But municipalities often struggle to pinpoint the most important metrics to track and examine.
Consider these examples of municipal KPIs:
Many healthcare companies are the U.S. and around the globe have experienced major changes in their business model in the last 10 years. In order to meet new and constantly changing standards, many health-related organizations are using KPIs to evaluate progress toward their goals.
Consider these examples of healthcare KPIs:
Building KPI reports and dashboards isn’t as lengthy of a process as you think. To be successful with organizational strategy, you have to take the necessary steps and get S.M.A.R.T with your KPI tracking. The extra effort will pay off once you’ve successfully achieved your company goals. In the meantime, if you’d like to talk with someone on the ClearPoint team about how you can improve your KPI monitoring and management, please reach out—we’d love to hear from you!
RJ drives new business for ClearPoint, guiding prospective clients through the sales process.