A person working at a desktop computer

What are KPI dashboards?

KPI dashboards are tools that unite data sources and provide at-a-glance visual feedback showing how your business is performing against your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Benefits of a comprehensive KPI tool

KPI dashboards provide users with:

  • A fast, easy solution to tracking KPIs and other business metrics.
  • A unified view of data that improves visibility into company health.
  • Customisable data visualisation with performance and status indicators.

By building your KPI dashboard with the same tool or platform that you use to define your KPIs, you’ll have everything you need in the same place. As you modify your KPI definitions, data sources, or targets, these updates will populate automatically into your dashboards—saving you valuable time and effort.

What is a KPI?

A key performance indicator is a measurable value that shows how effectively you’re meeting your goals. Think of KPIs as your company’s scorecard, a way of measuring whether or not you’re delivering on your objectives.

Why KPIs matter

Identifying and tracking KPIs lets you know if your business is on the right path—or if you should change course to avoid losing valuable time and money. When used properly, KPIs are powerful tools that help you:

  • Monitor company financial health.
  • Measure progress against strategic goals.
  • Spot problems early on.
  • Make timely adjustments to tactics.
  • Motivate team members.
  • Make better decisions, faster.

So how do you begin to identify the KPIs that are important to your business? Start by clarifying your strategic objectives—collectively or by department.

These goals will help you identify which KPIs matter for your company. Picking KPIs that are relevant will depend entirely on these objectives and the ability you have to measure your performance against them.

Next, identify the KPI targets that you’re working towards, and how they’ll be measured. Keep in mind that these could be both short- and long-term targets.

Talk to your team and encourage open dialogue about the KPIs and their targets. Are they too aggressive? Too easy? Targets should be challenging, but if they’re too far-fetched or rely entirely on metrics that your team doesn’t control, it would be wise to revisit. You’ll also want to explore the activities and tactics your company will use to achieve those targets. Lastly, take time to evaluate where you are today—this will be your KPI starting point.

Get to know the different types of KPIs

Identifying which KPIs you should track becomes easier when you have a better understanding of the types of KPIs that are most commonly used to measure progress.

  • Quantitative KPIs are all about measurable facts that can be represented with a number. Think stats, percentages, and pound signs.
  • Qualitative KPIs involve human interpretations and can’t be quantified with numbers. Think opinions, feelings, and experiences.
  • Lagging KPIs measure what’s already happened in the past to predict success or failure. Think of looking back at what you’ve already accomplished, or where you’ve struggled.
  • Leading KPIs measure performance to predict future success and long-term trends. Think of looking forward to where you’re headed.

Leading and lagging KPIs are commonly used together. Along with quantitative and qualitative KPIs, they’re a good place to start.

For each KPI that you choose to track, assign an owner and agree on tracking frequency. Whatever KPIs you decide to track, using a KPI platform or tool is key for collaborating with your team on KPI definitions. By collectively defining each KPI, then capturing contextual data and unifying it into a single view, you enable spot-on, real-time actions.

KPI dashboard examples

Effective KPI dashboards bring together all the KPIs you need to track your strategic goals, establishing a visual representation of all your relevant metrics side by side, in one place. Take a look at these KPI dashboard examples and consider some of the key associated metrics you’d likely want to track:

Marketing effectiveness

  • Keyword performance
  • Average time on page
  • Conversion rate
  • Average lead score
  • Website traffic lead ratio

Customer service

  • Customer satisfaction score
  • Cost per call
  • First response time
  • Customer retention rate
  • Average resolution time

Financial health

  • Profit and loss
  • Current ratio
  • Operating cash flow
  • Burn rate
  • Supplier expenses

IT performance

  • Mean time to repair
  • Server downtime
  • IT ROI
  • Unsolved tickets per employee
  • Projects delivered within budget

KPI reporting

KPI reports take the information presented on the KPI dashboard to a new level. They go deeper into the data to pull out more detailed insights and analysis.

A KPI report helps stakeholders and team members identify trends or bottlenecks over a specific time period, so that they’re able to make better decisions. Reporting topics could include:

  • Insights into the company’s day-to-day operations.
  • Financial health of the company against targeted KPIs.
  • Notable trends or patterns presented by the data.
  • Deeper analysis of the data to assist with strategic decision-making.

To create your KPI report, first determine your audience and the objective for the report. For example, you might want to show company stakeholders Q3 progress towards your revenue target. Make sure that all the KPIs featured in your report point back to that central theme.

Additional considerations for creating your KPI reports include:

  • Exploring KPI report templates that may be already included in your KPI tool or platform.
  • Setting a cadence for reporting frequency.
  • Deciding whether your report will be static or interactive, for more dynamic drilldowns into data.
  • Presenting only the relevant KPIs so you don’t overload the report with KPIs that don’t map back to the reporting goals.
  • Making sure your reporting is clear, easy to understand, and actionable for the intended audience.

KPI best practices

To help you successfully harness the power of KPIs, we’ve compiled a few tips to get you started.

Identifying KPIs:

  • Only pick KPIs that are aligned to your specific goals. If your objectives aren’t clear, matching KPIs against them will prove complicated.
  • Use different KPIs for the same goals if they stretch across departments—for example, the marketing department will have different KPIs than the sales team.
  • Make sure that for whatever KPIs you pick, there’s a core team responsible for defining them.

Monitoring KPIs:

  • Explore the different dashboards, visualisation charts, and templates available in your KPI tool or platform to select the right ones for your goals.
  • Make sure to include starting data for comparison, so that your dashboard shows a true representation of company performance and progress over time.
  • Determine a cadence for monitoring and acting on KPIs. Are KPI dashboards monitored daily or weekly? Do actions only come after reporting or are stakeholders and/or team members empowered to adjust tactics along the way?
  • Be sure you have simple, end-to-end data protection for data dashboards, with controls for sharing outside the organisation.

Common KPI mistakes

Avoid these common KPI mistakes:

  1. Selecting KPIs that aren’t key to your strategic goals. While it’s smart to track your relevant business metrics, not all of your metrics are worthy of KPI status.
  2. Adopting poorly defined or vague KPIs. Collaborate with your team to define the KPIs with specific details on how they’ll be measured. If you don’t, you’ll struggle to meet your goals.
  3. Setting lofty or unrealistic KPI targets. It’s better to set more realistic targets based on historical data, resources, and current tactics. Consider focusing on a specific timeframe or set short- and long-term targets.
  4. Tracking KPIs without owners. Accountability matters, not just for the results but also for the process. Each KPI should have an owner responsible for monitoring, reporting, analysis, and action.
  5. Failing to take action on your KPIs. Whether you’re meeting your goals or falling behind, KPIs are tools to help you make better decisions. So don’t track just for tracking’s sake—take action.

Bring your data to life with Microsoft Power BI

Make complex topics more compelling and accessible with eye-catching, interactive data visualisations tailored to your organisation and industry.