What is the meaning of KPI ? Define the right Key Performance Indicators

kpi: use and risks
KPI meaning is Key Performance Indicator. It is a quantitative measure used to assess the effectiveness of an organisation, department, project or individual in achieving key objectives. Key Performance Indicators provide an overview of performance and progress towards specific objectives.

What are Key Performance Indicators used for?

Key performance indicators (KPIs) serve several essential purposes within a company. As measurement tools, they enable organisations to monitor and analyse their performance and progress in relation to their defined objectives. They can also be used to engage and motivate staff:

  1. Measuring performance: KPIs provide a quantitative view of performance in various areas of the business. Whether it's financial, operational or customer service performance, KPIs make it possible to measure and monitor the effectiveness of the company's operations.
  2. Facilitate decision-making: KPIs provide data that can help inform decision-making. By assessing current performance using KPIs, managers can identify areas for improvement or adjustment.
  3. Align objectives and strategies: KPIs act as a link between the company's strategic objectives and day-to-day actions. They enable the whole organisation to understand what it needs to achieve and how its efforts contribute to the company's overall objectives.
  4. Motivate and engage staff: KPIs can be an excellent tool for motivating staff. When employees have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, what their team needs to achieve and how this aligns with the company's overall objectives, it can motivate them to give their best. In addition, measuring and monitoring performance can encourage a healthy competitive spirit and foster a culture of continuous improvement.
  5. Identify problems and opportunities: By regularly monitoring KPIs, companies can quickly identify problems that could be undermining their performance. They can also identify opportunities for growth and improvement.

The different types of KPI definition

Key Performance Indicators can be grouped into different categories, depending on what they measure:
  1. Financial KPIs: These indicators measure a company's financial performance. Examples: sales, gross margin, net profit, etc.
  2. Operational KPIs: These KPIs focus on the performance of the company's day-to-day operations. Examples: production cycle time, defect rate, customer satisfaction rate, etc.
  3. Strategic KPIs: These performance indicators measure an organisation's success in achieving its long-term strategic objectives. Examples: market share, annual growth rate, customer loyalty rate, etc.
  4. HR KPIs (Human Resources): These KPIs assess employee performance and the effectiveness of HR policies. Examples: staff turnover rate, absenteeism rate, employee satisfaction rate, etc.

How do you define the right KPIs?

Defining effective and relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) is essential to ensure their usefulness as performance measurement tools. Here are some criteria to help establish effective KPIs:
  • Specific and Aligned: KPIs should be aligned with the company's strategic objectives. Each KPI should help measure progress towards a specific objective. If the KPI does not correspond directly to a business objective, it may not be relevant.
  • Measurable: A good KPI should be quantifiable. You should be able to measure it objectively, leaving no room for interpretation or ambiguity.
  • Realistic: KPIs must be achievable. They should represent objectives that can be achieved by the company, given its resources and capabilities.
  • Relevant: KPIs must be relevant to the department, team or individual monitoring them. They must be directly linked to the work that this entity carries out.
  • Timely: A KPI must have a clearly defined timetable. There must be a defined deadline or frequency of measurement, whether daily, weekly, monthly or annually.
  • Understandable: KPIs must be clear and easily understood by all those who use them. Avoid technical jargon wherever possible and make sure that every member of the team understands what the KPI measures and how.
  • Actionable: An effective KPI should lead to action. If the results of a KPI indicate a problem, it must be possible to take action to remedy it.
In fact, the KPIs must meet the requirements of the definition of objectives, in particular the SMART objectives methodology (the first 5 criteria correspond to this methodology) and the balanced Scorecard methodology.
For more details on the definition of objectives and the structure of objectives, see our detailed viewpoint "How to define the right objectives".

Examples of KPIs by function

Here are some KPI examples for different functions within an organisation:

  1. KPI examples for the marketing department :
    • Lead conversion rate
    • Cost per customer acquisition (CPA)
    • Customer satisfaction
    • Brand awareness
    • Return on marketing investment (ROI)
    • Click-through rate (CTR)
    • Email open rate
    • Website bounce rate
    • Customer loyalty rate
  2. KPI examples for the sales department :
    • Turnover
    • Sales closing rate
    • Average transaction size
    • Sales cycle
    • Contract renewal rate
    • Number of new customers acquired
  3. KPI examples for the Customer service department :
    • First contact resolution rate
    • Average response time
    • Customer satisfaction rate
    • Customer retention rate
    • Customer complaint rate
  4. KPI examples for the Human Resources (HR) department :
    • Employee retention rate
    • Absenteeism rate
    • Recruitment cost per employee
    • Time to fill a position
    • Employee engagement rate
  5. KPI examples for the production department :
    • Efficiency rate
    • Production cycle time
    • Defect rate
    • Production capacity utilisation
    • Production cost per unit
  6. KPI examples for the finance department :
    1. Sales
    2. Gross margin
    3. Net profit
    4. Return on investment (ROI)
    5. Liquidity ratio
    6. Cost of debt

What are the risks of using KPIs and how can you limit them?

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are valuable tools for measuring performance and supporting decision-making within a company. However, there are certain risks associated with their use that it is important to understand and manage in order to ensure their effectiveness. Here are six major risks associated with the use of KPIs and strategies for mitigating them:
  • Choosing irrelevant KPIs: The risk is selecting KPIs that are not aligned with the company's strategic objectives, which can lead to a misunderstanding of performance and misguided decisions. To mitigate this risk, ensure that each KPI is directly linked to a strategic business objective and contributes to a better understanding of how the business is progressing towards those objectives.
  • Too many KPIs: Using too many KPIs can dilute attention and make it difficult to prioritise efforts. To limit this risk, it is advisable to focus on a limited number of KPIs that really give an accurate picture of the company's performance.
  • Data manipulation: KPIs can sometimes encourage the manipulation of data in order to achieve set objectives. To mitigate this risk, it is important to establish clear standards and verification processes to ensure data integrity. It is also essential to promote a culture of transparency and integrity.
  • Ignoring context: KPIs can give a reduced view of the situation if they are used without taking into account the overall context. To avoid this, it is essential to use KPIs alongside other forms of analysis and to take the wider context into account when interpreting them.
  • Excessive pressure on employees: KPIs can sometimes create excessive pressure on employees to meet certain targets, which can lead to stress and a decline in job satisfaction. To mitigate this risk, it is crucial to encourage a balance between meeting KPIs and other important aspects of the job. Employees need to feel supported and have the resources they need to manage stress.
  • Being governed by KPIs: The risk is of becoming too focused on the numbers to the point of ignoring other important aspects of the business that cannot be easily measured by KPIs. To avoid this, it's important to understand that KPIs are tools to help guide decision-making, not ends in themselves. They need to be complemented by informed human judgement and an understanding of the wider context.

How should KPIs be defined and implemented?

Defining and implementing key performance indicators (KPIs) is a process that requires not only a thorough understanding of the company's strategic objectives, but also a high level of collaboration between different teams and managers. Here is a six-step approach that highlights the importance of this collaboration:

  1. Understanding the company's objectives: This is the crucial first step in defining the KPIs. It involves working closely with the company's senior management to gain a clear understanding of the strategic objectives. These discussions will help to ensure that the KPIs selected are aligned with the company's objectives.
  2. Identify key performance measures: Once the business objectives are clearly understood, the next step is to identify the performance measures that will help monitor progress towards these objectives. This step should involve the relevant business teams who will be responsible for measuring and achieving these KPIs. The measures must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART).
  3. Define the KPIs: With the help of the teams concerned, the KPIs can be defined. This involves deciding on the target values for each KPI, and determining how these values will be measured. Involving the teams at this stage will ensure a sense of ownership and commitment to the KPIs.
  4. Establish data collection tools and processes: At this stage, it is crucial to define how data will be collected, analysed and reported. The teams involved need to work together to select the appropriate tools to collect the necessary data and define the processes to ensure that the data is collected consistently and accurately.
  5. Communicate the KPIs: Once the KPIs have been defined, they need to be communicated to all relevant stakeholders. This is a key stage where leadership and teams work together to ensure that everyone understands the importance of the KPIs, how they will be measured and how they will contribute to achieving the company's objectives.
  6. Monitor and review KPIs: Finally, once the KPIs are in place, they need to be monitored regularly. This requires ongoing collaboration between teams to ensure that the data is being collected correctly and that the KPIs are still relevant. If the KPIs are not providing the expected information, or if the company's objectives change, the teams will need to work together to revise the KPIs.


In conclusion, key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential tools for measuring a company's performance and the achievement of its objectives. They play a decisive role in setting priorities, informing decision-making and motivating employees.
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Friday, 01 March 2024