What Are Business KPIs? Types and Examples

What Are Business KPIs? Types and Examples

KPIs: What Are Key Performance Indicators? Types and Examples

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) serve as crucial metrics for evaluating an organization’s progress towards its goals. They provide valuable insights into performance, enabling informed decision-making. In this guide, we’ll delve into the significance of KPIs, their types, examples, and the process of creating and utilizing them effectively.

1. What Are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?

KPIs are quantifiable measures that reflect the success of an organization in achieving its objectives. These indicators vary across industries and are tailored to align with specific goals, whether they relate to financial performance, customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, or other strategic areas.

Also known as key success indicators (KSIs), KPIs differ across companies and industries based on specific performance criteria. For instance, a software company aiming for the highest growth in its sector might prioritize year-over-year (YOY) revenue growth as its primary performance indicator. On the other hand, a retail chain might give more importance to same-store sales as the most relevant KPI metric for assessing growth.

At the core of KPIs lies the process of collecting, storing, cleaning, and synthesizing data. This information can be financial or non-financial and may pertain to any department within the company. The ultimate goal of KPIs is to convey results concisely, enabling management to make more informed strategic decisions.

Example of KPIs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are essentially goals that you strive to accomplish. To simplify, consider owning an apple stand with the aim of selling 1,000 apples this month. This becomes your KPI. Whether you sell 250 apples per week or all 1,000 in the first three days, the goal is to reach that 1,000 mark. Monitoring your progress becomes easier, like when it’s the second week of September and you’ve sold 550 apples – you can check your KPI to gauge if you’re on track.

In business, KPIs can be broad, assessing overall performance, such as achieving $1M in annual recurring revenue for the fiscal year. On a more detailed level, KPIs can delve into specific departmental, team, or individual processes.

2. Categories of KPIs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be broadly classified into four distinct categories, each exhibiting unique characteristics, time frames, and target users.

Strategic KPIs

Strategic KPIs are high-level performance measurements that align with the overall strategic goals and objectives of the organization. These KPIs are critical for assessing the long-term success and direction of the company. For Example, Increasing the company’s market share by 5% in the next fiscal year to establish a stronger position within the industry.

Operational KPIs

Operational KPIs are metrics that focus on the day-to-day processes and activities within the organization. These KPIs are essential for evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of operational procedures. For Example, Reducing the average order processing time from 48 hours to 24 hours to enhance order fulfillment speed and customer satisfaction.

Functional KPIs

Functional KPIs are specific to individual departments or functions within the organization, such as sales, marketing, customer service, or production. These KPIs help measure the performance and impact of each functional area on the overall business objectives. For Example, Increasing the conversion rate of website visitors to customers from 2% to 4% through targeted marketing campaigns and website optimization efforts.

Leading and lagging KPIs

Leading and lagging Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) provide insights into whether the analyzed data is indicative of future events or reflective of past occurrences. Take, for instance, two distinct KPIs: overtime hours worked and profit margin for a flagship product. The quantity of overtime hours worked can serve as a leading indicator if the company starts observing a decline in manufacturing quality. Conversely, profit margins, being a consequence of operational activities, are categorized as lagging indicators.

3. Types of KPIs

Financial KPIs

These KPIs are critical in measuring the financial health and performance of a company. They provide insights into a company’s profitability, liquidity, solvency, efficiency, and investment potential. They help stakeholders understand how well a company uses its resources to generate income and growth.

Examples of Financial Metrics and KPIs include:

  • Gross Profit Margin
  • Net Profit Margin
  • Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Economic Value Added (EVA)
  • Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA)
  • Operating Cash Flow

Customer Experience KPIs

These KPIs focus on assessing the overall experience and satisfaction of customers with a company’s products or services. They provide insights into customer loyalty, satisfaction, and engagement. They help companies understand their customers’ needs and expectations, and identify areas for improvement to enhance customer retention and acquisition.

Examples of Customer Experience Metrics and KPIs include:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
  • Customer Churn Rate
  • First Call Resolution (FCR)

Process Performance KPIs

These KPIs are used to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes. They provide insights into the performance of key processes, helping to identify bottlenecks, improve workflows, and optimize resource use. They are essential for ensuring operational excellence and competitiveness.

Examples of Process Performance Metrics and KPIs include:

  • Time to Market (TTM)
  • First-Time-Right Rate
  • Process Downtime
  • Efficiency Ratio
  • Cycle Time
  • Yield Rate

Marketing KPIs

These KPIs measure the effectiveness and return on investment of marketing campaigns and initiatives. They provide insights into brand awareness, lead generation, conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, and customer lifetime value. They help marketers make data-driven decisions and optimize their marketing strategies.

Example of Marketing KPIs include:

  • Monthly website traffic
  • Page likes and comments
  • Social media engagement rates
  • Number of new monthly leads
  • Click-through rate percentage


These KPIs gauge the performance and effectiveness of IT functions and systems. They provide insights into system reliability, security, user satisfaction, and the efficiency of IT processes. They help IT teams to ensure uninterrupted business operations, optimize IT resources and processes, and align IT initiatives with business goals.

Example of IT KPIs include:

  • System Uptime
  • Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)
  • Incident Resolution Time
  • Help Desk Response Time
  • Percentage of IT Spending Against Revenue
  • Application Performance

Sales KPIs

These KPIs assess the performance and effectiveness of sales teams and strategies. They provide insights into sales growth, revenue, sales cycle length, deal size, and quota attainment. They help sales leaders to drive sales performance, manage sales pipelines, and plan sales strategies.

Examples of Sales KPIs include:

  • Monthly sales growth
  • Monthly customers per sales rep
  • Quarterly sales bookings
  • Number of engaged leads in sales funnel
  • Average conversion time

Human Resource and Staffing KPIs

These KPIs measure the effectiveness and efficiency of HR processes and staffing strategies. They provide insights into employee engagement, productivity, retention, and development. They help HR leaders to attract, retain, and develop talent, and create a positive workplace culture.

Examples of Human Resource and Staffing KPIs include:

  • Monthly overtime hours
  • Quarterly training costs
  • Cost per new hire
  • Employee productivity
  • Monthly absenteeism rate

4.   KPI Levels

Companies utilize KPIs to monitor and evaluate their performance across different levels.

Starting with company-wide KPIs, these are metrics that provide a high-level overview of the overall health and performance of the business. They are often tied to the company’s strategic objectives and offer insights into whether these goals are being met. Examples of company-wide KPIs include measures like total revenue, net profit margins, or customer retention rates, which reflect the overall success of the business.

Moving a level deeper, department-level KPIs come into play. These are more specific indicators that focus on the performance and efficiency of individual departments within the organization like sales, marketing, HR, finance, or operations. These KPIs help track the progress of each department towards its specific goals, which in turn contribute to the overall company objectives. For instance, the sales department might monitor KPIs such as quarterly sales growth, while HR could be tracking employee turnover rates.

The third level involves digging even deeper into project-level or subdepartment-level KPIs. These metrics measure the success of particular projects, teams, or initiatives within a department. They provide detailed insights into the effectiveness of specific tasks and processes, helping identify areas for improvement and ensuring that every aspect of the operation is aligned with broader company goals. For instance, a marketing team might have a project-level KPI for a specific campaign, such as the number of leads generated or the conversion rate.

By utilizing KPIs across these three levels, companies can gain a comprehensive understanding of their performance from multiple perspectives. This helps inform decision-making at all levels of the organization and ensures alignment between individual, departmental, and company-wide goals.

5What is the best way to measure KPI?

You may be wondering, “How can I assess my company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?” The most effective approach is to employ the SMART framework.

What is the SMART framework?

The SMART framework is a set of guidelines that ensure your KPIs are effective. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Specific: Your KPI should target a precise area for improvement. It could be anything from sales to customer satisfaction or website traffic.
  • Measurable: Your KPI needs to be quantifiable. This means it should provide clear data, like percentages, to track progress.
  • Attainable: Your KPI should be realistic. It’s essential to set achievable targets within a given timeframe, rather than aiming for impossible figures.
  • Relevant: Your KPI should align with your business objectives and focus on critical success areas.
  • Time-bound: Your KPI should have a set timeframe. Whether it’s monthly, quarterly, or yearly, having a fixed duration helps with performance tracking and growth comparison.

The SMART framework can be further expanded into SMARTER by including evaluation and re-evaluation steps. Regularly checking your KPIs ensures they remain relevant, attainable, and on track.

6. What Makes a Good KPI?

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. But not all KPIs are created equal. Here’s what makes a KPI effective:

Alignment with Strategic Goals

An effective KPI should align with your organization’s strategic goals and objectives. It should reflect what your business wants to achieve and how it plans to do so. This alignment ensures that everyone in the organization understands what’s important and works towards the same targets.

Actionable Insights

A good KPI provides actionable insights. It should guide decision-making and influence behavior. If a KPI reveals a discrepancy between a goal and current performance, there should be clear actions that can be taken to address this gap.


A KPI should be easily understood by everyone in the organization, regardless of their role or level of expertise. It should be defined in simple terms and communicated clearly. This ensures that everyone knows what the KPI represents and how their actions contribute to its achievement.


The KPI should be relevant to the department, team, or individual responsible for its achievement. It should be closely tied to their work and influenceable by their actions. Irrelevant KPIs can lead to frustration and wasted effort.

Timely and Measurable

Good KPIs should be measurable and updated frequently enough to provide timely feedback. They should allow for tracking progress over time, which helps in making adjustments as necessary.

Encourages Performance Improvement

Finally, an effective KPI encourages performance improvement. It should challenge teams or individuals to improve their work and achieve better results. By setting a benchmark for success, a good KPI motivates and drives performance.

7.   How to Set a Good KPI

Setting good Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) involves aligning them with your specific business goals, ensuring they are measurable, relevant, and time-bound. While industry-recognized KPIs can provide a starting point, it’s crucial that the ones you set are tailored to your unique business situation.

Let’s illustrate this with an example of a poorly set KPI versus a well-set one:

Bad KPI Example: “Increase website traffic.”

While this KPI sounds like a reasonable objective for a company seeking to enhance its online presence, it’s too broad and not specific enough. It doesn’t provide a clear target, it’s not time-bound, and it doesn’t necessarily align with a meaningful business outcome. More website traffic is generally a positive thing, but if it doesn’t lead to increased conversions or sales, it may not be contributing to the company’s bottom line.

Good KPI Example: “Increase website conversion rate by 15% over the next quarter.”

This is a much more effective KPI. Firstly, it’s specific and measurable – you’re aiming for a 15% increase. Secondly, it’s time-bound, as you’re looking to achieve this within the next quarter. Finally, it’s directly tied to a meaningful business outcome. Increasing the website conversion rate means more website visitors are taking the desired action (like making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter), which can directly contribute to increased revenue or customer engagement.

8. What are KPI reports?

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) should align with strategic goals, offer actionable insights, be easily understood, and promote performance improvement. KPI reports track the performance of specific business activities and objectives using these KPIs. They provide valuable insights on a company’s progress towards its goals and help identify areas for improvement, enabling businesses to make informed decisions and corrective actions when necessary.

The content of a KPI report can vary depending on the industry, company size, and specific goals of the business. However, most KPI reports include the following:

  • Specific KPIs: These are the metrics that the business is tracking. They could be financial (like revenue or profit margin), customer-centric (like customer satisfaction or net promoter score), internal processes (like efficiency or productivity), or related to growth and innovation.
  • Benchmark Data: This provides context for the KPIs, comparing current performance against past performance, industry standards, or competitor data.
  • Visualizations: Graphs, charts, and other visual aids are often used to make the data easier to understand at a glance.
  • Analysis and Interpretation: This section explains what the data means, why it matters, and what actions might be taken as a result.
  • Action Plan: If the KPIs indicate that changes are needed, the report may include recommendations or an action plan.

9.   What are the Benefits of KPIs?

Implementing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) offers numerous well-documented advantages. These encompass boosting employee engagement, aligning your team with the organization’s mission, and fostering improved accountability.

Beyond merely tracking and controlling performance, KPIs can bring the following advantages to your business:

Improves Employee Engagement

KPIs provide a clear understanding of what is expected from employees, by defining their roles and responsibilities in measurable terms. They help in setting performance standards and identifying areas for improvement. When employees know what they are working towards, and how their efforts contribute to the overall goals of the organization, it can significantly boost their engagement and motivation. Furthermore, KPIs offer a basis for providing constructive feedback and recognizing employee achievements, which can further enhance job satisfaction and engagement.

Connects Your Purpose and Culture

KPIs that align with your organization’s mission, vision, and values can help reinforce your company culture. They serve as a constant reminder of what the organization stands for and strives to achieve. By setting and pursuing KPIs that reflect your purpose, you can create a work environment where everyone understands and is committed to the organization’s core principles. This not only strengthens your company culture but also fosters a sense of unity and shared purpose among employees.

Makes Everyone Accountable for Performance

KPIs hold everyone in the organization accountable for achieving specific outcomes. They make it clear who is responsible for what, eliminating ambiguity and promoting responsibility. When individual or team performance is linked to specific KPIs, it creates a sense of accountability and ownership. This can foster a high-performance culture where everyone is focused on delivering results. Furthermore, by regularly monitoring and reviewing KPIs, you can ensure that everyone stays on track and any performance issues are promptly addressed.

10. What is the Difference Between a Key Performance Indicator and a Metric?

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics are both forms of measurement used in business, but they serve distinct purposes and convey different kinds of information.

A Key Performance Indicator is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. KPIs are chosen to align with strategic goals and are used to gauge the performance of the company in reaching these goals. They are typically few in number and high in importance, acting as a compass guiding the organization towards its desired destination. For example, a KPI might be the growth rate of new customers acquired, reflecting a company’s strategic goal of expanding its customer base.

On the other hand, a metric is a broader term for any kind of measurement used to quantify the state or progress of a business process. Metrics can cover a wide range of data points across all areas of a business, not just those tied to strategic goals. They provide detailed information about operational performance and can be numerous and varied. For instance, a metric could be the number of website visitors, which gives insight into online traffic but may not be directly linked to a strategic objective.

So, while both KPIs and metrics help businesses assess performance, the main difference lies in their purpose and focus. KPIs are strategic, driving action towards key objectives, while metrics offer a more comprehensive view of overall performance without necessarily being tied to strategic outcomes.

11. What are the Benefits of Using KPI Software?

At a certain juncture, one might question the necessity of software when a spreadsheet appears to suffice. However, it’s important to recognize the limitations inherent in spreadsheets. They provide restricted data visualization options, such as pie charts and bar charts, and entail significant time and manual effort for report setup.

Spreadsheets demand consistent manual upkeep to ensure data remains current. In contrast, dashboard and reporting tools streamline data retrieval directly from the source, minimizing manual intervention. These tools prove invaluable for crafting specialized dashboards tailored to various needs, whether it be executive dashboards for high-level performance monitoring, marketing dashboards for tracking campaign outcomes, social media dashboards for analyzing engagement, or sales dashboards for monitoring sales performance.

Regardless of organizational size, Key Performance Indicator (KPI) software offers a myriad of benefits. Here are essential advantages worth noting.

Extensive Visualization Options

KPI software provides a wide array of visualization options that go beyond what’s possible with basic spreadsheets. These tools offer dashboards that can be customized with different types of charts, graphs, and even interactive elements. This allows you to visualize your data in ways that make the most sense for your specific needs. For example, you might use a heat map to visualize geographic data or a scatter plot to show the relationship between two variables. The visualizations can often be interactive, allowing you to drill down into specific data points for more detail. These advanced visualization capabilities can make it easier to spot trends and patterns at a glance.

Centralization of Data

Centralizing your data means bringing all your data together in one place. With KPI software, you can pull data from multiple sources—like your CRM, marketing automation tool, financial system, and more—and view it all together on one dashboard. This saves you from having to log into multiple systems and manually compile data, which can be time-consuming and error-prone. Plus, having all your data in one place makes it easier to compare and correlate different data sets, giving you deeper insights.

Real-Time Monitoring

Real-time monitoring is another significant advantage of KPI software. Instead of having to manually update your data and reports, the software can automatically refresh your data at set intervals. This means you can see up-to-the-minute data on your dashboard at any time. Real-time monitoring allows you to quickly spot any issues or opportunities, so you can react more swiftly. For instance, if you see a sudden drop in website traffic or sales, you can investigate immediately instead of waiting until the end of the month when you run your reports.


KPI software is designed to scale with your business. As your company grows and your data needs become more complex, you can add new data sources, track more KPIs, and create additional dashboards as needed. Many KPI tools also offer features like user management and access controls, so you can easily manage who has access to what data as your team grows. This scalability means that investing in KPI software can benefit your business in the long term, not just the short term.

Integration with Existing Sources

Most KPI software can integrate with a wide variety of data sources. This includes common business tools like Salesforce for CRM data, Google Analytics for website data, and QuickBooks for financial data, among others. These integrations mean you can pull in data from the tools you’re already using without having to manually export and import data. Plus, by bringing all this data together, you can get a more holistic view of your business performance.

12. How to Create a KPI Dashboard

Creating a KPI dashboard is a multi-step process that involves careful planning and implementation. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

Identify Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The first step in creating a KPI dashboard is to identify the KPIs that are most relevant to your business goals. These could include metrics related to sales, customer service, marketing, finance, or any other aspect of your business. The key is to choose KPIs that provide actionable insights and align with your strategic objectives.

Choose a KPI Dashboard Software

Next, you’ll need to choose a software platform for your KPI dashboard. There are many options available, ranging from simple spreadsheet-based solutions to sophisticated business intelligence tools. When choosing a software, consider factors like ease of use, customization options, integration capabilities, and cost.

Design Your Dashboard

Once you’ve chosen your software, you can start designing your dashboard. This involves deciding how to visually represent each KPI. Most dashboard software will offer a variety of visualization options, such as charts, graphs, and gauges. Aim for a design that is clean and intuitive, with the most important KPIs prominently displayed.

Integrate Your Data

After designing your dashboard, the next step is to integrate your data. This typically involves connecting your dashboard software to your various data sources, such as your CRM system, financial software, or marketing analytics tool. Most dashboard software will have built-in integrations or APIs to make this process easier.

Test and Refine Your Dashboard

Once your data is integrated, spend some time testing your dashboard. Check that all the data is displaying correctly and that the dashboard is easy to navigate. You may need to make some adjustments to the layout or visualizations based on your testing.

Share Your Dashboard

Finally, share your dashboard with the relevant stakeholders in your organization. This could include executives, managers, or any other team members who would benefit from the insights provided by your KPIs. Most dashboard software will have sharing features that allow you to easily distribute your dashboard to others.

Regularly Review and Update Your Dashboard

As your business evolves, so too should your KPI dashboard. Regularly review your KPIs to ensure they are still relevant and update your dashboard as needed. This might involve adding new KPIs, removing outdated ones, or adjusting your visualizations.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, KPIs play a pivotal role in measuring and optimizing organizational performance. By identifying meaningful KPIs, establishing effective reporting mechanisms, and leveraging technology to facilitate data-driven decision-making, organizations can harness the power of KPIs to drive success and continuous improvement. By incorporating these practices, organizations can effectively harness the power of KPIs to steer their success and foster continuous improvement.

Remember, KPIs should be dynamic and evolve in response to changing business needs, ensuring they remain aligned with the organization’s strategic priorities.

Frequently asked questions

What are the limitations of KPIs?

While KPIs are valuable for tracking performance, they do have limitations. They can overemphasize quantitative data, leading to neglect of qualitative factors. Misinterpretation of KPIs can lead to misguided strategies. Sole reliance on KPIs may provide a narrow view of performance. Lastly, there’s a risk of results manipulation to meet KPI targets.

What Are 5 of the Most Common KPIs?

Five common KPIs are:

  • Sales Revenue
  • Net Profit Margin
  • Customer Acquisition Cost
  • Employee Turnover Rate
  • Customer Satisfaction Score

How Do You Measure KPIs?

Measuring KPIs involves several steps:

  • Define your objectives.
  • Identify relevant KPIs.
  • Collect data using appropriate tools and methods.
  • Analyze the data to understand performance.
  • Based on the results, make necessary changes to improve performance

What does KPI stand for in sales?

In sales, KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. Sales KPIs are metrics that measure the effectiveness and efficiency of a sales team or strategy.

Picture of Jennifer Tierney

Jennifer Tierney

Jennifer comes from a discipline of Operations, including Finance and Technology. Having worked in operational and financial management for more than fifteen years, Jen has a distinct set of skills and is known for complex analysis of operations, finance, and technology to improve core business strategies.

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