We all want to keep up with the health of our organization with the most accurate and easy-to-understand information.
That's where reports come in handy. But how can we make them easily understandable, accurate and useful? What are metrics and KPIs exactly and what do they have to do with reports?
Let's take a closer look, starting with definitions.
What Is Metrics Reporting?
Metrics reporting — or KPI reporting — is the process of collecting, analyzing, and presenting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track and evaluate an organization's effectiveness in achieving its strategic goals over a specific time frame (weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually).
We are specifically talking about reports that only include the main KPIs of a company. We don't want to focus on irrelevant metrics.
This kind of reporting highlights critical areas of business performance, providing insights that guide decision-making and strategic planning. It often involves aggregating data from various sources, transforming it into meaningful information, and presenting it in a format that is easy to understand and act upon.
Metrics and KPIs are not mutually exclusive, so the distinction between them can be confusing.
That's why we'll clear up the differences before showing you how to create your own reports.
Data → Metric → KPI → Report
While data is merely just a number (e.g. 1000), a metric is a measurement of data, in relation to what you are actually measuring (e.g. 1000 dollars in sales).
Metrics track and assess various aspects of business performance. But not all metrics are born equal. An example is social media followers: high numbers might look good but don’t directly impact revenue or customer satisfaction. This is what people call a vanity metric.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), on the other hand, are carefully selected metrics that directly reflect how effectively the company achieves its key business objectives. A KPI can be based on a single metric or a combination of several metrics, depending on what best reflects the company's objectives.
All KPIs are metrics, but not all metrics qualify as KPIs.
Metrics have a lower-level focus and are related to specific business areas or departments. Metrics provide specific data points, but when they connect to broader business objectives, they can form or become part of a KPI.
A KPI tells a story of the big picture and is directly related to the main business goals.
For example, a neutral metric might be "Call Handling Time" in customer service. This metric provides insights but doesn't directly indicate whether the business is going in the right direction.
On the other hand, a good metric would be the "Overall Customer Satisfaction Score." It reflects the collaborative efforts of multiple departments, like production, customer service, and marketing, and their impact on customer retention and loyalty. Now that kind of metric can be good enough to be a KPI.
A report is a presentation and a collection of KPIs used to assess an aspect of a company's performance. It's typically formatted visually, using graphs, pie charts, or interactive elements, so that the information would be more actionable and easy to understand.
While a report can technically be composed of random metrics, it's most effective when it's centered around relevant KPIs, as these reflect the company's strategic goals.
Reports are often specialized, such as marketing, sales, or inventory reports, and can be compiled into dashboards for a holistic view of business health. The key is not just to present data but to enable analysis and action.
Effective reports distill complex data into understandable metrics, highlighting areas of concern, such as KPIs missing targets, with visual cues like color coding.
This approach helps managers and executives quickly gauge performance and make informed decisions, ensuring that the report is not just informative but also drives results.
Business analytics doesn't end there. Reports have to be analyzed in a smart way to make use of them, but that's a topic for another time.
Benefits of Reporting
Effective reporting, guided by carefully chosen KPIs, can significantly benefit departments across an organization:
- Spot High-Performing Areas: Understand which strategies or operations yield the best results, guiding smarter resource allocation.
- Highlight Effective Initiatives: Discover what actions or approaches boost engagement and productivity.
- Catch Issues Early: Quickly identify and address potential problems before they escalate.
- Monitor Key Trends: Keep an eye on important metrics over time, understanding how your department evolves.
- Prove Value: Use data to show the positive impact of your department's work to leadership or clients.
- Improve Decision-Making: Base strategic choices on solid data, enhancing the effectiveness of your plans.
- Guide Improvements: When metrics fall outside expected ranges, it's a cue to find and fix underlying issues, helping maintain or enhance performance.
How to Select the Right KPIs for Reports
Reports should have good visuals and be easily understandable, with industry standards in mind and including only the most relevant KPIs (not multiple dozens).
That sounds great and all, but how do we actually choose the most relevant KPIs? In the end, we don't want to overwhelm the reader with irrelevant information.
Avoiding vanity metrics and focusing on what's important is easier said than done, but these tips can help.
Struggle with finding any KPIs to begin with?
One solution is reviewing past meeting summaries on KPI discussions.
Tools like Wudpecker automate creating meeting notes for you.
The KPIs should be...
(1) Available to You
When it comes to selecting the right KPIs for your reports, the first step is ensuring the data you need is within reach. Otherwise, you can't fully use it the way you need to.
But that's not the only thing to remember about availability.
Sometimes you have a strong feeling about an aspect of the business—without being able to prove or quantify it.
Take, for instance, the concept of team collaboration quality. It's not something you can easily assign a numerical value to—it's more about the effectiveness and harmony of team interactions.
In situations like this, you'd need to find the closest measurable substitute. For this example, it could be the number of collaborative projects completed on time or the frequency of team meetings, which can serve as indicators of how well the team is working together.
Conduct a thorough review of your current business processes and data collection methods to ensure you have a clear understanding of which KPIs are realistically within your grasp.
(2) Tailored to Your Audience
Only Include Relevant Information
No one wants to read a report full of information that's irrelevant to their department, priorities or time frame. For example, a marketing manager might not find metrics related to warehouse inventory levels directly relevant to their work. Even though inventory can impact product availability and thus marketing campaigns, these operational details are typically managed by supply chain and logistics managers.
Focus on including KPIs that directly impact or provide insights into the specific department's operations or objectives; whether you're on track to meet those goals.
Note: there are also some KPIs, usually relating to strategic direction, that should be included in every report. That's because they're relevant to everyone in the organization.
Create Multiple Reports
You might find that some metrics or KPIs are relevant for your team, but not outsiders. You can't include them in the report but also don't want to forget about them.
So what do you do? You create an internal report on top of the first one.
To minimize the hassle with creating multiple reports, using a trustworthy reporting tool and following industry standards might save you a lot of time and effort.
Keep It Simple
On their own, KPIs don't really tell a story. On top of being relevant, they have to be presented in the simplest possible way.
KPIs should be straightforward and, if needed, accompanied by brief explanations for clarity.
When selecting KPIs for your reports, consider the familiarity and comprehension level of your audience. If there are KPIs that require minimal explanation, include them in the report. Otherwise reconsider if a KPI can be left out or if there's a different way to present the same information.
You might not be able to fully avoid confusion, but over time the recipients might become more used to your style of reporting and understand them with less additional explanation.
Useful KPIs should impact behavior toward more success by prompting someone to take the right action.
For instance, during a major marketing campaign, if the conversion rate from ad campaigns is significantly lower than anticipated, it could lead the marketing manager to reconsider the current strategy or reallocate the budget to improve outcomes.
To help you figure out if a KPI is actionable enough, consider these questions:
- Does the KPI relate to the actual activities of the department the report is for?
- Does each KPI have someone responsible for taking action if goals aren’t met?
- Is the KPI measurable and tied to a specific timeframe?
If the answer is no to any of these, you might have to either ditch, change or modify the KPI.
Additionally, if KPI ownership or the ability to influence outcomes is unclear, it may be a sign that your team structure needs a makeover.
Reports can uncover patterns and shifts within various aspects of business operations, whether it's comparing performance over different periods or across distinct areas of the business.
It's important to select KPIs can be directly compared with each other. This strategy allows for a clear understanding of what strategies are effective and which areas require improvement.
Selecting Meaningful Comparisons
Consider the challenge of comparing revenue growth from different product lines. If one product line has been established longer than another, direct revenue comparisons might not accurately reflect the newer product's market potential or growth trajectory.
A more insightful approach would be to compare the percentage growth rate of each product line. This metric offers a normalized basis for comparison, revealing which product line is growing more rapidly relative to its size, and thus, might be more deserving of additional investment or resources.
Emphasize Trends Over Time
Focus on choosing KPIs that offer insights into trends and progressions rather than isolated figures. Metrics that can illustrate changes and developments over time provide a more comprehensive view, enabling more informed strategic planning and decision-making across the business.
(5) Measuring Your ROI
Ensuring your budget is used effectively is crucial for businesses of all sizes. In practice, that means demonstrating a tangible Return on Investment (ROI). That's why you need to choose KPIs that facilitate this, especially when sending reports to senior management.
Beyond Direct Impact
Direct impacts like sales figures or project completions are key, but they're not the sole indicators of a department's success.
For instance, in HR, employee engagement might not directly correlate to immediate financial gains but is essential for long-term organizational health and productivity. It's about broadening the scope of metrics to include those that showcase the overarching benefits to the organization.
Illustrating Value Across Departments
Each KPI should distinctly show its relevance to the organization's financial well-being or strategic goals, regardless of the department. This clarity becomes even more critical when discussing the department's contributions with individuals less familiar with its specific functions, such as the senior management team.
The ability to concisely explain how each KPI connects to the broader financial or strategic objectives of the business is invaluable. This skill ensures the efforts and achievements of all departments are acknowledged and valued, emphasizing the need for well-informed, strategic investments across the board.
We've defined what metrics or KPI reporting means, shown how to select key metrics, and the benefits of KPI reporting.
The principles of ensuring KPIs are available, tailored, actionable, comparable, and instrumental in measuring ROI are universal.
Whether you're a part of a marketing team, a finance department, or IT, these principles should be helpful in your reporting. These and any other departments can apply metrics and KPIs to track performance, set goals, and make informed decisions that align with the organization's overall strategy.
What is KPI in reporting?
KPIs in reporting are specific indicators chosen to measure how well an organization is achieving its key business goals. They offer a focused lens to gauge success and guide strategic decisions.
For instance, in a marketing report, the effectiveness of recent marketing efforts could be highlighted by a notable increase in social media engagement and website traffic.
What are the metrics for performance reporting?
Performance metrics can range from sales figures and customer acquisition rates to more nuanced measures like employee engagement levels. The choice of metrics depends on the department's focus and the company's overall objectives.
How do you report success metrics?
Success metrics are reported by collecting and analyzing relevant data, then presenting it in an accessible format, often through dashboards and visualizations, to highlight achievements and areas for improvement.
Why is metrics report important?
Metrics reports are crucial as they provide a tangible measure of a company's performance across various domains, offering insights that can lead to informed decisions and strategic adjustments.