KPIs: Definition, Dashboards, and Tools

How do you know when your business is doing well?

Maybe you’re profitable. Your business is operating soundly. Income exceeds expenses. On the other hand, maybe you were hoping to be growing much more quickly. Maybe you’re operating too conservatively and you’re just one competitor away from being outpaced. 

Maybe your sales are doubling month to month. You’re clearly growing. But are those new customers or are people buying more per month? Either could be great. But it’s possible that neither behavior is a true sign of growth.

Maybe your customer service tickets are few and far between. That’s probably a good sign about your product. But maybe you don’t have enough channels setup for your customers to contact you. 

These - let’s call them business “qualities” - are common ways to quickly assess a business, and they make sense for someone viewing from the outside. But, internally, they’re insufficient at best - misleading at worst. 

You know when your business is doing well when you’re hitting your KPIs. 

Defining KPIs

KPIs or Key Performance Indicators are the metrics that business and department leaders use to understand at any point in time whether they are en route to reaching their goals. And how thoughtfully you choose those metrics determines how well they’ll help you and your team stay on the right path. Here are some common KPIs for

Content Marketing: Unique Visits, Conversion Rate

Sales: Pipeline Value, Time to Close

HR: Attrition Rate, Percentage of Cost of Workforce

Customer Service: Average Response Time, Resolution Rate

Company execs: ROI, Lifetime Value of Customer

There are two crucial components to setting up an effective KPI culture for your company.  The first is choosing the right KPIs. This takes being scrupulous about your goals, thoughtful about which metrics will tell you whether or not you’re on track and cognizant of where metrics might conflict between teams. 

The second is enforcing culture. KPIs must be core to your culture as a company. At the outset, this means team wide buy-in. It also means that KPIs have to be a prominent presence in company life, meetings and conversation. Your team should discuss your KPIs weekly or monthly. And your KPIs should be easily accessible by the entire team - if not totally in your face.

KPI Dashboards

Most founders on Stacklist use KPIs to run their company (many of whom use KPIs as part of an OKR management framework). Those who do it most successfully tend to be using a dashboard that gives their KPIs an indelible mark on their startup life. Here are some of the dashboards they love.


Klipfolio

There’s a lot to love about Klipfolio. Yes, it’s pretty easy to setup and use. The interface is clean and intuitive. And they have turnkey integrations with more than 400 services covering categories like web analytics, marketing, technology and social media.

But what makes them truly stand out in the space is the vast amount of information, guidance and help they provide to users. They provide exhaustive dashboard templates.  Theirs is one of the best blogs to checkout if you’re working on incorporating KPIs into your business or team. 

Klipfolio pricing ranges from $24/mo for small teams with a few users or shared dashboards on TVs to $199/month for teams who need to build and share lots of dashboards.


Tableau 

We look at weekly and monthly KPIs via Tableau Online and/or Tableau Reader. -Andrus Purde, Head of Marketing - Pipedrive

Tableau is one of the most popular business intelligence and analytics platforms among startups.  It’s a very powerful tool that allows businesses to consolidate all of their business, operations and technical data. If you’re considering using Tableau, understand that making the most of its dashboard and trending capabilities requires quite a bit of engineering work and data expertise to setup. 

Tableau Pricing is $999 annually for the Personal Edition which allows file-based data connections. For hundreds of automated connections and access to ongoing support, get the Professional Edition for $1,999 annually.


Qlikview

Qlikview is one of the most affordable options on the market. They make it easy to get a sophisticated dashboard up and going quickly and have a community of partners and experts who can step in as you level up your analytics. 

Qlikview pricing ranges from free to $25/month per user.



Domo

Fans of Domo describe it as “flexible” and scalable when “your database gets really large, and you’re running many tables.” One feature that makes Domo unique is Buzz, an internal product, which feels like a Slack for data collaboration. Users can share real-time data from any source, include any type of attachments, create team channels, and assign projects.

We aggregate our data with Domo, data that comes from all of our other channels (Facebook, Maropost, DoubleClick). - Fabio Zecchini, Co-founder & CTO of Musement

Domo Pricing: You can use Domo for free but to get admin controls, group sharing, on-premise access and other pretty necessary features, you need to upgrade to the Professional Package which is $175/user per month.


Geckoboard 

Geckoboard is one of the original dashboard solutions and, in some startup communities, Geckoboard is the jacuzzi or kleenex of dashboards. Their vibe is simplicity - their website is straightforward, as is their product, pricing, and mission: “We believe key metrics transform businesses when they’re communicated clearly and visibly to teams.”

Geckoboard pricing starts at $25 for 1 user and 1 dashboard and can go up to $599 for unlimited users and dashboards.

Geckoboard is one of the tools we use for visualization. The upside to using them is that you can easily have dashboards and widgets of graphs that you can monitor. You don’t have to worry about making sure it’s mobile-friendly, and tweaking bar charts and line graphs is easy. The annoying thing is that you need to have someone on your team who knows how to code to push that data to Geckoboard periodically. You can’t just have a random marketing person put things on Geckoboard. -Karthik Sridharan, Co-founder - Kinnek


Spotfire

We like the guiding principle of Spotfire which appreciates that data is awesome but it’s more awesome if it’s actionable: “High on charts and graphs, but low on answers?” They offer four products including Spotfire Cloud, Spotfire Platform, Spotfire Cloud Enterprise and Spotfire for AWS. You can find Spotfire pricing for these products here.


Piwik

In the beginning we used Google Adwords, to measure the analytics trends. Now we have Piwik for any kind of analytics. It gives you KPI, bounce rates, number of visitors, visitors that joined, and logged in--it is smart enough to not count the duplicates. It gives you also general statistics and is installed in our servers. Rotem Peled, Founder & CEO - Topishare

“Piwik aims to be an open-source alternative to Google Analytics.” Piwik is a downloadable and free open source analytics platform that focuses on analytics for your website. Within the Piwik community, there are Piwik forums, workshops and certified experts. Here’s a Piwik demo.

Piwik pricing: FREE (but keep in mind they’re a non-profit! So consider a donation!)

Google Sheets

Yes, there exists a powerful tool that’s free to use and easy to access. And, frankly, we highly recommend using google sheets as your first KPI dashboard. It helps your team establish your internal discipline around KPIs, including choosing the thoughtful, specific indicators and routinely monitoring them with the distraction of charts, colors and a massive setup. Using Google Sheets as your first KPI dashboard also gives your team a chance to understand its own KPI needs and style without the imposed framework of analytics software.