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Two Examples of How to Use Key Performance Indicators to Improve Decision Making

Man on laptop with graphs and charts

Putting KPIs to Work

You’ve identified your KPIs (if you haven’t, check out this article on identifying KPIs), the data you need to track for the KPIs, where to get the data from, and how to store the data. So, what’s next? How can you take that performance indicator data and put it to work? Ideally, you want to see something that is meaningful and easy to understand. Let’s look at a few examples of how organizations have done just that.

Visually Displaying KPIs

It’s important you display your KPIs in a way that is easy to understand. You should be to glance at your KPIs and quickly understand what is being tracked and how the data is performing. Studies show that 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual, and the brain can process images 60,000 faster than text. If you think back to when you were in school, you probably remember the facts that had pictures or other visuals associated with them versus just words on a page. The same thing goes for multiple sets of data points and KPIs. A visual, such as a graph, shows the overall shape of your data, allowing you to spot trends, patterns, and even exceptions.

Tracking Labor Costs

One of our municipal clients wanted to track how much of its budget was spent on part-time employees. A common challenge with part-time employees or contractors is that labor costs can vary each month. The organization put together a visual graph showing the spending every month using their budget data and actual labor costs from the payroll system. They could now quickly spot the peaks and valleys associated with part-time employees in real-time. The organization could quickly see how the spending was varying from month to month, they could make informed decisions and adjust accordingly.

Mapping the Trash

You probably don’t think much about the trash service at your home. You likely toss your bags into a large trash can, then once every week or so, the trash company comes by and picks it up. But what happens when the company responsible for picking up the trash needs a better way to track all those trash cans, who they belong to, and who’s receiving the trash service?

One municipality faced that exact problem. They wanted to know all the addresses that had a trash can and who was receiving service at each location where there was a trash can. The organization realized a possible disconnect between the trash can “owner” and the actual person at the location. By combining multiple pieces of data from several sources into one visual map, the municipality could quickly spot where there were discrepancies.

Best Practices

There are several best practices to follow when visually displaying your KPIs. First, ask yourself, “what is important?” You want to make sure the data and KPIs you are presenting are conveying the most important information. Second, make sure you are using the best visual to communicate your data points.

Numbers don’t lie, but a poorly configured visual chart can make it difficult to correctly understand the data. For example, pie charts and stacked column charts are easily misunderstood because it is difficult to determine the scale and area.

Finally, make sure your visual displays are accessible to everyone that may need to view them. Someone that is color blind might have trouble distinguishing similar colors on a graph. Guidance is available on steps you can take to ensure your visual data is accessible to everyone.

Next Steps

VC3 has helped many organizations turn data and KPIs into meaningful visual displays. We can help you connect the dots and make the data useable and meaningful. Fill out the form below, and we’ll schedule a short call to learn more about your organization and needs.