One of the key elements of any performance management program is the ability to create milestones and key indicators. Otherwise how else would you know when you have achieved the objectives ?
The science of business performance management heavily relies on the ability to create a series of critical tests to assess whether the program is successful or not. These do not necessarily have to be on a strategic level. They can also be set on an individual or local basis.
The first stage is to set up a business data analysis program with the specific goals of trying to change the performance levels of the organization from the less desirable to the more desirable characteristics.
The desirable characteristics are crucial because they will contain a basis for ambition as well as a realistic target based on the knowledge of the industry as a whole. Once these goals are measurable, they then become key performance indicators (KPIs) that will form the basis of any assessment of the project either on a one off basis or on a continuous basis.
Key performance indicators are always supported by data and therefore it has to be a management priority to ensure that there are facilities for presenting accurate data in a timely fashion. Obviously performance management will mean different things to different people and there might be the scope for allocating different data sets or schedules depending on need. Sometimes there is an obsession with financial performance indicators whereas it is possible to measure the non-financial data which gives you an accurate picture of the organization.
There are a large variety of business performance metrics and indicators, and they cannot be exhaustively described within the constraints of this article. However I will briefly touch on some of the major ones; the most important metrics will measure customer satisfaction and their relationship with the company. This is the basis for any profitability and therefore they ought to be prioritized.
The accountant will naturally pay close attention to the financial metrics such as cash flows, debt, capital investments and the speedy conclusion of commitments. Without finance the company will fail so managers must never ignore the implications of finance in any business performance management activity that they undertake. However this should not be to the total exclusion of other criteria.
There are also non-traditional metrics that are slowly creeping into business practice. For example twenty years ago the environmental impact of business activities was largely ignored as a fad for the dopey rich kids or the political correct tree huggers. The pursuit of the bottom line was king and such concerns were not even subordinate. They were simply excluded altogether. However as the awareness of ecological issues has grown, it has been necessary to insist that this is included as part of the core metrics.
As always the key is to understand what is need to get your business to the place you want it to be. The metrics and key performance indicators are the tools for you to assess whether you have been successful in your business performance management program.