Finding the Right Metrics for Your Excel Dashboard

KPIs and Metrics

I’ve noticed that dashboards often get started when a manager says something like, “We have to get a handle on these numbers. Let’s make an Excel dashboard so we can all see the trends and changes.”

The question that follows is, “Should we track the same metrics?” To which someone else asks, “Well what metrics are others using?” So here are a few tips on finding metrics used by others in your industry or specialty.

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This might take you back to what your parents used to say, but here goes. “Just because others are using a metric doesn’t means it’s right for you.” Always use a cause and effect mapping processes like the one described in my book, “Balanced Scorecard and Operational Dashboards with Microsoft Excel” to make sure you a logical link between the drivers and result metrics that will improve your businesses. Remember, it’s the critical few metrics that make a difference.

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Get started by searching for metrics in Google. Search Google with industry specific terms plus the words “metric” and “benchmark,” for example,

  • Hospital metrics benchmarks
  • Electronic manufacturing metrics benchmarks

Check with your industry associations. Many industry associations compile lists of metrics and benchmarking values by sampling participating members. To be a member and receive metrics or benchmarks you may have to give to get.

Check with professional associations for metrics used in that profession. Three professional groups I’m familiar with that have articles and lists of metrics are,

  • Project Management Association
  • American Society of Quality
  • APICS, the association for operations management

Check EBSCOHost on the Web. EBSCOHost gives you search and access to thousands of business, professional, scientific and business magazines and journals. You can access this treasure trove for a fee or through major libraries for free. I used to drive to the main library at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco just to use this database. (The Indian food across the street was not the main reason.)

Check with Google Scholar to search scholarly articles in your field. Find Google scholar at Google > More > Even More > Scholar.

Check on Amazon for books on metrics. There are some excellent books on metrics. Three of these books I use frequently for general business metrics. “Marketing Metrics” by Farris, et. al. contains a great list with explanations. The two best books I’ve found that on human resource (HR) metrics are “The Workforece Scorecard” by Mark Huselid and Brian Becker and also “The HR Scorecard” by Brian Becker and Mark Huselid.

There are organizations that compile benchmark data across businesses and industries. Most of these require some membership fee plus submission from you of data. More on this in a future blog.

Again, in all of these, I HIGHLY recommend you use a well thought out process to validate why these metrics are the drivers and result measures that will help you improve. Don’t use a metric because “we’ve always used it.”

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