Business Analytics Blog

Nearsighted KPI Evaluation

Posted by Robert Trupe

KPI Monitoring pointless unless the right combination Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are grouped and evaluated together. KPI definitions and importance are different for many companies' and/or study groups. A ratio is Key if it is actively measured, monitored and managed and deemed "Key" by management. I have listened to and read many discussions regarding the evaluation of specific KPI measurements, arguing "which KPI is best?" The answer is none. More times than not, the most adamant conversationalists often have become near sighted, and ignored other crucial indicators. Furthermore, since nearly every business is seasonal, traditional KPI formulas used by most, are useless without applying seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR), trend analysis, and seasonality forecasting.

For example; if May is the beginning of the selling season, October is the end, and there is the same inventory on hand in May as in October, do you have the same days inventory on hand? The answer is absolutely not. Do you think improperly calculated KPI by not allowing for seasonal trends could affect turnover, return on assets, target inventory? Unquestionably, yes. Can you accurately predict target inventory levels without knowing your desired turnover, and forecasted COGS based on seasonal trends? Only if you guess!

Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers Had Only Three Instrument Gauges: A stop watch, tachometer for engine speed, and an anemometer to measure wind speed. Those indicators were sufficient at the time, but the Silver Dart did not fly very far compared to the space shuttle of today. By today's standards, inventory based KPI, such as gross sales, gross profit and current inventory will get you about as far as the Wright brothers' first flight. Without data visualization technology, could you imagine astronauts flying the space shuttle... with only the help of reports... reviewing historical data after the end of each flight? Try combining the analogy of "hitting the ground at full speed" with "its water under the bridge". It's called your broke and it's too late!!!

In today's business climate, understanding the complexity and relativity of KPI is crucial to long term success. In time, ignorance will land most businesses out of business. Predictive analysis and seasonality forecasting with KPI measurements of inventory/products based business, should be performed on every product and brand to optimize product mix. Product analysis requires a combination of sales analysis and Inventory analysis. Below are samples... but not all of Product Analysis metrics.

Product Analysis (By Manufacturer, Brand & Body type)

  • Product Analysis*Gross Margin %
  • Gross Profit $
  • Sales seasonal trend
  • Gross Sales
  • *Sales (SAAR)
  • COGS
  • COGS seasonal trend
  • COGS Forecast
  • Forecasted COGS
  • *Target Inventory
  • Current Inventory
  • *Last Inventory
  • Average Inventory
  • *Days Inventory (SAAR)
  • *Turnover (SAAR)
  • Desired Annual turnover
  • *Return on Asset
  • Unit Sales Annualized Linear Trend
  • Unit Sales quarterly moving average (SAAR)
  • *Warranty Claims % of COGS
  • *Warranty Shortages % of Warranty Claims

All of the above metrics are important, but not all are necessary to monitor. Some metrics are used only to calculate other KPI which are regularly monitored*. Seeing pages of metrics in a report can be overwhelming for some. Inability to see KPI trends over time on a graph dilutes usefulness. But once the results are properly grouped and displayed visually, analysis becomes much easier to understand. Trends can be identified, and actuals benchmarked against forecasts, trends and budgets. With better understanding of history and trends, better management of inventory and sales decisions in the future can be made.

Market trends change quickly. National trends do not always represent company trends. Predictive analytics and seasonality forecasting allows a birds-eye-view to see trends and adjust business practices to changes in a specific market. Most businesses did not see the market change until August of 2008. Solid indicators warned of the change four months prior to the crash for many businesses. Analytic tools would have given most companies time to adjust inventories and overhead in the height of their selling season.

Market TrendView the sample companies total unit sales market trend. The blue straight line represents the general direction of company sales. The linear sales trend is calculated using 12 months rolling history after removing seasonal trends. The Red trend line represents the Quarterly moving average of actual sales after removing seasonal trends.

This graph provides a solid understanding of when the market conditions are changing. Keep in mind that trends can change due to outside conditions which are out of control of the business such as the recession of 2008-2009. Internal factors such as inventory management and sales processes can also change trends.

A scorecard for each manufacturer or product line should also be readily available to identify product trends, aid in inventory management as well as assist purchasing negotiations. Manufacturer's representatives respect solid market information and are at most times more willing to help resolve real inventory problems rather than apply unsubstantiated pressure to increase inventory levels.

Tags: Business KPI Strategy, Inventory Analysis, Data Visualization Technology

Employee resistance to Business Intelligence Reporting Software

Posted by Robert Trupe

Business Financial Advisor

Accounting figure...or Bookkeeper? In day to day experiences with some bookkeepers and support staff comes the objection or resistance to a company successfully installing business intelligence reporting software. Most times, it is for fear of an employee loosing their responsibility of spending countless hours on tasks creating spreadsheets. Fear of a position being eliminated seems to always be lurking under the surface. The key point is that people are needed but rolls change.

Financial DashboardLack of understanding or confidence is normally an underlying problem. When successful implementation takes place, employees understand the fact that quality analytic tools and data visualization tools do not replace the need of bookkeeping or business intelligence administration.

Roles change from performing the daily "busy work" tasks of spreadsheets, to becoming a student of the business and assuming a role as a business financial advisor to the company. New tools will still require administration. Data mining and visualization technology can save time and as well as provide better information. Busy work can now be replaced with smart work.

Data Visualization TechnologyEmbracing data visualization technology and becoming a part of the solution rather than an obstacle to overcome is the better business decision. New technology is here to stay for business and creates a new opportunity for professional growth.

First steps to engaging employees in change:

  • Conduct a focus group meeting regarding need for KPI strategy
  • Actively include group members thoughts in focus group conversation
  • Include members in the product investigation process
  • Provide the tools and training for implementation
  • Have written out measurable goals with assigned responsibility
  • Measure progress towards goals regularly
  • Keep the team involved in the problem and resolution process

For more information about steps to develop KPI, see the blog: Data Visualization Technology for Employee Performance Measurement


Tags: Business KPI Strategy, Data Visualization Technology

Business KPI strategy starts with Accounting 101

Posted by Robert Trupe

Successful Business KPI strategy starts with Accounting 101

Developing KPI Strategy financial ratios starts with an Optimized Chart of Accounts and understanding that you can't spend more than you make. If you don't understand this concept, your company might be the next statistic. It all starts with understanding business accounting 101. Every manager, and Government elected official should be required to understand the following principle to be eligible for their position.  This is why some businesses and our Government are going broke.

 It starts with the chart of accounts. The methodology behind the groupings as shown simplifies the understanding of financial ratios. Parent accounts are totaling accounts for their child accounts. Quick Books chart of accounts does an excellent job aOperating Expense Dashboardllowing for this methodology.  Successful companies, study groups and consultants commonly use this format to measure business performance. Grouping the chart of accounts is also important to compare company performance to Industry aggregate ratios if industry benchmarking is desired.  Pay special attention to the following key points.

  • If a company spends more than it makes, it will become a statistic.
  • Gross Profit is what the company makes after paying its suppliers.
  • Gross Profit is Total Income less Total COGS
  • Gross Profit is the total revenue at the company's disposal to both pay expenses and keep as ordinary income.
  • Since Gross Profit is what the company has at its disposal for expenses, we can now take the approach that we cannot spend more than we make without having a loss or negative Net Ordinary Income.
  • Expenses are broke down into Logical groupings and are grouped into Variable, Fixed, & Personal. When added to Net Ordinary Income, the total will be 100% of the Gross Profit.
  • Gross Profit = Variable Expenses + Fixed Expenses + Personal Expenses + Ordinary Income
  • Variable Expenses = Semi-Fixed Other + Advertising + Other Important variable Expense
  • Accounting Consistency and History are Key to seasonal trend analysis for forecasting and budgeting
  • Seasonality Forecasting of Income & COGS is first necessary to know how much Gross Profit we will have to spend on expenses.
  • Once seasonal trends are calculated from history for each expense bucket, monthly forecasting & budgeting can be implemented to proactively operate profitably.
  • The profit centers or departments all have mirrored Inventory, Income, COGS, and Personal expense to allow for departmentalized KPI development.
  • Each Department now can be measured to see if it can financially stand on its own, without being subsidized by another department after personal expense. 

Sample Chart of Accounts Framework:

  • 10000 Assets
    • Current Assets
      • Bank Accounts
      • Accounts Receivable
      • Other Current (Inventory)
        • Inventory Profit Center A
          • Inventory Product type 1
          • Inventory Product type 2
          • Inventory Product type 3
        • Inventory Profit Center B
      • Total Other Current (Inventory)
    • Total Current Assets
    • Fixed Assets
    • Other Assets
    • Working Assets Profit Center D (e.g. Reoccurring Revenue)
  • Total 10000 Assets
  • 20000 Liabilities
    • Accounts Payable
    • Credit Cards
    • Other Current Liabilities
    • Long Term Liabilities
  • Total 20000 Liabilities
  • 30000 Equity
  • 40000 Income Accounts
    • Profit Center A Income (Sales Dept)
      • Income Product type 1
      • Income Product type 2
      • Income Product type 3
    • Profit Center B Income (Parts Dept)
    • Profit Center C Income (Service Dept)
    • Profit Center D Income (e.g. Reoccurring Revenue)
  • Total 40000 Income
  • 50000 COGS Accounts
    • Profit Center A COGS (Sales Dept)
      • COGS Product type 1
      • COGS Product type 2
      • COGS Product type 3
    • Profit Center B COGS (Parts Dept)
    • Profit Center C COGS (Service Dept)
    • Profit Center D COGS (e.g. Reoccurring Revenue Dept)
  • Total 50000 COGS
  • Gross Profit
  • 60000 Variable
    • Other Important Variable Expense(e.g., Research & Development, Inventory Interest/Floor Plan etc.)
    • Advertising Expense (e.g., Web, Yellow Pages, TV, etc.)
    • Semi-Fixed Other (e.g., Good Will, Professional Fees, Repairs & Maintenance, Office Supplies, Continued Education, Misc Variable)
  • Total 60000 Variable
  • 66000 Employee Expense
    • Owner/GM/CEO
    • Administration
    • Profit Center A Wages
      • Management A Wages
      • Staff A Wages
    • Profit Center B Wages
      • Management B Wages
      • Staff B Wages
    • Profit Center C Wages
      • Management C Wages
      • Staff C Wages
    • Profit Center D Wages
      • Management D Wages
      • Staff D Wages
    • Payroll Expenses
  • Total 66000 Employee Expense
  • Total 69000 Fixed Expenses (e.g., Depreciation and Amortization, Insurance, Rent/Mortgage, Utilities, Data Processing, Business Loan Interest)
  • Total Expense
  • Net Ordinary Income
  • Total 70000 Other Income (Non Operating e.g, Insurance Proceeds, Interest Income, Earned Discounts, Proceeds from Sale of assets, Deposits forfeited
  • Total 80000 Other Expenses (Non Operating)
  • Total 90000 Taxes e.g., Provision for Income Tax
  • Net Other Income
  • Net Income

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Tags: QuickBooks Dashboard, Business KPI Strategy, Financial KPI

Data Visualization Technology for Employee Performance Measurement.

Posted by Robert Trupe

In many cases, managers fail to provide proper employee performance reviews. At times, we spend more time managing the underperformers than we do supporting the high performers who are generating the majority of the productivity for the company. Most managers many times do not have the time, tools or knowledge to properly appraise employee performance. Furthermore, the process of filling out forms performing reviews is monotonous, sometimes a waste of time, and many times counterproductive.

I had a conversation with a business associate whom is a department manager for one of the largest retailers in the country. His remarks reminded me of prior experiences with overachieving employees. He was trying to find a method to measure his, as well as his department's performance.

The scenario was always similar. The best employees would knock on my office door. I would invite them in to sit down. After the small talk, I would ask what's on your mind. Then the question would finally come out in the fashion of "How am I doing at my job? Are you happy with my performance?" Shame on all of us as leaders and coaches! We sometimes spend so much time chasing rabbits, putting out fires, and dealing with the problem child, that we don't take time for our primary responsibility - Manage People. We sometimes ignore the best performers.

When you send your child to school, how important is it to grade every quiz and test? Do you think the child benefits by knowing their grade and attendance record? Do they respond well to a good grade, praise, and a pat on the back? Do you think they are proud of a good report card or disappointed in themselves when they under achieve?

Overachievers are nearly always self motivated and want to know their performance. Employee KPI, Employee Performance Scorecards, employee dashboards are as important to the employee as the financial reports and financial ratios are to the GM or CEO. Employee Performance measurement should be made available to employees regulData Visualization Technologyarly so individuals can manage their success.






Steps to develop KPI:

  • Organize a focus group. It should include the people taking the calls, fixing the problems, responsible for finances, etc. Keep the group well rounded with members who deal with the same problems from different perspectives, large enough to get different ideas, and small enough that decisions can be made.
  • Break down complaints, failures, problems into categories, this may come from support staff.
  • Try to keep the categories to around 8 for each sector of your business. Too many KPI for one department can become unmanageable.
  • Talk about how they relate to CSI, Costs, Efficiencies, and Revenues
  • Revisit each KPI and ask the group if each is important to monitor, or if it is a waste of time.
  • Talk about what information needs to be collected, or is being collected to measure it, or can it be collected.
  • What policies or procedures will be implemented to collect the data
  • How will it be reported
  • Who will be responsible for the project and reporting
  • How often will it be reviewed in scheduled meetings
  • Keep involving the team as to the resolutions of the KPI which are out of the desired range
  • Review your KPI periodically and decide if they are worth monitoring.


To implement a successful strategy, people must be involved in the process from the beginning. It's important that everyone buy in and take ownership. The key to developing a set of KPI is to develop a set which can be measured, and are able to put a plan into action to improve upon. History is the Key to understanding improvement!

Tags: Business KPI Strategy, Financial KPI, Data Visualization Technology, Employee Performance Measurement