Structuring KPIs

Last week I worked with the companies that just started Techstars Cloud. They were awesome, and I’m stoked about the ideas people are working on. In a lot of the conversations, the focus was targeting KPIs to track and what that really means. Understanding KPIs is the simple part with tons of resources out there to read. Really molding them around your goals over the next weeks and months and creating a valuable dashboard to check the pulse of your progress is crucial.

Develop your KPIs and make them more than feel-good metrics -- make them the lifeline of your business. With one glance at a dashboard each day, you’re aware of the overall movement your work/experiments are creating.

These metrics should be measurable, actionable, and vital to progress in getting to your next level. Craft them in a way that’s clearly tied to every high level goal of the business and more than just a check engine light. If a KPI starts to change, good or bad, there should be at least one other that’s moving to give you an idea of what’s happening (or at least where to begin looking).

Think of where the business and product are at today and where they need to be in 1 month. Start brainstorming on anything and everything that you could track and narrow down to a list of 10-15 metrics that could matter over the next several months. Further narrow your list from there.

  • They’ll be highly variable, especially in the first 18 months of your company. Everything will change based on development, customer discovery, feature deployment, and whatever else.
  • Pick just one that’s the focus for the time being. That’s the number you effect by forming everything else around it.
  • From there, 3ish KPIs will be on the periphery and help you gut check why one or more of these numbers are moving. Don’t forget to take into account your customer acquisition strategies, changes in adwords, new features, bug fixes, etc. that could move these numbers each week but aren’t necessarily a KPI. Cohort analysis combined with these metrics and knowing what you’re doing differently provides the best kind of insight into your numbers.
  • Create a KPI dashboard to check each day.
  • Actually check it each day -- make it a ritual.

Investor conversations will begin to resemble your KPI tracking and tweaking. You’re getting a feel for your business and understanding what moves the needle -- the exact expectation of seed round investors. Get really good at this and combine that with growing MRR and Series A conversations are formed.