I take great pleasure in presenting to you the 2031 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Kolby Austin Durda. In case you didn’t hear, my nephew was born on Saturday. That’s right; I’ve already presented his name to the Nobel Committee for his solution of global climate change. Please phone in or text your votes.
So beyond being the future fixer of the climate, Kolby also did me a great service. He helped me figure out how to explain a concept for the upcoming 2013 IBIS that I’ve been struggling with. I’m teaching a class on KPI development and while preparing I was asked by several people to help them understand how I distinguish between KPI’s and metrics…while I gave examples, they never felt very satisfying.
For some, the difference seemed to be a little pedantic, but to me, as we measure so many things that are important, we should be very careful what we label KPI’s. I’ve seen too many corporate dashboards with a zillion “KPI’s” which are not really KPI’s at all. Many are important, but “key” is a really big word.
So how did Kolby help? Well, it was in the announcement. He was born on Saturday morning at 1:04 a.m. and weighed 8 lbs, 0 oz with a length of exactly 21” and Apgar score of 9. As you can see, he’s already being measured at birth!
Now here is the dilemma that this little guy helped me with. You see, the first 3 measurements that I have for him are all important and are both recorded and can drive decisions of the doctors and his parents. The last number though, that is the only one that is a KPI.
Why not the first ones? Well, primarily because while important, they drive things like what size pants he wears and when he gets sent home from the hospital, they don’t have sensitivity to small changes and are typically not unique or important by themselves. For instance, if his weight was 8 pounds 4 ounces would anything have been done differently? Would knowing that different number change anyone’s outlook or activity with him? Of course not.
The Apgar score is another matter. The Apgar score is a 10 point score which was devised in 1952 by Dr. Virginia Apgar and is a very nice and simple measurement of 5 key areas of newborn health. Specifically the following are measured on a scale of 0 to 2 and then added up to give a single measurement. Skin color, pulse rate, reflex irritability, muscle tone and breathing are measured at 1 minute and then at 5 minutes of life. A score of 7-10 is considered normal and a low number in one area is not necessarily an indicator of a problem, but improvements are expected in the second test.
Again, this score provides a nice simple data point that drives decisions, understanding and action by all who hear it. Telling your doctor that your baby’s Apgar was a 5 will drive her to give the little guy more attention and additional analysis than if the score was a 9. As it turns out, they normally don’t like 10’s as that might indicate the child isn’t responding to the miracle of birth as they usually do. So again, the number tells everyone what to expect when they turn the corner and look at the stud muffin.
Sounds like a KPI to me!
This is important as the hospital was delivering multiple babies that morning and while not all are future NFL hall of famers as Kolby is, they are still precious and need the right amount of attention with limited hospital resources. Besides, the camera crews hate nurses and doctors constantly stepping in and photo bombing him. The Apgar is a KPI which allows the hospital to focus on the needs of all of the babies based on their presenting scores. Again, the other numbers are important, but they just can’t all be KPI’s, as that would overwhelm the decision makers who have a lot on their hands already!
Hopefully, those not sure of why I make a big deal out of the difference between KPI’s and metrics will at least see and understand a bit more of the crazy mind of Uncle Ethan. I look forward to sharing more about how to develop KPIs at IBIS 2013 – Limitless BI conference. Oh and drop a note below to welcome Kolby in either English or Cantonese, he’ll write back next year when he can read and type.
Congratulations Ethan. Kolby Austin sure is lucky to have someone like you as an uncle. I will be surprised if by next year he will be able to read and type… LOL.
Thanks! He’s an awesome kid and we’re blessed to have him in our family.
What a great KPI analogy – I get it!
Congratulations uncle Ethan! Kolby is already contributing to BI and is part of the data set we swirl with for IBIS ! I am sure he will rock very soon.
This analogy definitely helps towards understanding difference between KPI and any measurable attributes. I am sure there are many more examples and interesting explanation about this in the track. I recognize the importance of this distinction all the time whe gathering requirement for dashboards.
I’m a little late to the game in reading this, but this was very helpful, Ethan. Thank you for writing this up, and congratulations on becoming a new uncle!