How to Set and Measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in Project Management

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Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, serve as instrumental navigational tools within the vast realm of project management. These vital metrics provide the necessary benchmarks that facilitate effective monitoring, control, and the successful delivery of projects.

KPIs are not merely figures; they are insightful data sources. A good key performance indicator (KPI) enables project managers to gain a holistic understanding of project performance and predict future trajectories.

What are KPIs in project management? How do you set them correctly? What are the best methods for measurement? You'll learn all that from this comprehensive guide and discover how to leverage them for project success.

What Are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?

To comprehend the essential role KPIs play in project management, it's crucial to first understand what KPIs are.

A key performance indicator (KPI) is a business metric that shows the effectiveness of a project through its life cycle.

In essence, KPIs are measurable values that indicate the level of performance of various aspects of a project—from broad outcomes to minute processes. They act as a pulse-check, giving an overview of the health, efficiency, and effectiveness of a project.

In simple terms, KPIs key performance indicators are specific metrics that help you track your progress toward important goals and help you measure progress of projects.

By tracking and analyzing KPIs, your business can identify areas for improvement, make informed decisions, and achieve goals

Types of KPIs

There are numerous types of KPIs in project management. The most common examples of KPI include:

  • Financial KPIs: These are all about the money. They include metrics like revenue growth, profit margin, net profit, return on investment (ROI), and cash flow.

  • Operational KPIs: Help in assessing day-to-day operations and measure performance across the organization—on-time project delivery, aligning with financial metrics of the company, keeping up with performance metrics, avoiding cost overruns, etc.

  • Employee KPIs: Relate to workforce performance and well-being. They include metrics like employee turnover, training effectiveness, customer satisfaction per employee, and overall employee satisfaction.

  • Process KPIs: Measure the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes, such as cycle time, error rate, and on-time delivery rate.

  • Customer KPIs: Measure the satisfaction and loyalty of customers. Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer retention rates, and customer acquisition cost (CAC) are some commonly used ones.

  • Marketing KPIs: These are linked strictly to marketing endeavors and may include such metrics as a number of new customers coming from marketing channels per month, click-through rate (CTR), conversion rates, or cost per click (CPC).

In other terms, KPI is any type of system used to measure the health and progress of a project. Right key performance indicators can help you achieve goals more effectively, track progress to stay on time and budget, and spot and minimize risk.

The unique feature of KPIs lies in their versatility and adaptability. By tailoring these indicators to align with the specific objectives of each project, you can ensure you're constantly working towards project success.

Leading and Lagging Indicators

Another two common types of KPIs are leading and lagging indicators.

Leading indicators predict future performance. They measure activities that are believed to lead to desired results. Leading KPIs are often used to identify trends and potential problems early on so you can take a corrective action.

Lagging indicators are metrics that measure past performance. They reflect the results of past activities. These are often used to confirm trends and to assess the overall performance of a business.

You can use leading and lagging indicators together to provide a more complete picture of a business's performance. They are important because they help to identify trends and potential problems early on, make informed decisions about how to improve performance, and align your long term goals and objectives with performance KPIs.

Examples of KPIs

Here are a few real-life examples of KPIs that you can use in various business areas:

  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)—quantifies prospect interest.

  • Inventory Turnover Rate—optimizes stock and costs.

  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)—assesses long-term customer value.

  • Marketing and sales KPIs such as conversion rate (measures action-taking percentage), or sales growth rate (tracks revenue growth over time).

  • Average open support tickets—monitors open ticket volume.

  • Net Profit Margin—the most common KPI. It indicates profitability as a percentage of revenue.

  • Customer Service KPIs with indicators such as CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score)—measure post-support satisfaction or Support Ticket Resolution Time (tracks timely ticket resolution).

In general, you can have as many types of KPIs as you want. You can also have only one key performance indicator. Or, you can experiment to create a perfect KPI for your project. It all depends on your business activities, needs, and stakeholder expectations.

Why Are KPIs Important in Project Management?

KPIs stand as an essential pillar in managing project efficiency. They offer a practical grounding to what might otherwise be abstract objectives, transforming them into trackable, quantifiable metrics. With KPIs, you can gauge performance, detect potential problems early on, and course-correct in real time.

In terms of strategic decision-making and resource allocation, KPIs are invaluable. By providing a clear, data-backed picture of how the project is progressing, KPIs enable you to make informed decisions about where to invest more or less time, money, or personnel. This optimization of resources contributes significantly to business success.

Furthermore, KPIs serve as an effective means of tracking progress and performance. By comparing current KPI measurements against set benchmarks or targets, you can get an accurate reading of how well the project is aligning with its objectives and strategic goals.

This tracking capability also proves beneficial in risk mitigation, as detecting performance dips early on can help prevent minor issues from snowballing into major roadblocks.

How to Set KPIs in Project Management

Setting KPIs in project management is an art that requires a balance of strategic foresight, a deep understanding of project goals, and an intuitive feel for what's important to measure.

Here are 6 steps you can follow to set the right key performance indicators for your projects and specific business activities.

1. Understand Project Objectives

The first step involves a thorough comprehension of project objectives. What do you want to achieve with your project? What do you want to measure? Where do you want the key performance indicators to take you?

Once you know your goals, you can start to identify the metrics that will measure your progress towards those goals. Every KPI should be tied back to a specific project goal, ensuring that you are measuring what truly matters for project success.

2. Identify Key Success Factors

Once you've defined project goals, the next step is to specify the critical success factors—these are the essential areas or processes whose optimal performance is vital for achieving the project goals. From these critical success factors, you can derive measurable indicators which, when tracked, will provide insights into the performance of these crucial areas.

Define your success criteria. What does it mean for your project to be successful? What are the key areas where you need to meet or exceed expectations?

3. Select Relevant KPIs

Not all KPIs are created equal. Choose KPIs that are SMART:

  • Specific and Measurable, providing quantifiable data on performance.

  • Achievable to push the team to improve but remaining within reach.

  • Relevant to your project goals and directly linked to project success.

  • Time-bound to ensure the project stays on track and within its planned timeframe.

You can create a KPI plan tailored to the specific needs of a given project and better understand what needs to be improved.

4. Set Targets for Each KPI

Be realistic in setting your KPI targets. They should challenge your team but also be achievable. Overly ambitious targets can be demotivating.

What are your desired results for each KPI? How much improvement do you need to make in order to achieve your project goals?

5. Establish a Monitoring System

Develop a plan for tracking and measuring your KPIs. How often will you measure your KPIs? How will you collect and analyze the data? What will you do with the collected information?

You can also implement a system for regularly tracking and monitoring your chosen KPIs. This might involve using project management software, spreadsheets, or any task management software.

6. Communicate KPIs to Your Team

Everyone on the team should be aware of the project goals and objectives, and how their work contributes to achieving those goals. Ensure that the project team is aware of the KPIs and the importance of achieving them. Effective communication and motivation are key to success.

7. Review and Update

Once you use KPIs, don't just leave them to be. Make sure to monitor, adjust, and review your key performance indicators systematically.

As your project progresses, you may need to adjust your KPIs or targets in response to changes in the project scope, budget, or schedule. Also, hold regular review meetings to assess progress. If you notice that certain KPIs are consistently off track, be ready to adjust your strategies or reallocate resources.

How to Measure KPIs in Project Management?

Having set your KPIs in alignment with your project goals, the next pivotal stage is measuring these indicators. The accurate and timely measurement of KPIs is vital for tracking project progress and making informed decisions.

Fortunately, there are numerous methods and tools available to aid in this process.


Reporting tools help in measuring progress and making sure your team achieves all the strategic objectives in the most optimized period of time.

Project management software, such as Microsoft Project or Basecamp, can facilitate the collection and analysis of data related to KPIs. These tools often come with features for setting up custom KPIs, tracking their progress over time in KPI dashboards, and visualizing data in a comprehensible manner.

Data visualization tools like Tableau or PowerBI can also be beneficial in measuring KPIs. They can process large volumes of data and produce visually engaging and informative reports, dashboards, or charts, simplifying the task of interpreting complex datasets.

Team collaboration and communication tools, for example, Planner by TimeCamp, help to communicate with team members and stakeholders about the health of the key performance indicators to stay on track and keep everyone engaged.

The Right Process

The concept of tracking and reporting KPIs is another critical aspect of the measurement process. Regularly monitoring the progress of KPIs against their targets allows for timely detection of any deviations and swift corrective actions.

Reporting, on the other hand, involves communicating the status and trends of KPIs to stakeholders. This ensures transparency and allows everyone involved to stay updated on the project's progress.


Project management methodologies (PMMs) and KPIs are closely related. PMMs can provide a framework for identifying and tracking the KPIs that are most important to the project. Conversely, KPIs can be used to measure the success of a PMM in achieving project goals.

By choosing the right methodology, you can optimize business efforts with key performance indicators perfectly tailored to your needs.


Best practices for measuring KPIs include setting up regular intervals for tracking and reporting, using consistent and accurate real-time data sources, and applying appropriate data analysis methods. Remember, the ultimate goal is not just to gather data, but to derive actionable insights from it. 

Having a personalized, good way to measure progress toward your goals and doing it routinely helps to keep projects on track.

Common Mistakes While Using KPIs and How to Avoid Them

While KPIs are incredibly beneficial when used correctly, certain common pitfalls can compromise their effectiveness. For instance, focusing excessively on vanity metrics—numbers that may look good on paper but don't contribute significantly to project success—can lead to misguided decisions. It's crucial to concentrate on KPIs that directly tie to your project strategic goals and outcomes.

Another common mistake is neglecting qualitative indicators. While quantitative KPIs provide a clear, numerical evaluation of specific aspects of the project, qualitative KPIs offer valuable insights into less tangible areas like team satisfaction, customer feedback, or the perceived quality of project outcomes.

Additionally, a lack of documentation may also cause turmoil. Whether you meet or miss a target, record your progress and have each KPI documented. You can later use these insights to learn and improve for future projects.

The key to avoiding these mistakes is maintaining a balanced KPI portfolio. Ensure your KPIs cover both quantitative and qualitative aspects, are directly linked to your project goals, and provide a holistic view of your project's performance. Additionally, periodically reviewing and adjusting your KPIs can ensure they remain relevant and effective throughout the project lifecycle.

Case Study: Successful Implementation of KPIs in Project Management

Consider the example of a manufacturing company implementing a new production line. The project's overall objective was to increase output while maintaining high-quality standards. 

Key project goals included minimizing production downtime, improving product quality, and boosting output. Accordingly, the project team set several KPIs:

  • the percentage of uptime for production machinery (a process KPI),

  • the number of units failing quality checks (an output KPI),

  • and the total number of units produced per shift (another output KPI).

By constantly tracking these KPIs, the project team was able to quickly identify and address issues, such as recurring machinery faults leading to downtime or a specific process causing an increase in quality failures. Consequently, they were able to achieve a significant increase in production output, reduce downtime, and improve product quality by the end of the project. 

This case highlights how well-defined and well-managed KPIs can significantly contribute to project success and illustrate the theoretical concepts discussed in this guide. 


Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) play an invaluable role in project management, serving as navigational aids steering projects towards their goals. Their effective implementation requires an understanding of what they are, their significance, and how to set and measure them accurately.

To maximize the benefits KPIs offer, it is crucial to ensure they are SMART, directly linked to project objectives, and offer a balance of both qualitative and quantitative insights. Regular tracking, clear reporting, and periodic review of KPIs also form essential aspects of effective KPI management.

Incorporating KPIs into your project management practices can significantly enhance your ability to deliver successful projects. We invite you to share your experiences with setting and measuring KPIs and how they have contributed to your project's success.

💡 For further readings on project management best practices, check out our other comprehensive guides and resources.