What is the difference between KPI’s and performance metrics and dashboards?

A survey of European law departments, reported in Law Dept. Quarterly, Sept./Nov. 2006 at 27, asked about “quality management systems.” Among the 11 systems given to choose from, one was “a set of key performance indicators” and the other “performance metrics.” Of the 57 law departments that responded, 50 percent said they had key performance indicators (KPI) while close behind — 45 percent – said they had performance metrics. The difference eludes me.

Performance metrics, I believe, are for comparisons over time of what has been done; KPI’s are for goals in the future (See my posts of April 8, 2005; and Feb. 23, 2006 on SMART goals.) Performance metrics and KPI’s should have direction – we want to have closed 30 percent of our cases within 18 months last year or we want to increase our payments made through electronic billing by 20 percent this year.

Dashboards are “visual budgeting and goal-setting tools” according to the Nat’l L.J., Vol. 29, Jan. 8, 2007 at 8, and Matthew Fawcett, the general counsel of JDS Uniphase Corp. A dashboard could present either performance metrics from the past of key performance indicators for the future. A dashboard is a way to present visually in one place several key metrics.

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