15.3.1 Key performance indicators

The terms ‘performance indicator’ or key performance indicator (KPI) are often used by organisations to describe measures of their performance, especially in relation to the service they provide, and how well they have met their strategic and operational goals. KPIs can be measures of inputs, processes, outputs, outcomes or impacts for programmes or strategies. When supported with good data collection, analysis and reporting, they enable progress tracking, demonstration of achievement and allow corrective action for improvement. Participation of key stakeholders in defining KPIs is important because they are then more likely to understand and use them for informing management decisions.

KPIs can be used for:

  • setting performance targets and assessing progress toward achieving them
  • identifying problems to allow corrective action to be taken
  • indicating whether an in-depth evaluation is really needed.

Sometimes too many indicators may be defined without accessible and reliable data sources. This can make the evaluation costly and impractical. There is often a trade-off between picking the optimal or desired indicators and having to accept indicators which can be measured using existing data.

The Ethiopian WaSH M&E Framework and Manual (FDRE, n.d.) uses the following KPIs for sanitation and hygiene:

  • number and percentage of health facilities with water and latrines with water
  • percentage of households with a functioning latrine meeting minimum standards
  • percentage of households with a functioning handwashing facility.
  • percentage of people washing hands after defecation.

The percentages are calculated from the data collected during monitoring surveys. For example:

  • Percentage of households with a functioning latrine =

  • Number of households who have a functioning latrine x 100
  •                     Total number of households

The advantage of KPIs is that they provide an effective means to measure progress toward objectives. They can also make it easier to make comparisons. For example, different approaches to a common problem can be compared to find out which approach works best, or results from the same intervention in a number of districts can be compared to find out what other factors affected the outcomes. It is important for KPIs to be carefully defined so they can be applied consistently by different organisations (Jones, 2015). For example, the definition of ‘functioning latrine meeting minimum standards’ in the KPIs listed above, should specify exactly what the minimum standards are. Without precise definitions, survey data could be collected and interpreted by different people in different ways which would make comparisons meaningless and useful analysis and evaluation impossible.