What’s the Difference between Analytics and KPIs?

Key performance indicators, or KPIs, are a specialized category of analytics results, characterized mostly by their importance and meaning to stakeholders. But oftentimes, the terms KPIs and analytics are used interchangeably, which could confuse your audience, or change your sentiment altogether. In this blog post, we’ll explain the differences between analytics and KPIs, compare learning KPIs to business KPIs, and apply all of the above to the world of learning and development.

What are the differences between KPIs and analytics?

KPIs are performance metrics that tell you if organizational goals are being met, while other analytics might tell you what’s driving that performance.

For example, perhaps the trend of scores on an onboarding pre-assessment is simply another analytics result, while the percentage of employees compliant with your security awareness course is a KPI. The only difference between these is the level of importance and meaning bestowed on the latter.

Typically, this importance on a particular metric is for good reason. Logic and experience inform stakeholders as to those results that best inform ongoing decisions to be made. For instance, an organization with a KPI around sales results is almost certainly basing forward guidance, personnel decisions, or training programs according to the ongoing, changing value of this indicator.

How do people misuse “analytics” when they really mean “KPIs”?

Einstein said, “not everything that can be counted counts.” There’s more to the quote, but that first part stands well on its own. If your team has 50 different KPIs, it’s arguable that none of them are actually differentiated as key indicators.

Rather, you just have a lot of analytics results, which may all have varied importance and meaning. But KPIs are intended to be uniquely significant and summarizing.

What’s the difference between learning KPIs and business KPIs?

KPIs are usually backed up by other analytics results. A number of secondary figures or details are necessary to explain the unexpected values or changes in a KPI.

For example, understanding a spike in sales results will likely require insight into a number of other metrics, including sales by product, sales by division, call volume, or staffing levels. Without these additional metrics, a KPI will quickly lose its meaning, as the value bounces around while being misunderstood.

How can you connect learning analytics with business KPIs?

The line between learning KPIs and business KPIs—which often indicates where learning should be having an impact on performance—can get blurry.

For example, an L&D team in charge of customer service training may decide that the CSAT scores of their learners is the most meaningful indicator of success for the programs they design. The learning materials and learning programs for the customer service reps will have a major impact on their performance, but other factors may influence them as well.

In this case, L&D must collaborate with customer service leadership to help drive success together. Thus, the connection between learning and business KPIs also represents an opportunity for connecting learning and business teams.

KPIs are usually backed up by other analytics results. A number of secondary figures or details are necessary to explain the unexpected values or changes in a KPI.