How many KPIs go on an executive dashboard?

How many Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should we place on any given executive dashboard is a constantly asked question. How to be sure everything needed is there? Is this enough? Is it too much?

The short answer is, there should be less than 10. More than that, you’re getting distracted by less useful metrics. And being distracted isn’t what you want from your dashboard.

Your car’s dashboard

Let’s compare your executive dashboard with you’re the one you look at while you drive your car. Engineers could have put many more KPIs like real-time tire pressure or the number of cars around yours. Why not display the force of the wind or even a slope indicator?

It’s because those are not critical to drive your car. But it could be hazardous to risk yourself on the highway without the speed indicator or to go on a trip without the gas level indicator. Even the RPM is useful to watch for engine overheating.

Critial, i.e. the one you can’t ignore or bad things will happen

Critical is the keyword here. If it’s not that important then you don’t need it in your executive dashboard. It might be in another dashboard like marketing or operational dashboards, but not into the executive one. If you can get fired because you didn’t get an eye on a particular KPI then it is critical enough to get a good place in the dashboard!

In short, the optimal number of KPIs in an executive dashboard should be between three and ten. It’s not the place for irrelevant KPIs to the managers like bounce rate or average time spent. Remember that each and every KPI listed on an executive dashboard should be actionable and tells at first sight what’s going on with the business.


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