Enhancing KPIs with AI: Most leaders say they need to improve KPIs, but few leverage AI—although 9 in 10 users report improvements

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Public Relations

Since key performance indicators are analytical by design, and intended to offer specific high-level insights, they seem like a slam dunk for the capabilities of AI. But an amazingly small proportion of more than 3,000 leaders surveyed are using AI for this purpose, reveals new research from MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The survey data also shows that those who do use it are successfully making their KPIs more forward-looking and connected, and dramatically improving legacy performance metrics.

The new report, The Future of Strategic Measurement: Enhancing KPIs With AI, presents findings from MIT SMR and BCG’s seventh annual global research study on AI and business strategy. KPIs are used as benchmarks to evaluate progress on a wide variety of business objectives, such as sales growth, customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency, but most companies have yet to exploit the capabilities of AI to measurably improve their most important metrics.

Enhancing KPIs with AI

“We learned that smart leadership sees AI as essential to making their KPIs smarter, more predictive, and more insightful,” said Michael Schrage, a research fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and report coauthor, in a news release. “I was surprised and disappointed by how many organizations haven’t bothered to use technology to revisit and revise their most important metrics.”

“While the majority of AI efforts have centered on how to improve performance using the technology, this report sheds light on how AI can completely transform how companies actually define and measure performance to begin with,” said Shervin Khodabandeh, a senior partner and managing director at BCG and a coauthor of the report, in the release. “It goes beyond improving existing KPIs to fundamentally reimagining what those KPIs could be.”

Enhancing KPIs with AI

AI-enhanced KPIs lead to better outcomes

Shifting economic conditions, evolving customer expectations, and digital transformations require organizations to reassess their definition of success and how it is measured. Sixty percent of leaders believe that they need to improve their organization’s KPIs to improve decision-making, but only about one-third (34 percent) are using AI to make their performance metrics more intelligent, adaptive, and predictive.

Nine out of 10 organizations with AI-enhanced KPIs agree or strongly agree that their KPIs have been improved by the technology. The survey data affirms that companies using AI to create new KPIs see an array of business benefits compared with those companies that don’t use it. Organizations using AI to create new KPIs realize a 4X increase in collaboration between employees and are 3X more effective at predicting future performance, 3X more likely to see greater financial benefit, and 2X more likely to see greater efficiency.

The three types of smart KPIs

The report delineates three ways that AI-enriched KPIs improve on legacy metrics that simply track performance. First, smart descriptive KPIs synthesize historical and current data to deliver insights into what happened or what is happening. Smart predictive KPIs anticipate future performance, producing reliable leading indicators and providing visibility into potential outcomes. They also identify patterns that other techniques or humans cannot, allowing them to draw on a richer reserve of potentially counterintuitive patterns. Lastly, smart prescriptive KPIs use AI to recommend actions that optimize performance.

Enhancing KPIs with AI

“On one level, AI-enriched KPIs represent a significant advance in what managers can measure and how performance is measured,” said David Kiron, editorial director for research at MIT SMR and report coauthor, in the release. “They also invite organizational change: Business managers and technologists need to work together in new ways to develop and use the metrics that matter most.”

Implementing and managing smart KPIs holistically

Shifting from legacy KPIs to algorithmically informed KPIs disrupts how organizations understand, define, and pursue performance excellence. The report details the following steps that organizations must take to make their smart KPIs operationally, organizationally, and strategically more valuable:

  • Realign data governance to enable measurably smarter KPIs.
  • Establish KPI governance systems.
  • Use digital twins to enhance key performance metrics.
  • Prioritize cultural readiness and people-centric approaches.
  • Ensure strategic alignment with smart KPIs.

Enhancing KPIs with AI

Smarter KPIs powered by AI have become sources of strategic differentiation and value creation,” said François Candelon, global director of the BCG Henderson Institute and a coauthor of the report, in the release. “This is not mere hype; this is what AI makes possible. The design, governance, oversight, and evolution of AI-enhanced KPIs is now a top leadership priority.”

Download the full report here.

This report is based on a global survey of more than 3,000 respondents representing more than 25 industries and 100 countries, as well as interviews with 17 executives leading AI initiatives in a broad range of industries.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter