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Term Sheet: FP&A Definitions for Common Terms

  • Published: 7/21/2017

By: Bryan Lapidus, FP&A

Reading various product pitches and online articles I find myself wondering whether everyone uses basic FP&A terms consistently, so I decided to refresh my memory.

Let’s start with performance measurement, the collecting of information about your organization for analysis. Performance measurements are generally evaluated over time for trends (direction) or compared to guidelines or benchmarks.

They may also be qualitative or quantitative, leading or lagging, and related to input, process, or output.






The most basic of this group, measures are numerical values applied to almost anything that is measured. It is a statement of fact

  • # of customers
  • Temperature


A step more advanced, metrics are derived from measures, often mixing two measures from different data dimensions.

Metrics tracks the status of a business process or concept, may begin to tell how well something is doing, or describe attributes

  • Cost per customer acquisition (CPA)
  • Sales/quarter
  • Average temperature in May in your city

KPI – Key Performance Indicator

Even more specific, KPI’s describe the level of performance required to achieve an objective for your team, department, product, organization, etc.

KPI’s will follow the SMART definition: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based

Looking at the specific terms:

  • KEY: relates to a company objective
  • PERFORMANCE: ties to how well the company performs (health and success): # of computers/employee is not performance
  • INDICATOR: quantitative points to direction of the company (improve or decline)

One check on whether a metric has risen to the level of a KPI: you would pay money to know the information because it is valuable in driving actions or decisions

  • Achieve $25 CPA in Q3
  • No KPI’s around temperature because no action you take can control it

Value Drivers

This is an imprecise term and therefore may be used notionally or specifically. Value drivers are the actions or processes that increases the value (utility) of your product or service in the eyes of your customer. Depending on where you sit and what you provide, your customers may be internal or external.

  • Retain customers
  • Acquire customers

Another set of terms which benefit from tighter definitions are dashboards and scorecards. Both are trying to provide consolidated and summarized performance information, but speak to different levels on a hierarchy.





Dashboards display short-term, tactical operational measurements or metrics. The data is intended to be current and changing as it may checked often (daily, intraday). The data may be visually represented and depict comparison to guidelines.

  • Customers by channel
  • Product profitability
  • Car dashboard


Scorecards are designed from the top-down, starting with the long-term strategic vision, goals and objectives, and displaying KPIs that are reviewed periodically. Data changes over a longer period as the data does not change quickly.

  • Market share
  • Company profitability
  • Car GPS

While we are clearing the air, let’s review another set of terms—goals and objectives.






Goals reflect the “big picture” destination of what you want to achieve. They generally have a long time frame and are crafted to stretch. Goals control objectives.

  • Become dominant player in segment
  • 2020 earnings of $X
  • Driving to the beach


Objectives are the measurable progress, steps or tactics on your way to goals, and may be set at multiple levels within an organization

  • Market share
  • Lifetime value of E-commerce customer > $100
  • On the road by 7:00am to beat traffic

Bryan Lapidus, FP&A, is a contributing consultant and author to the Association for Financial Professionals. Reach him at

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