Glossary of Business Performance Terms and Definitions

Get familiar with the most commonly used performance related definitions

A glossary icon of a book and magnifying glass on a blue background

Buzz words and Jargon

Business performance tracking, like any other process is packed with acronyms, buzz words and jargon. Almost daily something new comes along; meaning that keeping on top of these terms can be a constant process. Not to worry, we've made things a little easier for both those new to performance tracking and seasoned veterans. We have collected all the most commonly used terms and phrases into one convenient, A-Z, easy to reference guide.



The use of techniques and technology to interpret and communicate insights and patterns found in raw data.

Application Programming Interface (API)

API is an acronym for Application Programming Interface. It is a gateway that allows two applications to communicate with each other. For example, when searching for a hotel room on a comparison site, the search will communicate with each hotels API to check availability and deliver the results.

Behavioral Analytics

Is the advancement of Business Analytics that specifically aims to understand the behavior of consumers to predict how they will purchase in the future. This subset of analytics utilizes the huge amount of data that is generated during interactions with applications, software, social media, the Internet of things and e-commerce.

Big Data

Big data is a term that is used to describe enormous and complex data sets that are both structured and unstructured - normally generated during the day-to-day activities of a business. This term covers the volume, velocity and variety of the data generated.


Breakdowns are the groups or groupings of underlying data. For example, you can breakdown the number of cars sold by the different types / colors or engine sizes.

Business Intelligence (BI)

Business Intelligence is a global term that covers the applications, infrastructure, tools, methodologies and best practices used by organizations to capture and analyze business data. The aim of Business Intelligence is to streamline business processes, provide decision making information and improve performance.


A chart is a visual representation of data, metrics or measures, where data points are characterized by graphical symbols. These representations may take the form of bar charts, line charts, or pie charts. A chart can display various data types such as numeric, actions or functions or qualitative information.

Collaborative BI

Collaborative BI refers to the collaboration between colleagues, clients or organizations where applications that distill data such as Dashboards and Reports are typically used to collectively share knowledge and insights. The aim of collaborative BI is to improve decision making and business processes.


Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is term used to describe all the systems that help you manage interactions and relationships with customers. Typically, this would include software that covers areas such as sales, support, marketing and customer services.

Data Analytics

Data Analytics is collective term that covers the field of data interpretation using various methods of analyzing data, such as, mathematics, predictive modeling and statistical analysis. Numerous methodologies may run in parallel along with technologies to help discover patterns and insights in data.

Dark Data

Dark data refers to data that is collected and stored by organizations during normal business activities - and then not used for any other purpose.

Data Dashboard

A data dashboard is a data visualization tool that tracks and displays data, metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPI). A Dashboard will typically contain Charts, Graphs and tables to show the performance of specific data points. Dashboards are primarily used to monitor the performance of business processes.

Data Report

A data Report is a business performance tool that effectively visualizes data, metrics or Key Performance Indicators. Organizations use these reports to track progress and improve performance. A Data Report will typically contain a mixture of Charts, Graphs and Tabular information.

Data Warehouse

Data Warehousing is used to describe the method and process of amalgamating data from a series of sources into a single central store for reporting and analysis. This data repository is called a Data Warehouse.


A graph is a mathematical illustration which depicts the relationship between two or more sets of data points, metrics, measurements or KPIs. Graphs in performance management are most often used to depict trend over a given period.


Insights is the term used to describe the knowledge obtained from data tracking and visualization in the context of performance monitoring and decision making. Insights can be obtained from analysis, data visualization or alerting from various tools and applications.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

A Key Performance Indicator is a type of measurement that is designed to evaluate an organizations progress towards a specific business goal, target or objective. KPIs can help condense large amounts or performance data into a smaller more manageable number of key indicators.


Key Responsibility Area or KRAs are relative to the job description or responsibilities of a user. They stipulate specific KRA that the employee is assigned to perform as part of their overall performance expectations. For example, as a line manager, a KRA would be to ensure that the quality of the produced units is up to a certain standard.

Lagging KPI

Lagging Indicators are almost universally geared towards output. The historic nature means they are easy to measure but difficult to influence. For example, the number of customer complaints in a month are easily tracked, however reducing that number involves investigation and implementing a strategy to influence future behavior.

Leading KPI

Leading KPIs refer to a type of KPI that is designed to measure performance and processes that will influence future outcomes. For example, increasing the number of 'routine maintenance checks' in a production line may highlight faults that were causing defects.

Meta Data

Meta data refers to the secondary data that provides information on the main data set, this data can be used for identification, the data structure or other information relating to file type, access privileges or other technical information.


A metric is used to track the status of a specific task or process. A metric may contain data or measures from more than one source to display a quantifiable status. For example, the number of web visitors may contain a consolidation of visitors from both mobile and desktop to state its value.


A measure is a single, specific unit of measurement such as a value, a dollar, a centimeter, minutes or even temperatures. A measure is primarily numeric in nature and used to record directly observable values.

Self Service Analytics

Self-Service Analytics refers to the ability of business professionals to analysis data and generate dashboards and reports without the need to involve internal IT support.

Normally this is serviced through Business analytics tools and applications that are easy to implement and use.


Scorecards are performance management tools or report aligned to the scorecard methodology of weighting KPIs and metrics by importance to the overall strategic aims of the business.


S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time orientated. It is used to describe the philosophy of creating KPIs and metrics to achieve measurable goals and strategic business objectives through a guided process.


S.M.A.R.T.E.R is an extended acronym on the principles of the S.M.A.R.T philosophy. It is designed to incorporate two extra steps; ‘Evaluated’ in order to test current relevance and ‘Revised’ or ‘Revisited’ to update or remove the KPI.

Social BI

Social BI, and Social Business Intelligence, refers to the approach of blending traditional performance management and reporting, with social media capabilities such as networking, forum or thread-based format and social sharing to share and communicate knowledge and insights.

SQL Database

SQL is the acronym for Standardized Query Language. It is a programming language used to manage relational databases and for data manipulation used to collect and store large amount of data.

Tabular Data

Tabular Data is used to describe the data format or structure where data is organized in rows and columns such as dates. This format of data is designed to be more understandable by users.


Business Intelligence - BI - Gartner IT Glossary

Business intelligence - Wikipedia

Mini-glossary: Business intelligence and analytics terms you should know - TechRepublic

Get started with your KPI Software

Get started for free