Key figure analysis

Definition of key figure analysis in operational controlling

Key figure analysis in operational controlling is an important component of operational controlling. It is used to measure and evaluate the financial and operational performance of a company. Various key performance indicators are used to make statements about the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes.

Goals and functions of the key figure analysis

Performance evaluation

Ratio analysis is an important part of controlling and has various goals and functions. One of the main objectives is the performance evaluation of companies and their subdivisions. By analyzing relevant key figures, performance in different areas of the company can be objectively evaluated and compared. Here, it is important to select the right key figures that provide a meaningful overview of the actual situation.

Efficiency increase

Another goal of the ratio analysis is to increase efficiency within the company. By identifying strengths and weaknesses in performance, targeted measures to improve efficiency in various processes can be developed and implemented. This can be made possible, for example, by comparing current key figures with the desired target values or by making industry-wide comparisons.

Decision support

The ratio analysis also serves as a decision support for the management and other decision makers in the company. Based on the key figures determined, they can make well-founded decisions about future developments, investments or changes in the company. The meaningful information obtained from the analysis of key figures is thus an important basis for strategic and operational decisions.

Early warning system

Finally, the key figure analysis also functions as an early warning system for potential problems or risks in the company. Continuous monitoring and analysis of key performance indicators can identify trends or deviations that indicate potential problems or opportunities at an early stage. This enables management to take timely countermeasures or seize opportunities to ensure the future viability and competitiveness of the business.

Categories of key figures

Key financial figures

Financial ratios are important indicators of a company‘s financial performance. They relate to the balance sheet, income statement and cash flow and provide information on liquidity, profitability, debt and equity. Examples of financial ratios are sales, profit, equity ratio or the EBIT margin. These ratios are critical to assessing the financial stability and earning power of a business.

Key performance indicators

Performance metrics, also known as operational metrics, measure the efficiency and effectiveness of various business processes and activities within an organization. They are important for assessing the company’s performance in various areas and identifying potential for improvement. Examples of key performance indicators are productivity, lead time, capacity utilization or quality.

Process key figures

Process KPIs are indicators that relate to the internal workflows and processes of a company. They help to evaluate the degree of efficiency and effectiveness in the implementation of business processes and make it possible to identify weaknesses and optimization potential. Examples of process indicators are lead times, error rates, process costs or the number of returns.

Customer and market key figures

Customer and market metrics deal with the company’s positioning in the market and how it is perceived by customers. They are crucial for evaluating the attractiveness of the company and its products or services in the competitive environment. Examples of customer and market metrics are market share, customer satisfaction, customer loyalty or the number of new customers.

Ratio Analysis Methods

Single key figure analysis

Single key figure analysis is a method of key figure analysis in which individual key figures are considered and evaluated. This enables a simple and quick assessment of certain aspects in a company. However, looking at things in isolation can make it difficult to fully grasp cause-and-effect relationships and complex interrelationships within the company.

Key figure systems

Key performance indicator systems can be used to obtain a more comprehensive overview of a company’s performance and efficiency. These systems bundle multiple metrics that are linked together in a structured framework. This enables a better understanding of interrelationships and interactions between different key figures. Some well-known key performance indicator systems are:

Du Pont Key Performance Indicator System

The Du Pont KPI system is a classic KPI system that focuses on the profitability of an operation. It links return on sales, capital turnover and equity ratio to determine the overall profitability of the business.

Balanced Scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard is a modern performance measurement system that takes into account both financial and non-financial metrics. It enables a holistic view of business performance by combining four perspectives: Financial perspective, customer perspective, internal processes, and learning and development perspective.

ZVEI key figure system

The ZVEI key figure system was developed by the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association and focuses on the balance sheet analysis and evaluation of the financial situation of a company. It includes key figures on liquidity, profitability, capital structure and asset structure.


Benchmarking is a method of ratio analysis that assesses the performance of an operation against other companies or industry standards. This makes it possible to better assess one’s own position in the competitive environment and to identify potential for improvement.

Selection and implementation of key figures

When selecting and implementing metrics for key performance indicator analysis, organizations should consider several important aspects to ensure that the metrics are meaningful and useful. These include:

Relevance and target orientation

First and foremost, key figures should be relevant and goal-oriented. This means that they focus on the most important aspects of a company and help to achieve the company’s goals. For example, a metric used to measure financial performance should have a direct relationship to the profitability or liquidity of the business.

Comprehensibility and communication

The selected metrics should be easy to understand and communicate. This facilitates collaboration between different departments and enables effective communication of results and goals. A good KPI is easy to interpret and can be understood by all stakeholders in the company.

Measurability and availability of data

Key figures must be measurable and based on available data. Data collection should be reliable and, if possible, automated to allow accurate and timely evaluation. Companies should ensure that they have the necessary data materials to calculate and analyze the selected metrics.

Dynamics and adaptability

In an ever-changing business environment, it is important that metrics are dynamic and adaptable. Companies should regularly review whether their metrics remain relevant and useful, and adjust them as needed. The development of industry trends and new technologies should also be taken into account.

Interpretation of key figures of a company

The correct interpretation of key figures is crucial for the informative value and effectiveness of the key figure analysis. There are different approaches and methods to interpret and analyze key figures correctly. Here are some of the most important:

Absolute and relative key figures

When interpreting key figures, it is important to distinguish between absolute and relative key figures. Absolute ratios give a direct value, while relative ratios represent ratios or percentages. For example, the sales of a business can be considered an absolute measure, while the return on sales is a relative measure that shows sales in relation to profits. Both types of metrics are important to get a comprehensive picture of the situation in a company.

Time series analysis

Time series analysis is an important approach in the interpretation of key figures. This involves analyzing key figures over a specific period of time in order to identify trends and developments. This allows companies to evaluate their performance over time and identify potential areas for improvement. Time series analysis can also be used to analyze seasonal and cyclical fluctuations.

Industry comparison

An industry comparison is another important method for interpreting key figures. The company figures are compared with those of similar companies in the same industry. This makes it possible to evaluate the relative performance of the business in the industry environment and to highlight potential strengths and weaknesses. Such a comparison can also be made as part of the benchmarking process.

Target/actual comparison

The target/actual comparison is another method of interpreting key figures. The actual results (actual values) are compared with the planned targets (target values). This enables companies to assess their target achievement and, if necessary, make adjustments to achieve the goals they have set.

Limitations and challenges of key figure analysis

Key figure analysis is an important tool in controlling and corporate management. However, there are also limitations and challenges to consider when applying and interpreting metrics.

Misinterpretation and manipulation

One of the biggest challenges in ratio analysis is the risk of misinterpretation and manipulation. Since key figures often form the basis for decisions and assessments, they can tempt you to gloss over results or overlook undesirable cause-and-effect relationships. To avoid this, it is important to always adopt a critical and questioning attitude towards key figures and not to rely on them exclusively.

Complexity and information overload

The multitude of available metrics can lead to complexity and information overload. In order to maintain an overview and select the most relevant metrics for the situation at hand, it is crucial to focus on the essential aspects and follow a clear strategy for selecting and preparing the metrics.

Short-term focus

Another challenge in ratio analysis is the tendency to focus on the short term. Since many metrics are based on current data and short-term results, they can lead to neglecting long-term developments and interrelationships. To avoid this, long-term key figures and indicators that provide a more comprehensive insight into the development of the operation should also be taken into account.

Incentive and behavioral problems

Finally, metrics can also cause incentive and behavioral problems. If employees and managers are assessed and rewarded solely on the basis of metrics, this can lead to undesirable behaviors, such as manipulating results or ignoring important aspects that cannot be mapped directly into metrics. To avoid such problems, it is important to create a balanced incentive system that takes both quantitative and qualitative factors into account.

Understanding of cause-effect relationships in key figure analysis

A key element of ratio analysis is understanding cause-and-effect relationships between different ratios. Identifying such correlations makes it possible to estimate the effects of changes in one area of a company on other areas and thus make more informed decisions.

An example of a cause-effect relationship is the relationship between customer satisfaction and sales. A high level of customer satisfaction can lead to customers coming back more often and recommending the company to others, which has a positive impact on sales. Conversely, low customer satisfaction can lead to customer churn and lower sales.

To identify such correlations, it is important to analyze the underlying processes and structures of a company in detail and to examine the interactions between different key figures. Industry-specific features or external factors may also play a role and should be included in the analysis.

By understanding cause-and-effect relationships, companies can take more targeted action to improve their performance and achieve long-term success. However, it is important to emphasize that such relationships are not always linear or unambiguous, and that it is always necessary to consider a variety of factors and interactions in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the situation


What does plan-plan compare mean?

The term “plan-plan comparison” refers to a method in controlling in which two or more plans are compared with each other in order to assess the efficiency or effectiveness of the planned measures or goals. As part of the metrics analysis, a plan-plan comparison can be used to contrast different scenarios or strategies and analyze their impact on the metrics.

In the plan-plan comparison, the assumptions, targets and measures of the various plans are examined and their effects on the relevant key figures are determined.

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