Who Is The KPI Guy


The Short Story

I am Paul Ousterhout, also known as The KPI Guy.  You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and lots of businesses can’t measure effectively because they don’t have the data they need, and/or they don’t understand how to leverage the data they have.

I can solve both of these problems and create highly effective performance dashboards & scorecards.

I am a unique combination of entrepreneur, CTO, process specialist, Data Scientist, User Interface expert, and systems thinker.  I have the unusual capacity to bounce between strategic and tactical rapidly, and I consider myself a strong communicator.

I apologize if this comes off as bragging, but I’m trying to tell my story and this is the wrong time to be humble!  We all have a unique combination of fabulous skills, and this is mine.

What I offer your organization is to help you organize your data, connect it directly to your strategic goals, and drive tactical outcomes like you’ve seen in your dreams.  You can’t get it from an off-the-shelf piece of software, and you can’t get it from Excel.  You can get it from The KPI Guy.


The Long Story

(hopefully not so long as to require a nap)

One of the first measurements I remember being really important was how fast I could complete my paper route. Now I know I’m dating myself, kids today can’t have a paper route. But I did, and I wanted it done ASAP so I could get back to playing. I think it was my first real KPI.

A few years later, I took my first computer programming class in 9th grade. I loved it, and it just connected with my brain. And I’ve been programming ever since.

In my first real job I started as a Jr. Programmer and started moving up the food chain. I worked with the heads of each department and updated our transaction processing system.  I gradually  learned how business worked, one department at a time, by observing their processes and re-programming the system to match what they were actually doing.

I thought I was pretty good, so I asked for a raise.  My boss said – ‘how have you earned a raise?’  Well that knocked me down a notch, so I quickly learned the importance of being able to show productivity gains that I could argue were a direct result of new software I had created. It seemed to work pretty well, and KPIs took on a larger meaning.

I got to build systems for collections, payables, general ledger, inside sales, outside sales, purchasing, distribution, inventory control, equipment repair, asset utilization and more.  I learned those systems from the ground up, as well as how each department interacted with the other departments.  Our performance went up, my pay went up, and I made CIO.

The business grew from one store and $3MM in sales to 13 stores in 4 states, and $50MM in sales.  And our performance was crazy good.  But we were never satisfied, and kept finding ways to squeeze out more productivity while constantly watching our KPIs.  We constantly worked with the front line, finding ways to remove obstacles to their performance, and that connection with the people actually doing the work was simply critical.

Our owner decided it was time to exit, and he put us on the market.  I’ll never forget the first time a team showed up for due diligence. They actually said we were baking our books when they saw the performance numbers.  ‘Your KPIs are Lies’ is what they said.  Well – after they looked at how our systems worked, and how we had tied the transaction processing system to the KPIs, and how it all meshed with our management philosophy, they changed their tune.

We got a $20MM bonus when the company was sold, specifically because of how we had tied our management practices to our transactional software, and the fact that we could measure every little bit of it.

And – they offered me a position as the Director of Application development for the new parent company, one 20 times larger and publicly held. Needless to say, it was a fabulous opportunity and I jumped at the offer.  The downside was that I didn’t get to code anymore, I had a team doing that. Those 2 years ended up being the longest time of my career that I wasn’t directly building systems.

I was miserable.  Spending all my time in meetings and designing systems for others to build just wasn’t satisfying.

Simply put, I need to build, and leading others who are doing the building just isn’t the same.  The product suffers because I am at my best creatively when I’m coding, and deeply connected with the solution.  It puts me in the state of the user, and that creates a very strong empathy for my users.  I started to deeply understand this about myself during this period.

When a downsize came and I was offered a package, I jumped at it because I just wasn’t in the right seat on the bus.  As a matter of fact, I was on the wrong bus.

This was the right time to move from the mainframe development I had been doing to the fabulous world of web software.  I taught myself HTML, a couple of scripting languages, and Microsoft SQL and hung out a shingle.  I was now ‘Big Picture Systems’, a one-man show building and implementing e-commerce systems.  It was pretty scary taking that first leap into self-employment, but I landed a couple of really good clients right away, and started honing my skills in the web world.

3 or 4 years later, the competition in e-commerce websites was getting crazy and I got engaged.  I thought I needed something a little more stable so I joined a consulting company.  I really enjoyed the change in work, apparently, because I performed really well and made partner within a year.

My job as partner was to conceive of a business practice, build it up to something nicely profitable, operationalize it, and hand it off to someone else.  So in 2007 I started our Business Intelligence practice, and in 2008 we landed Comcast Technical Operations as our first major client.  At the time they had 20,000 technicians across the US, performing 100,000 jobs a day.  Which meant they had a lot of data.

It was so much fun because we were doing something pretty amazing – pulling 1 billion rows of data every night, mashing it up into 500 KPIs being used by 6,000 users across the USA.  The data came from literally dozens of different software packages, and it was a huge challenge to homogenize it all.  But the results were just amazing, we were able to prove that we saved Comcast $1B over 3 years.  Their workforce decreased by 3,000 over that time through attrition, not by RIF.  More performance, fewer people.

Which brings me to January of 2015.  I had a great run at the consulting/BI firm, and had successfully handed of the Business Intelligence practice. But I was on the wrong bus – again.  So I sold my share in the company to my partner and started searching for the next journey.

What I wanted was the combination of what I’m good at, what the market needs, and what is valuable.  When I discovered that KPIGuy.com was available, the path became clear.

My mission is to make data work for my clients, so they don’t have to work for it.

My unique value proposition is this set of skills:

  • Entrepreneurial thinking
  • C-Suite experience
  • Database expertise
  • User Interface development skill
  • A talent for communicating with people from the front line to ownership
  • and a ton of experience and success building measurement systems that produce enormous ROI

My experience tells me that this is a pretty unusual combination of skills.

And – it’s exactly that unusual skill-set that makes me The KPI Guy.

I’m delighted you’ve read to the end, and I hope it didn’t bore you to death.  These are all great experiences (well, almost all of them), and it’s the variety of things that I’ve done and learned that make me really valuable, in the right set of circumstances.  If you think I might be of service to you & your company, please give me a call on 720-810-3628.

Paul Ousterhout, The KPI Guy – At Your Service!!