What Is a Balanced Scorecard?

A balanced scorecard is a strategic management performance metric used to identify and improve various internal business functions and their resulting external outcomes. Balanced scorecards are used to measure and provide feedback to organizations. Data collection is crucial to providing quantitative results as managers and executives gather and interpret the information and use it to make better decisions for the organization.

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Balanced Scorecard

Key Takeaways

  • A balanced scorecard is a performance metric used to identify, improve, and control a business's various functions and resulting outcomes.
  • It was first introduced in 1992 by David Norton and Robert Kaplan, who took previous metric performance measures and adapted them to include nonfinancial information.
  • The balanced scorecard involves measuring four main aspects of a business: learning and growth, business processes, customers, and finance.

Understanding Balanced Scorecards

Accounting academic Dr. Robert Kaplan and business executive and theorist Dr. David Norton first introduced the balanced scorecard. The Harvard Business Review first published it in the 1992 article "The Balanced Scorecard—Measures That Drive Performance." Both Kaplan and Norton took previous metric performance measures and adapted them to include nonfinancial information.

Companies can easily identify factors hindering business performance and outline strategic changes tracked by future scorecards.

The balanced scorecard model reinforces good behavior in an organization by isolating four separate areas that need to be analyzed. These four areas, also called legs, involve learning and growth, business processes, customers, and finance.

The balanced scorecard is used to attain objectives, measurements, initiatives, and goals that result from these four primary functions of a business. Companies can easily identify factors hindering business performance and outline strategic changes tracked by future scorecards.

The balanced scorecard can provide information about the company as a whole when viewing company objectives. An organization may use the balanced scorecard model to implement strategy mapping to see where value is added within an organization. A company also uses a balanced scorecard to develop strategic initiatives and strategic objectives.

Characteristics of the Balanced Scorecard Model

Information is collected and analyzed from four aspects of a business:

  1. Learning and growth are analyzed through the investigation of training and knowledge resources. This first leg handles how well information is captured and how effectively employees use the information to convert it to a competitive advantage over the industry.
  2. Business processes are evaluated by investigating how well products are manufactured. Operational management is analyzed to track any gaps, delays, bottlenecks, shortages, or waste.
  3. Customer perspectives are collected to gauge customer satisfaction with quality, price, and availability of products or services. Customers provide feedback about their satisfaction with current products.
  4. Financial data, such as sales, expenditures, and income are used to understand financial performance. These financial metrics may include dollar amounts, financial ratios, budget variances, or income targets.

These four legs encompass the vision and strategy of an organization and require active management to analyze the data collected. The balanced scorecard is thus often referred to as a management tool rather than a measurement tool.