OKR Software: The Ultimate Guide
OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, have been popular with tech companies since their inception, and are now more broadly used across various industries. This metric system defines company objectives along with the key results that are needed to measure the achievement. A good reference word for OKRs would be ‘Achieve’.
OKRs support agile project planning because they can be reworked on a quarterly basis and can easily be adjusted to support changing needs. They’re similar to KPIs in that they are metric based, but they represent aggressive goal-based metrics, instead of just measurements.
There are numerous ways to measure OKRs, but when companies start using a goal-setting framework based on OKRs, they usually start tracking them using spreadsheets or other processes that are more manual. When starting to use these tools like Excel, Google Sheets, etc., it doesn’t take long to realize that these methods are quite limited, and they may work fine at first, but eventually they become tedious and end up taking a lot of company time just to fill the information, which is not profitable in the long run.
Deciding to adopt an OKR framework is not just about monitoring the data of the established objectives and key results, but this framework provides a way for entire organizations to align everyday’s tasks to the company’s top priorities. OKRs allow a company to be fully transparent and avoid wasting time on tasks that won’t benefit or contribute to the company’s growth.
5-Day OKR Approach
This is almost a repeating story. A new year. A new strategy. A great all-hands meeting. Team morale is high. Executive stakeholders are pleased.
But within a month or so, things start to fall apart - tasks are forgotten, deadlines are missed, people don’t know what to do anymore. And suddenly, your whole strategy is off track.
What went wrong?
A lot of things can go wrong when executing OKRs, but one of those things for sure is the lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities in your roadmap. Clear roles and responsibilities are a critical success factor for any strategy. Without them, activities can quickly derail and stakeholders are left trying to pick up the pieces.
Enter the RACI (AKA RASCI, RAPID, etc.). RACI helps organizations streamline their processes by ensuring each team member and stakeholder understands their specific roles.
What is a RACI?
A RACI is a framework that defines and documents ownership and responsibility within a process or project. With RACI, every key process, task, milestone, and decision is mapped out.
The term RACI is an acronym that designates four primary roles within a project:
Responsible: One person (or a few people) who are responsible for completing the assigned task or function. They are responsible for finishing the work or making a decision. They are, basically, the “doers.”
Accountable: The person who is accountable for the successful completion of the work (i.e., the “owner” of the work). This person approves the final work completed. The ”responsible” people are accountable to this person. Accountability is ever only owned by one person.
Consulted: The people who must be consulted if the Accountable person wishes to change the process. They provide necessary input and information on the project and tasks. They are usually subject matter experts and play an active role in the process.
Informed: The people or stakeholders who need to be kept in the loop after changes are made to the progress or project. They don’t contribute directly to decisions but need to be aware of them.
Every OKR needs to have a RACI (RAPID etc.) defined for it to ensure success. Everyone needs to know what their role is in association with the OKR to avoid conflict, making decisions where they should and informing people where required, etc. Management needs to know each person’s accountability so that they can work with the right people about the right things.
You can read more about this here.
The OKR Software Space
The OKR software space is interesting for several reasons:
- There is no one thought leader that developed and is forming OKRs - it is probably the first crowd-sourced management practice that we've seen. Sure, John Doerr wrote a book named “Measure What Matters” which has greatly popularized OKRs, but he's clear that he did not come up with the concept.
As such there is no one to form and refine new ideas as they come to the space.
- In addition, the dilemma is that John's book was not intended as a” how to” and therefore has proven very difficult for most organizations to follow and most software vendors to enable. Further complicating the problem is that it appears that most of the OKR software Developers lack industry and real-world business experience.
This has resulted in a cluster of tools that either try to replicate the stories from John Doerr’s book or merely copy what the other software vendors are providing.
In most cases the current OKR software packages do not even meet or conform with generally accepted and best human capital practices.
- Most large software vendors, such as SAP, Oracle and Netsuite are deeply invested in Legacy Human Resources Systems of Record, tailored to accommodate the annual or periodic update of compensation, performance reviews and other static data. These systems are expensive to update especially when moving towards the incredibly quick cadence and detailed information required to run effective OKR Solutions.
Although these vendors are working hard to update their antiquated tools, it is difficult for them to compete with small, agile and contemporary tools in the space. As such an interesting tension is forming between the old way of doing business and the more agile, flexible and faster world of OKRs.
Why Should You Use an OKR Software?
Manually tracking OKRs practically removes all of the benefits that OKR methodology brings to an organization. The company’s objectives and goals should be on everyone’s top of mind and aligned with everyone’s daily tasks. When using an OKR software, this can be accomplished by providing one universal location where everyone’s work and contributions can be documented.
When manually tracking OKRs, inserting the progress data of objectives and setting up reports takes a lot of time and you’re prone to make mistakes. It also complicates the alignment of goals both horizontally and vertically across teams and the organization.
Spreadsheets aren’t Enough
When companies start adopting the OKR methodology they usually start using spreadsheets as their OKR tool, which may work fine at the beginning when testing OKRs out with a small group of people and sourcing a small amount of data. But when the time comes to assign OKRs across the entire company, the big amount of data and documents that have to be shared and updated constantly becomes something unmanageable.
This can lead to a lack of successful follow-up and follow-through on the process, and OKRs become tedious instead of a helpful tool that provides strategic focus.
OKRs are supposed to improve cross-functional alignment, accountability and collaboration; when you try to track OKRs using multiple documents, they become another place for employees to update their progress, which takes time and decreases motivation, especially if they’re already using other systems that automate updates for different purposes.
Documents like spreadsheets remain separate from workflows, therefore employees may fail to fill in their updates on time, preventing the rest of the company to stay aligned and on track of their goals. Each employee goal contributes to team and organizational goals, experiencing this lack of transparency because of an outdated way of tracking progress prevents team members from seeing where they are in reaching broader goals.
Not having an easy way to visualize progress can take a bigger toll in other activities, like managing one-on-ones or coaching sessions between managers and employees can become harder if managers are not up to date with their employees' progress.
John Doerr (“Measure What Matters”) helped put OKRs on the map, and he noted that “cascading makes an operation more coherent”. A company developing top-level OKRs to guide the business over a specific period of time, needs to cascade goals to different teams, allowing employees to make these objectives a reality. But cascading goals using a manual tracking system is quite difficult, and requires employees to individually track and monitor their goals’ progress. This in turn causes a lack of transparency, which is critical to the success of OKRs.
Like we said, this process may seem “fine” at first when dealing with a small group of people with a small amount of objectives, but one of the great benefits of using OKRs is that they are flexible and repetitive, they can be updated constantly and re-aligned when environments, goals and objectives change. Now imagine that your OKRs are set company-wide but suddenly a change in the market requires you to change certain objectives, just thinking about changing numerous spreadsheets to manually re-design your OKRs sounds like an overwhelming task.
When goals are tracked manually there is a lack of insights and transparency. It becomes difficult to understand how their work aligns with other teams, knowing how good the progress is towards achieving certain goals and how broader business objectives are being achieved.
To manage OKRs at a bigger scale and obtain their full benefits, it’s required to have smarter and more efficient processes that go beyond manual tracking. A simple and effective way to manage the company hierarchy, support team’s structures and alignment is a critical thing.
Benefits of an OKR Software
An objective management suite or an OKR tracking system allows you and your team to focus on their goals from one space instead of using multiple spreadsheets or other tools. In that space, everyone is able to see everyone’s progress and, therefore, company wide progress. Keeping an eye on how everyone’s performing gives you the opportunity to see if someone needs help, if someone is over achieving or a team is maybe struggling keeping objectives on track. It also gives your employees the chance to see how their work and every task they perform impacts the entire organization, either positively or negatively.
By defining clear goals that push you and hold you accountable, you can stay focused on the things that matter the most.
There is no universal OKR template, but we invite you to read our article “Using a North Star Goal to set OKRs” and download our template!
One of our goals at Hirebook is to rapidly innovate our SaaS product so that all of our customers get immediate access to the rich functionality that we will be bringing to the market. It's our belief that by continually leading the market we will attract loyal customers who will help us innovate, test and bring to the market remarkable new functionality to help all companies and employees to thrive.
It is our intention to bring the following categories of functionality into this employee engagement space:
- HR best practices (learning, role clarity, organization design, recognition, rewards)
- Values and Culture
- Working environments and technology
- Purpose and Higher Objectives
It is important to note that this is more than just objectives and key results. This is about enabling systems that generate Employee Engagement, incredible performance and achieving of all the higher-level goals and purposes of the organizations in which we work. Our goal is to help society thrive.