Many organizations start their OKR journey with simple tools like Excel, Confluence, or PowerPoint. It is an easy way to get started and get everybody familiarized without having to spend extra money. When it comes to scaling and professionalizing OKRs, however, it is well worth looking at dedicated software to deal with the complexity of managing OKRs across teams, departments, and locations. While spreadsheets offer an easy start, they are, after all, static documents and therefore limited in their ability to unfold the full potential of the benefits associated with OKRs. An OKR platform, however, not only allows to leverage all of them, but take them to the next level.
If you are not yet familiar with the OKR framework, take a look at our article "Objectives and Key Results (OKR) - A Definition"
OKR is an open-source framework that can be interpreted differently. There are various approaches and each company and team has to find its own way to leverage it to their specific needs. In a scaling environment with an increasing number of teams of different agile maturities progressively working together, it is important that everybody speaks the same language. Software provides a central platform which sets the same meeting cadence, terminology, as well as preparation and review activities for every team. It not only facilitates onboarding of new teams, but also cross-functional collaboration and lays the foundation for successful scaling of OKR.
2. Transparency and Alignment through Visualization
Two of the most frequent reasons for organizations to adopt OKRs are to create transparency about organizational priorities and drive alignment. While goals in spreadsheets and confluence documents do indeed provide transparency, they become increasingly messy when every team enters goals in the same document. On the other hand, having each team draft their own goals in separated documents, makes things even worse, because the bigger picture is lost and teams struggle to understand how their tasks align with organizational priorities.
OKR software makes company priorities just the same as in spreadsheets and also provides visualizations to make them even more comprehensible. A visualized goal structure makes it easier for leadership and teams to see at one glance how aligned the teams really are towards organizational goals. Vertical alignment ensures everybody is working in the same direction with the bigger picture always present.
3. Integration in Daily work
Employees have a program for E-Mails, communication, daily tasks, project management, or time-tracking. A spreadsheet or Confluence page is therefore just another tool and lowers the acceptance for OKRs right from the beginning as successful OKR implementation depends on engagement.
An OKR platform, on the other hand, allows you to integrate OKRs in your daily tool landscape. This allows teams to make OKRs an integral part of their work routine. Integration with Jira, for example, allows to link operative tasks in Jira directly to Key Results, and therefore, strategic goals. Consequently, you can prioritize Jira issues to your company strategy. It also gives employees an idea of their goal progress during daily work. Keeping track of how much time users spend towards strategic goals versus how much time they spend on other topics highlights where teams get distracted. Also, integrating the OKR platform into the communication tool like MS Teams makes it easier to have goals present in day-to-day work.
4. Focus and Engagement
Another reason for adopting OKRs is to increase focus and engagement of all teams towards clearly defined goals. Without the ability to keep track, however, focus gets lost easily, especially in teams new to OKRs. It takes a lot of effort and strong discipline to regularly update the Key Results and analyze progress in a static document. It also takes more time to identify trends and course-correct activities when you don’t make progress as planned. What usually happens is that goals are set at the beginning of the cycle and updated in the end, with little engagement in-between. Teams are therefore easy to distract during the cycle and can’t focus on what’s important.
Software ensures that every team is focussed towards their goals. It nudges employees to update goals on a regular basis, track their tasks in a central hub, keeps a steady update pacing, and avoids distraction. With the integration in the tool landscape, it is also easier to prioritize tasks according to strategic priorities and goals. Epics and tasks in Jira, for example, can be linked to OKRs and, therefore, keep everybody focussed and engaged.
5. Data-driven Decision-Making with Analytics
One of the reasons why OKR has gained increasing popularity in recent years is that they allow focussing on measurable data for measuring progress and adjusting activities. OKR software takes this to the next level with continuous reporting and analytics capabilities. Having the whole OKR process in a dedicated platform provides unique insights for OKR coaches and leadership. It is the basis to continuously improve and adapt, especially in complex organizational structures with a high number of practitioners. During the drafting phase, it can be evaluated if there are too many binary Key Results, too much KPI focus or milestones. The level of alignment, the number and type of team Objectives contributing to the organizational Objectives are visible at one glance as well.
During the cycle, software constantly analyzes all the relevant data on the platform as well as integrated tools and provides a holistic view of all team activities. Engagement level, Check-in behavior, and goal progress ensure smooth execution and allow for ongoing course-correction. After the cycle, the relevant information can be compared to previous cycles to determine further improvement opportunities.
Transform OKRs into the strategic operating system
OKR software is not just managing goals and documenting activities. It elevates OKR to the medium of constantly improving every aspect of your organization. It allows to collate all external factors, internal capabilities, and strategic priorities into one place to embed analytics and reporting into the daily work next to planning and execution. This enables organizations to anticipate and react to changing trends and requirements quickly to stay competitive and innovate faster.