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Objectives and Key Results: Examples to Help You Measure Success

When you are embarking on a major initiative, one of your first questions will likely be, "How will we measure success?" The answer can be more complicated than coming up with a benchmark. As we have learned from working with clients, implementing objectives and key results (OKRs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) includes:

  • Deciding what to measure
  • Measuring it
  • Using the information to learn and to improve

This seems simple, but each step depends on the nature of your work. You could measure a simple transaction, or you could work on a lengthy and complex project, like building out the infrastructure for a new physical location.

We've talked about the importance of developing Agile metrics that are balanced across four dimensions – Building the Right Thing, Building it Right, Building It Fast, and Psychological Safety. With those dimensions in mind, another way we can help you establish useful objectives and key results is to walk you through OKR examples, including a real-life example relating to a case study.

Objectives and Key Results Example #1: Moving an Application to the Cloud

Our first example is growing more and more common in the current climate – establishing OKRs for a client who would like to migrate to the cloud. Based on our Cloud Services experience, choosing OKRs would involve the following steps:

  • Understanding the client goals for moving to the cloud.
  • Assessing the application and current automation to see if it is cloud-ready or if it requires significant change to meet the client goals.
  • Developing a roadmap with your client for the cloud migration (e.g., breaking off individual services, creating test automation, build automation, and deployment automation).
  • Assisting in the execution of the items on the roadmap.
  • Performing the actual migration.
  • Measuring the resulting application against the client goals.

If you want to delight your clients with this service, you’d first want to know what is important to them by conducting interviews, developing customer personas, and creating journey maps. Then you would want to learn more about the capabilities and limitations of the current process, possibly through a value stream mapping exercise.

From there, you would design your future state customer experience, and finally establish KPIs or OKRs for measuring your progress against the desired customer experience. For application migration, for example, you’d want to know if you met the client goals for the migration, such as total cost of ownership (TCO), scalability, or lead time to deploy changes. Your objective might be “Enable our customers to meet their application migration goals,” and your key results could be measured by TCO, scalability, lead time, etc.

This example Objective and Key Result would have the team focused on what is most important to the client – the application meeting their business goals. Here are some other OKR examples that would apply to a cloud migration project:

Objective Key Results
Determine which of our key applications we want to move to the cloud and why. As measured by completing analysis and ranking the 12 key call center and customer-facing self-service applications for migration. The analysis will include strategic importance for migration, migration cost, and current Total Cost of Ownership vs. planned Total Cost of Ownership.
Be able to deploy applications to the cloud with no manual steps. As measured by having a proof-of-concept pipeline for a simple, representative application that creates infrastructure and deploys the application on-demand (e.g. code check-in); is approved for use by development, security, compliance, infrastructure, and operations; and that supports auto-scaling, roll-forward, and monitoring.

 

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Objectives and Key Results Example #2: A Real-Life Case Study

A financial services client of the Eliassen Group is using a combination of OKRs and KPIs called OKPIs. Regardless of the name, the concept of defining objectives and quantitively measuring the progress toward those objectives is the same.

Our client implemented the OKPI approach to better align and track the definition of "done" at the team level, all the way back to the strategic themes defined by leadership. The strategic themes are long-duration initiatives that could span one or more years. OKPIs were established to define clear objectives with measurable results to manage the implementation of an initiative.

This approach has proven to be challenging to implement due to getting agreement by leadership as to what are the right objectives to achieve and how to measure them. However, over time the process has become second nature to many business units in the organization. By implementing OKPIs, teams have a better understanding of how their day-to-day work ties back to the bigger picture of achieving strategic themes. Furthermore, OKPIs provide clarity to Product Managers and Product Owners on prioritizing their work so that it aligns to strategic themes via OKPIs. This has removed waste because teams are not implementing low-value work.

Conclusion

Understanding what you want to measure is one part of success, another is collecting the data, and the final part – the most critical – is using that data to gain insight into your processes and to improve. By considering your client's goals and overall strategic themes, you can develop objectives and key results that help you measure business goals accurately and keep your team focused on what matters.

 

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Written by Tom Wessel, Jim Damato, and Bob Fischer

Tom Wessel is an Agile Coach and Client Delivery Lead, working with various sized organizations in financial services, healthcare, home improvement, utilities and cable and satellite to plan, implement and train teams on Agile principles and evolve their Agile discipline.

Jim Damato is a seasoned leader with 25 years of experience, taking initiatives from vision and strategy, through rollout and operations. He started as a software engineer in Silicon Valley and grew to lead product development teams before moving to solution engineering, engagement management, and coaching. Jim works with publicly traded companies, quick-growing startups, and federal agencies. He is also an active participant in the Agile community, speaking publicly on Metrics, Complex Agile Implementations, Agile in Hardware, and Business Agility.

Bob Fischer is Director of Agile Delivery & Training at Eliassen Group. He has over 40 years of experience in IT, with a wide range of roles and responsibilities, including introducing and leading an Agile adoption team while at Fidelity.

Topics: Agile

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