“Do we need an OKR software tool? Which is the best one? How do we choose which one to use?”

We get asked these questions daily by our clients. OKR software requires an investment of time and money, and so you want to make the right choice upfront. The problem is that it’s not exactly a simple answer. We hope to make the decision easier with five fundamental questions to use as the basis of your decision. There are however a few things to consider first.

Do you even need OKR software?

Our stance is that everyone needs some sort of tool to record and track their OKRs. And Excel is a tool that does this – it’s free and has no restrictions. Excel is great for logging and tracking OKRs in one place. It’s simple, flexible, and a cloud-based document can be easily accessed by all relevant teams. It works really well for teams that already meet regularly to check in on the progress of the OKRs, and it facilitates the important conversations.

So what do we mean when we refer to an OKR software tool? At its core, it is a digital tool designed specifically to capture, communicate, track and evaluate OKRs on an ongoing basis. It has the relevant automation and enhanced digital user experience amongst many other benefits to drive team engagement and help with the successful implementation of OKRs. With all these benefits, it usually comes at a cost.

“Technology is a useful servant
but a dangerous master.”

 

– Christian Lous Lange

While there are many benefits to adopting (and paying for) an OKR software tool, we need to bear in mind that it alone will not be able to ensure the successful implementation of OKRs in your team. Software can make good things better, but can also make the bad things worse. The right habits need to be in place regardless. But OKR software can certainly help.

The major benefits of OKR software

Each OKR software tool is different and has its own unique benefits, but there are a number of benefits that are (or should be) common across most tools.

  • A better view of alignment
    A decent OKR software tool will show the alignment, both horizontally and vertically, between organisational level and team level OKRs. While Excel can also do this, it is not as easy to do and not as easy on the eye. Some software solutions provide space for logging the company mission and strategy, as well as weekly tasks and projects, which allows for even wider alignment.
  • Automated reminders (amongst other automations)
    Reminders for regular check-ins to help drive the cadence and engagement with the OKRs should be automated. The check-in functionality should also allow for the recording of the communication around the OKRs and tracking progress.
  • Ability to implement rules
    Rules can be set in place around the cycle length, the types of key results allowed, the individuals accountable, and many more. These rules ensure alignment both to best practice and to the organisation’s preference, ensuring consistency across the organisation and limiting permissions as required.
  • Access to dashboards, reporting and analytics
    The software will have some way to provide a dashboard view on both the progress of the OKRs and the level of team engagement. This helps an organisation or team assess how they are doing on a continuous basis.
  • Enhanced user experience
    With web interfaces and apps, an OKR software tool will offer an enhanced digital user experience. Some things to look out for would be whether a mobile app exists, the level of integrations into other software, and gamification options to drive team engagement.
  • Performance management capabilities
    Many software tools have modules that offer continuous performance management in various forms. This helps create the enabling culture that will drive successful execution in the business.

The elements mentioned above are not easily met through a simple Excel tool. If these are important to you, then maybe it’s time to consider OKR software.

How do you choose the right OKR software?

There are many OKR software options in the market currently, and they keep coming. Many are subscription-based and often require an annual contract. When choosing a tool, consider these five fundamental questions:

1. Is upward alignment to purpose and strategy important for you?

Strategic direction is the starting point of successful execution. Having these elements in an OKR tool ensures the continuous alignment of goals to purpose, and a way to view the progress on the strategy.

2. Do you require line of sight into key projects, initiatives, weekly tasks and progress thereof?

OKRs form the link between strategy and weekly action plans. It’s helpful to have a place to manage your day-to-day activities, and doing this within an OKR tool will assist in seeing how weekly actions contribute to the progression of the strategy.

3. Do you require capabilities around feedback, reviews, recognition, other performance management functions (or even broader human resource functions)?

Successful execution relies on both a great goal management framework as well as an enabling culture to support those goals. You might be using other tools to facilitate performance management functions; if not, you can consider tools that combine these functions with OKR management.

4. Who will actively use the OKR tool – the organisation’s leadership team, multiple teams, or all individuals in the organisation?

Different OKR software tools are better suited to different levels of the organisation and to different organisation sizes, based on levels of transparency, customisation, and complexity required. Before making a call on software, consider how many users you’ll have and at what level these users engage.

5. What level of integration into other software do you require, and which software?

While the integration options are increasing, this is still a differentiating factor between different OKR software tools. You might want to integrate into the project management software that you use on a daily basis, or into an operating system to automatically get the data required to track the progress of your key results.

As we’ve mentioned, tools abound. The tool best suited for you should however be based on the answers to the above.

Walk before you leap

The timing of adopting an OKR software tool, and the OKR software tool you choose to adopt, is going to be a combination of what you need as an organisation or team and your personal preference. You are spoilt for choice.

We however recommend that an OKR software tool is not necessary upfront – or at least for the first or second OKR cycle. This is because the methodology is adaptable – for the first few cycles you will be adapting your process and the tool will need to allow for this. After this, you will better understand what you need before you make the decision.

“Many companies who try OKRs fail, and they blame the system. But no system works if you don’t actually keep to it. Setting a goal at the beginning of a quarter and expecting it to magically be achieved by the end is naïve.”

 

– Christina Wodtke

If you need help and more advice with choosing the right OKR tool, please get in touch!

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