5 min read

How Can OKRs Help Software Engineers?

How Can OKRs Help Software Engineers?

The Engineering Department plays a massive role in maintaining and developing core products, as well as to enhance the usability of the customers/clients based on UI/UX.

Technologies change dynamically every single day, but OKRs have become the single goal-setting framework that supports all changes. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a strategy execution framework that takes from agile practices, based on measuring what matters.

OKRs connect teams to the strategic priorities of the company. Using OKRs, software engineers provide support in achieving the organizational vision. 

While implementing OKRs in Software teams, it is essential to understand the process and Key metrics, since the software development team should be aligned directly towards the organizational goal. Setting clear departmental and individual goals is very important, which cannot be done without recognizing the key metrics that matter to the business. This will help in crafting OKRs and achieving your OKRs successfully.

Engineering is all about solving a defined problem, with defined constraints. Software engineers design and develop computer systems and applications to solve real world problems. They know how to use the right programming language, platforms to develop everything from computer games to network control systems. In addition to building their own systems, software engineers also test, improve and maintain software built by other engineers. Similar to other teams, the Engineering team also has a necessity to be more aligned with the goal-setting process. Ensuring epics and user stories have the right business impact, are well articulated, and encourage teams to think about where they can create the maximum business impact.  The ideas and the initiatives can also be tracked with OKRs.

Here’s how Software Engineers Benefit from OKRs

OKRs help track progress, drive team engagement, create a strong alignment with company goals and ensure a place where engineers work with purpose. That's what drives developer performance the most.

  1. OKRs keep the Software engineers motivated and informed by giving a clear perspective of their accomplishments and keeping them well informed about their progress towards the organization’s mission and vision. 
  1. OKRs work well with state-of-the-art technologies in the future and help in discoveries and next-gen ideas, letting them prioritize the objectives that matter to the business.
  1. The Engineering teams can set their milestones using OKRs and measure them.

HOW DO YOU SET ENGINEERING GOALS WITH OKRs?

First, it’s essential to understand that Objectives and Key Results do not replace any job responsibilities. OKRs are an effective framework to prioritize work and enjoy a sense of accomplishment, while everyone moves in the same direction.

1. Set Ambitious Goals

"Objectives should be aspirational. They should be challenging but achievable."

Benefits :

  • Enhances individual and team performance.
  • Encourages the search for creative ways to achieve objectives.

Although the idea of setting almost impossible goals is scary, people who pursue them significantly outperform peers with less challenging OKRs.

Of course, more ambition is not always better, and it’s difficult to measure. So it’s important to balance it with achievability, as Google and GitLab do. They encourage employees to think big and set goals unlikely to be met 100%. They keep a threshold for a success rate of 60-70%.

2. Discuss OKRs Frequently

"Goals should be an essential part of ongoing talks about progress, resource allocation, prioritization of initiatives, and feedback sharing."

Benefits:

  • Provide guidance for key decisions.
  • Keep engineers focused on what matters.
  • Link performance feedback to concrete goals.
  • Track progress and facilitate course correction.

Having quarterly OKRs is typical of dynamic sectors such as media and tech). This ensures more frequent discussions on progress, improvements, and challenges along the way, that can be more easily solved. A research conducted on engineering performance shows that productivity increases by 56% when managers are actively helping engineers align goals with organizational needs.

Aside from this, good managers use feedback and coaching sessions as opportunities to discuss the engineers’ goals and progress. This keeps OKRs top of their mind throughout the year.

3. Set Specific Metrics and Milestones

"Goals should be transformed into metrics and milestones that measure progress and show clarity on how to achieve them."

Benefits :

  • Clarifies what engineers are expected to deliver.
  • Helps identify what is not working to quickly correct direction.
  • Boosts individual and team performance.

Any performing organization ensures qualitative AND quantitative metrics to drive alignment and productivity. A start-up, for example, can see hiring a new CTO as essential as any KPI.

With the help of concrete performance metrics and key results, your engineer’s performance and satisfaction can improve drastically.

Make OKRs Transparent to Everyone

"Goals and current performance should be made public for all employees to see."

Benefits :

  • Make use of peer pressure to perform.
  • Shows engineers how their work and behaviors support organizational goals.
  • Understand the other team’s priorities and goals.
  • Shows activities that are repetitive or not aligned with strategy. 

Having public OKRs for all employees can actually enhance performance for individuals, teams, and departments. They introduce good peer pressure, encourage reaching out to others for advice on how to become better, and ensure alignment across all levels.

Clarity on how each employee's work supports business strategy and growth is the second most important driver of engagement.

Transparency doesn't guarantee success. But it does help people to check alignment with organizational goals. This eliminates the risk of feeling excluded or working on things that are either unnecessary or unhelpful.

OKR example_OKR templates

Why Are OKRs the Solution?

In conclusion, OKRs are a prioritization and critical thinking framework that must call out business value. Engineering teams build great muscle and confidence when connecting the dots between Product Strategy and Product Roadmaps using OKRs. This creates a focus on reducing ad hocism and inspiring teams towards creating the right impact.

The perfect OKRs will fit seamlessly with the way your engineers already work. Companies that utilize an OKR goal-setting tool such as Fitbots experience an improvement in goal alignment and transparent workflows. The best practice is to ensure that you rely on a powerful medium to help you achieve the OKRs for your engineering teams efficiently.

OKRs can power growth by tying an aspirational vision to innovation and new initiatives. Objectives comprise your growth goals while Key Results are the actions that ensure you’re reaching those goals. Traditional approaches to goal-setting typically start with measuring what a team is achieving currently and targeting incremental improvements. OKRs, on the other hand, start with an Objective that requires new ways of thinking and working.

Want to succeed with OKRs ? Start here

 

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About the Author
Sahil Khatri is a software engineer who specializes in building interactive user experiences and beautiful interfaces with React. He loves helping both users and other developers solve problems, by primarily utilizing React, but loves learning new languages, perfecting small details of the web, and optimizing them for the best performance.

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