Choosing OKR software among tens of vendors can be a challenging task. 2024 is starting soon and many companies start with Objectives and Key Results to improve their focus and productivity. Today is the right time to make your choice, which OKR tool to use. Here is your checklist to choose OKR software and compare different tools.
First, we list all the important selection criteria that we have found makes OKR software implementation a success. Over more than a decade, we’ve worked with thousands of companies implementing their OKRs. The OKR lessons learned and best practices have changed over the years. What used to be considered important a few years ago might not be so anymore.
Then we show how each feature areas is solved in Weekdone, one of the leading OKR tools out there. We are practitioners using our own tool and these are our lessons learned.
So what kind of OKR software is more likely to make your OKR implementation a success?
Being part of everyday work
Too often companies think they can look at and update at their OKRs just a few times per quarter or once per month. Not so. History shows that most such initiatives die out. It needs to be a weekly – if not a daily – love affair. Weekly usage drives OKR success.
If your OKRs do not become a part of your everyday work, then most probably the majority of time your people will work on projects and tasks disconnected from your goals. Out of sight – out of mind.
Best results with achieving your OKRs come from a strong weekly rhythm by team leaders and all employees. It involves three things:
- Regular weekly check-ins. This involves updating key results and projects progress, adding insights and lessons learned, discussing and commenting on updates.
- Making OKRs the backbone of your weekly team meetings. Almost all teams have some form of a weekly standup, be it a call or real get-together. Always start those by looking at your OKRs progress, update and adjust as needed.
- Starting your personal work week by looking at the OKRs and adjusting the weekly work projects and tasks under them. Some do it on Friday, some Monday morning. You need to plan your work week based on the OKR guidance.
That means the OKR software must have a strong focus for the weekly usage frequency. It can’t be an afterthought – it needs to be drive the whole usage of the product. Luckily in Weekdone you’ll find:
- Weekly check-ins by each person
- Weekly progress, plans and problems (PPP) views on company, department, team and personal levels
- Visual dashboards with week by week progress charts
- Weekly update reminders via notifications, mobile and e-mail
- Regular weekly e-mail reports showing weekly progress
- Integration with Slack and MS Teams for reminders, notifications and mirroring the newsfeed
Loved and used by employees – strong personal side
When OKRs became popular close to 10 years ago, there was a lot of focus on personal goals. Over the years that changed, with most suggesting not to do individual OKRs, at least not when you start with your goal-tracking implementation. Company and team levels only – that was the mantra.
While true in theory, that backfired for many companies. Their initial goal was for everyone to follow corporate goals and direction, be focused on company and team objectives. By not doing neither individual goals nor following projects and tasks in the same software as OKRs two bad things happened:
- Employees stopped visiting the OKR software, as there was absolutely nothing for them to do there. “Look at our team goals” is not enough to expect an employee to log in to another software.
- Employees kept working on projects and tasks not driving the OKRs forward. With OKRs being a theoretical corporate thing for them they became free to do their usual unfocused everyday work. Leaders and managers kept talking about OKRs, employees being disjointed from them.
Today’s successful OKR practitioners know that employees down to lowest level must be part of the everyday OKR usage. They must plan their projects and tasks based on OKRs and if it makes sense, have even personal OKRs. Assigning higher level OKR ownership and showing it on personal level is another thing that works well.
The trick is in being more relaxed about what constitutes a personal OKR compared to team and company ones. On personal level it’s fine to sometimes allow KPIs, tasks, projects, learning and development goals under an individual. Often you still do not have to do personal OKRs – but you need to have some personal goals as part of the OKR process. No personal side is bad. Too much is bad. There must be some and in a focused way. In Weekdone what our customers have found works well is:
- Each employee at login starts from their personal page
- There are personal projects, objectives and weekly items to set and share their goals
- You can assign higher level key results and projects to employees to own and update them
- There are weekly satisfaction and pulse ratings
- There’s a strong social Newsfeed attracting employees to visit, like and comment daily, like in any social media
Involving projects and tasks
It’s fine to use special task and project management software like JIRA or Asana next to your OKR software. Those are always best for granular issue management and small details. But those must be tightly connected to the OKR software.
For the focused high-level work and communication side – especially between the employee and team leader – there must be some link between OKRs and personal projects or tasks. While in an outside task manager each person might have tens or more ongoing small tasks and projects, OKRs are all about focus.
That means OKR software must in one way or another show what is each person doing weekly on a high level to drive the personal or team goals forward. What are the 3-5 key projects and plans they promise to achieve this week for the key results to move forward? Is most of their work contributing to higher level OKRs? It’s all related to previous points about weekly usage and being used by employees.
That means two things are needed in any OKR tool:
- Support for showing high-level projects and key tasks progress under any team OKR or personal level goal
- Integrations with task and project management software
In Weekdone you can:
- Show projects and initiatives with their progress under any objective or key result
- Link task items under objectives or projects
- Use the weekly PPP – Plans, Progress, Progress – form to list and mark done key personal tasks for the week
- Familiar Kanban boards for weekly items
- Connect to external tools like Asana, JIRA, Google Tasks and countless others to import your weekly key items
- Automatically update your key results, projects and KPIs progress from external tools
- Automatically receive weekly projects and personal status update reports via email
Performance management to increase employee engagement
In old days, OKRs used to be a silo on their own. That did not work. Today, just like the increase in personal usage, projects and tasks in OKR initiatives, they should go hand in hand with continuous performance management of employees. Even if you use special HR software, the OKR tool must have some features for performance management.
The weekly rhythm in modern OKR tools is ideal to measure and check the pulse of your employees. The personal goals are great to set, track and discuss quarterly and annual personal achievements.
When you look at a person’s page in best of breed OKR software like Weekdone, it’s easy to see how well that fits the continuous performance management process:
- There are clear annual and quarterly goals for each person, showing their progress in time and hitting or not hitting the agreed objectives
- There are granular weekly Plans, Progress, Problems updates sharing insights of person’s work
- There are 5-point ratings measuring everyone’s weekly job satisfaction, team spirit, energy levels or any other HR success metric
- There are private 1:1 discussion and private review features between the employee and their direct manager
- There are ways to give praise and kudos to co-workers for job well done and appreciate their work
- You can generate reports for any period showing the person’s performance over that time
Replicates your real org-chart
Too often the OKR tools lack clarity of who owns goals and what level they contribute to. A good OKR tool should replicate your organizational structure as a hierarchical tree.
In Weekdone we’ve made it easy so that:
- There are four clear levels: Company, Department, Team and Person, with people always belonging to teams
- Each level is a branch under upper level, forming a nice tree
- There are multiple visual report views like Hierarchy and Tree to view all reports, being it for OKRs, projects, weekly items or everything together
- There is clear goal alignment and cascading via linking both vertically (eg Department OKR to Team OKR) as well as horizontally (eg one Team OKR to another Team OKR)
Fast and quick to use
Whenever you choose an OKR tool, measure how many clicks it takes to go to a specific view, add or update something like a KR’s progress with it’s comment.
There are many tools where it can take up to ten clicks to first navigate to correct level, then find and open an objective, then it’s key result, then it’s progress value and saving it all. Forms after forms need to be opened. In everyday usage that means hours wasted per year. Those days should be over.
In Weekdone you can navigate to any view in just 1-2 clicks and then update or add anything inline. Many have switched to Weekdone from other tools just because of the time saved in using the tool. Being simple, user-friendly and intuitive is what companies switching to Weekdone often praise. That often helps with ease and speed of implementation, as long as your underlying OKRs are good and well explained to all team members.
Modern mobile apps
While writing longer texts in OKR process is better done in desktop computer, the everyday progress updates or adding weekly items happen in mobile, like most of our world nowadays.
Make sure there are modern up to date mobile apps available as part of the OKR software. Weekdone just released brand new updated versions of our iOS and Android apps both for phones and larger tablet screens.
Other key selection criteria
Here’s what else you should look for. This is what Weekdone customers have brought up as criteria in successful OKR programs that keep going for years:
- Dedicated coach and account manager included in basic price
- Free onboarding training included in any package
- Automatic color coding of OKRs based on their progress
- Support for separate KPI tracking
- TV dashboard view to run 24×7 on external screens
- Visual dashboards for reporting and analytics
- Good for weekly team standup meetings and 1:1s
- Scalable from 10 to 1000 employees or more
- API for customer developments
- Integrations with hundreds of other tools
- File attachments under each object type
Hope this has helped in narrowing down how a good OKR tool can make your OKR implementation a success. Use this when you compare Weekdone to other players. You can sign up for a free fully featured trial here – no credit card needed.
Want a personal demo? Book one here and we’ll show you all.
Good luck with your goals in 2024!