OKR Tools & Software

There are plenty of tools out there to handle, align and evaluate OKRs within teams and organisations. Here is some orientation and advice. Never forget that OKRs is about the right mindset. Tools will not help you in that aspect. The good message is: you don't need an OKR software to start with OKRs!

 

The 3 biggest benefits of OKR tools are:

  1. handling transparency of goals
  2. align dependencies and priorities across teams
  3. visualise how OKRs are connected throughout hierarchy levels and connect to vision and strategy

OKR Methodology comes first, then software! Never trust a tool which tries to dictate you how to use OKRs in your organisation. The good message is that you don't need an OKR software tool to start with OKRs!

Tools can also help to break down Key Results into tasks, actions or tickets and support communication between teams. Summing up that's quite a lot and can make things also more complex as they actually are. You will find some really helpful guiding questions further down.

Make sure you first fully understand the methodology and how to best use the different OKR parameters in your organisation. Remember, OKRs need to be adopted to your needs, business and culture. It also helps a lot when your employees understand the principles of OKRs first so that your chosen software tool is no hurdle - especially in the implementation phase. Try to reduce complexity when you start with OKRs. Your teams still need to concentrate on their business. So it might be the better option to draft your first sets within excel and then switch to a tool of your choice. This way you know what matters most, what kind of tool functionality you actually need and whether you need licences for 200 employees or just 50 team leaders. Worth checking ;-)

Here is an overview about the different types of software tools out there and how they differentiate.


OKR Software Overview

with guiding questions to pick a tool which fits your needs

Note: This is not meant to be a buyer´s guide, but a classification to give some guidance in which direction you should be looking. Be aware that these positionings can change with the release of new features, but these clusters seem to be quite consistent over the last years. Just click on the clusters to learn more.

 

„free“ alternatives


Free alternatives for smaller teams ( < 50): Google SheetsOffice 365 or Airtable

It is absolutely o.k. to start with these free options. Once you are a smaller organisation with less than 50 employees or a team, you can easily handle your OKRs with xls. Or you use it as an interim solution to get a feeling in order to make a better decision what you think is important from a software tool perspective. Even if you have made the decision to go with a tool, it´s usually easier for your employees to draft their first sets within excel and then transfer the final OKR sets into the software - just to minimise complexity in the starting phase. Go get the free OKR template for Office 365 or Google Sheets.

Worth a look is Airtable with its SaaS approach on spreadsheets and databases. Free with essential features, super flexible and great to work across teams. They also provide a solid OKR base template to start with, however this will require some learning effort for teams to use it. 

GI OKR is a free product from General Internet offering basic OKR features with no cost. Might be suitable for smaller trials, otherwise you will probably soon come across privacy and security questions. 


task or project oriented tools to handle OKRs


The "project or task" oriented tools: e.g. AsanaTrello

These tools are made for task-, workflow-, collaboration- or project management. Meanwhile there are some templates and instructions around how to handle OKRs within Asana or Trello. You´ll find best practices or blog articles on how to do it on the web. However coming from the OKR methodology side, there might be following downsides: 

  1. one part of the mindset change with OKRs is to go from tasks to results. Using a „task-based“ software might not be supportive to this mindset change.
  2. our own tests have shown that -despite having templates - it requires quite some manual work (very similar to the xls based approach) which limits the usage to smaller teams below 50 employees 
  3. management "map views" to see how OKRs are connected throughout the organisation are not really working with these tools

The advantage on the other hand, is that you don't need to add and train just another software platform, if you run one of these tools already.

 

Some words about Trello. In case you want to go for Trello to track your OKRs, you should be using the following logic. (btw. Trello is now part of Atlassian)

  • One board equals one business unit or „OKR owner“
  • One list equals one objective
  • One card equals one Key Result
  • Use labels to indicate confidence level and/ or to track progress of a Key Result
  • Never copy a board, list or card
  • Ignore watch
  • Never archive
  • You can link cards about tasks with OKR cards to assign contributions to Key Results
  • Provide an OKR template with a „read me“ documentation

 

Atlassian/ Confluence/ Jira

This pretty widespread collaboration & agile software development suite is definitely suitable to manage OKRs (also if you just use the Confluence part). Every team is actually using a separate confluence page to manage and track their OKRs. You can also use our free OKR template and rebuild it as Confluence page template for teams. Experts use the "Exerpt-Include Macro" to link e.g. Team-OKRs to Department- or Company OKRs. In case you also use Jira, you can link Key Results with Jira-Tasks. So, in case you have Confluence in place already, it is indeed a good choice to go for it first and give it a try to handle OKRs through a template and a page structure per team. There is also an unsupported Team Playbook available which might be a good start to create your perfect template within Confluence. Another option is Upraise which works on top of Jira as a separate OKR tool.   


OKR specialists


The "OKR specialists": e.g. AllyZokri,  Perdoogtmhubworkboardworkpathweekdonekoanworkteam, Profit or Just3things

Here the focus is on managing goals with OKRs in an organisation. Main differences between these tools are UI, usability, the ability to link tasks to OKRs and the ability to integrate other software you´re using in your work environment (e.g. Slack, Jira, Analytics, Salesforce ect...).

Gtmhub is focussing a lot on these integrations with other software you're using in your organisation, allowing to automatically update Key Result progress which is great for your weekly check-ins. They call it „data driven OKRs“.

Perdoo seems to be going in the same direction but with clearly less integrations however a clear focus on handling OKRs, KPIs and individual initiatives seamlessly.

Weekdone has made quite some changes recently resulting in a nice integration of OKRs with individual contributions, weekly check-ins, progress reports and recognition. 

Seattle based Ally is relatively new on the market as a public product, however has a long history as a spin off from an internal development to manage goals with OKRs. It comes with great usability and seamless Slack Integration. Btw. UK-based Workteam has a similar history. They do have a nice approach to follow up OKRs in weekly check-ins for 1-to-1s or team meetings.

Zokri comes with another positioning as their features and usability is designed especially for SaaS Companies. The typical success drivers and KPIs of SaaS companies are pre-defined and tagged to support easy formulation and good OKR quality.

Workteam offers all the basics in a very easy way, so it' pretty straight forward. This tool also is a spin-off from a former in-house development.

Koan does offer a nice UI and integrates weekly checkins with updates on progress and confidence level really good. Worth a look as you can see there is a lot of practical view on OKRs in their approach.

Profit does not have a start-up background - like many others - but comes out of a software company with many years of CRM experience. There is a SaaS version, an app and the possibility to run Profit within your own IT environment! Their approach is really solid and is taking the user by the hand proposing all sorts of metrics for different departments. From an OKR methodology point of view really convincing giving you all the freedom on the one hand, but guiding you step-by-step through alignment, delegation, dependencies and transparency of goals on the other hand.

Just3Things' background is also a former in-house development. Their focus is around flexible organisational designs, meaning companies working a lot with cross-functional teams and Squads who want to make sure that the sum of all priorities is still contributing to top-level strategies. 

 

Features like usability and progress visualisation/ gamification aspects are very subjective ones, so best advice is to look into the different tools and ask for a demo. Features like aligning Key Results or connecting your longterm strategies across departments and quarterly OKRs and visualizing this easily, is something crucial from a methodology perspective, but in the end also a bit subjective. So go and check out the guiding questions at the end and apply for a demo with tool you'd like to put on your shortlist.


OKRs / Performance Management / CFRs (Conversation, Feedback and Recognition)


The "OKR & performance management" tools: e.g.  ReflektiveUpraiseAtiimLeapsomeBetterWorks7Geese15five, Small Improvements

Having conducted many OKR implementations, we see the need for organisations to combine a full blown OKR software tool with the ability to do continuous feedback loops and take these as one component for performance reviews or handling performance reviews with the same platform. This absolutely makes sense although OKRs are not supposed to be a performance management tool. There should never be a direct connection between OKRs, its achievement and compensation or bonus. However it's an excellent source to do continious feedback loops with your direct reports. It's great to listen to the pulse of your organisation. The blended results of these ongoing and regular feedback loops might then be an indicator for a later 360 degree performance evaluation. An interesting feature some players in this category are offering is the ability to do regular Pulse surveys with employees which is great because many outcome based OKRs actually target effects at employee level and many organisations can't measure this easily. 

 

Knowing that the word „performance management“ can have various interpretations out there, these simple questions can help to identify whether this cluster might be relevant for you: 

  • how do you handle performance management today and will OKRs be „disruptive“ to your current approach or will you still be able to handle it properly with OKRs?
  • do you anyway plan to reorganize the way you do performance management or have no real and structured approach in place today? 

Guess we don´t have to explain the logic behind the possible answers ;-) Anyway, also here clear advice is to go and check out the free versions or apply for a demo. Btw most of these tools offer full Jira integration - actually Upraise is a Jira add-on, but offers only basic functionality and usability compared to the other tools in this segment. Worth mentioning in this segment for smaller and medium sized companies is Atiim, 15five and Leapsome. Based on the functionality you will recognise that some of these players originally come from the HR side of life ( e.g. Leapsome) and others started their concept from OKRs (e.g. Atiim). Interesting to look at is Small Improvements and Reflektive (written with a "k") who are actually going more into the HR direction with People Management, Performance Reviews, 360 degree feedbacks, 1:1 Meetings/ Check-Ins and OKRs. Reflektive is even adding a functionality around simple and quick Pulse Surveys with employees which is great data for OKRs.

 

Compared to all other players out there, BetterWorks is more a solution for large or enterprises. Or in other words: they do have a track record with large enterprises, whereas most of the others started and are growing within the 50-500 employee category. What we mean with large? Starting around 1000 employees – and we mean employees who will "own" an OKR set. BetterWorks is working towards a modern business operating system which includes task management, goal setting/ OKRs, continuous 360 degree feedback, performance management and loads of software integrations. 

 


Guiding questions to pick the right OKR tool:

 

When you are in the decision making process for an OKR tool, you are easily overwhelmed by feature lists and marketing buzzwords. Here are some guiding questions to help you picking the right tool for you. Use them when you play around with free versions or when you ask for a demo. These questions will help you to judge based on the user experience for some key features. 

 

  1. In what way can the tool help you to visualize vision and strategy across teams and connect quarterly OKR contributions to longterm strategy?
  2. What are the most common tools you are using internally (check all departments) and would it be useful to integrate those with your OKR tool in order to update OKR progress automatically.
  3. Is it possible to align cross functionally based on KeyResults? ( Ideally yes, because in real life, alignment based on Objectives only isn´t helping a lot!)
  4. Imagine all teams are in the OKR definition phase and all are in draft mode – how is it possible to flag alignment needs between two teams? Is there a real functionality around it or is it handled through messaging functions? E.g. Team A needs a delivery of Team B in order to achieve their KR end of the quarter. How do they flag this dependency within the tool before all OKRs are set, agreed and aligned?
  5. Supposing you won't drill down OKRs to individual level, but stay on team level, you still want to connect individual contributions to OKRs. How is this handled in the tool?
  6. How is the tool supporting/ handling weekly check-ins? I want my team to prepare comments, flag issues, update confidence levels and OKR progress. Is it all easy and seamlessly integrated?
  7. Does the tool handle confidence level updates during the quarter and not just progress? There is a difference message to managers to state that a team has reached 100 out of 300 new clients (progress) or stating their confidence to reach 300 new clients is decreasing from 9 to 3 out of 10 since last week (confidence level).
  8. How does the tool support CFRs ( Conversations, Feedback & Recognition)? Does it fit to your culture?
  9. Is it worth to look into combining OKR handling, CFRs ( Conversations, Feedback & Recognition) and Performance Management into one tool? If not now, but it could be an option for later, can this option be unlocked within the tool?
  10. Is the price per User reasonable and how does it relate to your growth/ hiring plans?
  11. Is there a proper support on setting up the tool in terms of user rights, teams, cadences...and what's the service level in case a problem pops up?

As said, this is not meant to be a buyer´s guide, but good for some orientation. And...it´s for sure not complete. Please send in your comments and suggestions and we will be happy to adapt the list. 



Contact:

Hannes Albrecht

Phone: +491729733253

eMail: hello@how-to-okr.com

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