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How to Connect OKRs with Product Initiatives and Roadmaps

product OKRs

Every company that adopts OKRs needs its product teams to achieve these goals. Setting goals pushes your company forward and guides innovation and creativity. However, the secret that sets successful companies apart is knowing how to align customer needs and product initiatives towards these goals. 

How so? Because your product supports both customer needs and company objectives. The inevitable contention requires a portfolio approach to seamlessly align and allocate your product towards these objectives. This is achieved by connecting your OKRs with initiatives, which in turn decides what features to build. This alignment is carried out throughout product roadmap planning, resourcing, progress tracking, and communication. 

What’s an OKR?

OKR stands for “Objectives and Key Results” and it is a tool for companies to set measurable, ambitious goals. Objectives are simply the thing you want to achieve. You can think of it as the “what”. The “KR” stands for Key Results. You can think of them as the “how to measure” the Objective’s “what”. 

Key results serve as guidelines for how well the process to attain the objective is going. They should be specific and well-defined so you can clearly check if you have achieved them or not. 

In the OKR framework, there usually are both objectives that tell you where to go and multiple key results that measure how you are achieving that objective. You can apply OKRs throughout your company, from departments to teams to company-wide. The highest level Objectives have their key results which guide teams’ focus.

What’s a Product Initiative?

To best achieve OKRs, you need to brainstorm, evaluate and prioritize various strategies, which turn into product initiatives and roadmaps. A product initiative is a strategy to meet your product goal. A product initiative often includes one or more product features that collectively carry out the strategy. As such, you would want to create your OKR first and your product initiative second. Afterward, your team may have a framework to guide feature prioritization. This organizes your work and helps you prioritize what features to deliver first. 

The process of connecting OKRs and Product Initiatives is the process of aligning strategies across teams and converting strategies into action plans that will lead to results.

How to Use OKRs to Build Outcome-Focused Roadmaps in 5 Steps:

  1. Define OKRs
  2. Prioritize product roadmap initiatives
  3. Estimate & allocate
  4. Track progress and adjust as needed
  5. Share with stakeholders

In these examples, we will be demonstrating how to approach each step using the Dragonboat product portfolio tool. 

Step 1: Define Product OKRs 

When defining your OKRs, don’t have too many levels or too many goals at once. The OKR is a successful management strategy because it creates focus.

3 tips for setting OKRs

1. Continuity – Check previous OKRs before setting future ones. This will create the backdrop for your new OKRs, and allow you to adjust for them.

2. Connected – Make sure your OKRs fit within the overall direction. That means that it can and will be a general objective, but it has a specific scope. That way, when things are not within that scope, you can actively prioritize what is. 

3. Allocated – Make sure you allocate appropriate resources to them to ensure their success. Without appropriated resource allocation, any OKR is just a wishlist.

When using a tool, you should be able to easily manage your objectives. In Dragonboat, you can Add, Edit, Merge, Archive, or Delete Objectives on the Feature Board page. From there, you can add subgoals to your OKRs to clearly map out your goal setting.

You can also add allocation, either by percentage or by an absolute number for each OKR. So your target can later be matched with your plan to keep your teams and roadmap aligned. 

You now have your OKRs clearly defined in your tool. Take your time with this step as it will serve as the baseline for the rest of your product strategy.

Step 2: Prioritize Product Initiatives Within OKRs

An outcome-driven organization prioritizes initiatives for the relevant OKRs based on how much they contribute to each objective vs. the effort required to deliver the benefit. The metric to measure this is called MoAR, or Metric Over Available Resources.  

When using a product management tool, such as Dragonboat, you may create your features or initiatives directly mapped to OKRs or drag and drop them to the right OKR column to auto-assign the relevant Objective. 

If you also use MoAR to quantitatively evaluate and prioritize your features, you can then add your Benefit score to the Feature List page.

Step 3: Estimate and Allocate

Prioritization in the same category or OKR helps evaluate within the same group, but it does not provide the overall picture. Reviewing allocation helps evaluate how product investment is distributed against their initial target allocation defined in Step 1.

The very high-level estimation, also known as T-shirt sizing, provides an indicator of investment needs for the Initiative or Feature. This is the essential info you need to balance allocation across your portfolio. 

real time allocation with prioritization

Step 4: Track Progress of Product OKRs

The next step is to monitor your progress.- both progress of your OKRs (aka outcomes), and your product roadmap (akainitiatives). You want to make sure you remain on the right track and adjust accordingly if not. Choose a tool that allows you to easily view and update status and health quickly.

Through Dragonboat, the Progress view shows you trends based on ticketing tool data (Jira, Github, Asana) so you can track progress and roll-up reporting in real-time.

Step 5: Share your Roadmap Reports

You’ve spent a lot of time thinking of how your OKRs can benefit your company, now it’s time to share it. Share these reports from your tool with stakeholders, executives, and other team members.

Your goal process is an integral part of your company’s success. Being able to effectively align OKRs with product initiatives enables the organization to focus on outcomes, not outputs.

In Summary

Outcome-focused organizations do OKR roadmapping, which guides teams to decide and prioritize what features to build. This alignment is carried out throughout the planning, resourcing, tracking, and adjusting communication. A Responsive Product Portfolio tool helps to facilitate this process, guide best practices for the entire team, and rally all stakeholders in achieving the OKRs for the teams and company.

Becky Flint

Becky Flint

Becky is a product and tech executive based in the Silicon Valley. She has built and scaled product and engineering teams globally for both startups and Fortune 500 companies. Currently Becky is the founder and CEO of Dragonboat with a mission to empower responsive leaders and their teams to build better products faster. Prior to founding dragonboat, Becky has held executive roles at Feedzai, Bigcommerce, Tinyprints/ Shutterfly, and PayPal.
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