OKRs for Software Engineering Teams

By on December 22, 2021

OKRs can be a great value-add to software engineering, as they are for almost every industry and discipline. The relationship between OKRs and software engineering is strong – and this is driven home by the fact that OKRs were created at Intel, one of the pioneering engineering organizations over the last century. The principles introduced by the then-president of Intel, Andy Grove, were adopted by John Doerr who went on to popularise the framework in his stink as a venture capitalist/technical advisor to many companies.

Technology has been improving exponentially since the 70’s – and the changes have been quite drastic since OKRs were written for the first time. The framework is useful in setting goals for engineers who struggle with goal-setting due to their tendency to focus on all solutions with almost equal focus. OKRs also provide focus and allow prioritization, so that engineers can begin prioritizing ideas and assigning metrics to completion, as described implicitly in the framework.

Good performance goals for software engineers:

Building useful products and solutions is what software engineers are tasked with, and OKRs provide an opportunity to understand the need and the method to do so. Properly defined objectives highlight the gaps in the market which can then be translated into measurable key results, and these key results provide directions on the possible solutions that software engineers or the development team can build.

Measuring performance provides motivation for the members of the software engineering team, and this also gives a chance to improve results due to timely reviews at shorter intervals. With the help of OKRs, aspirational objectives and challenging goals can be set. The clear way forward illuminated by well-defined Objectives and Key Results allows a software engineer to balance the limitless possibilities of innovation with the immediate need of the organization and paying customers.

10 Examples of software engineering OKR:

Managers of software engineering teams can increase overall focus and productivity by establishing well-defined constraints to ensure that their colleagues produce creative and tangible outcomes consistently. Like any other team in the organization, OKRs can help the software engineering teams to stretch themselves into creating innovative solutions. Some useful OKR examples for software engineers that can be adopted by Software engineering teams are mentioned below.

Example 1 – development teams

Objective: Improve the performance of the new application

Key Result 1: Reduce the number of issues by x% during the first month

Key Result 2: Achieve Y% reduction in run time warning

Example 2 – Testing

Objective: Practice comprehensive testing procedures

Key Result 1: Reduce the number of open issues to 50% in the next two weeks

Key Result 3: Eliminate 255 of the bugs reported by consumers in the quarter within 3 working days

Example 3 – IT

Objective: Smooth running of the network during the cycle

Key Result 1: Check for software updates every week and install updates

Key Result 2: Introduce X security measure within Y days for remote employees

Key Result 3: implement one new innovation in the quarter to reduce lag time

Example 4 – Product management

Objective: Increase the release quality while sticking to timelines set

Key Result 1: Keep the number of bugs to less than 5 during the first iteration

Key Result 2: Improve unit test coverage by X%

Example 5 – Testing/QA

Objective – Make QA processes efficient

Key Result 1: Eliminate critical bugs X days before release

Key Result 2: Increase testing coverage toY%

Key Result 3: Create detailed reports for critical bugs identified and solved

Example 6 – System architecture

Objective – Introduce requested features in the product architecture

Key Result 1: Classify Y feature requests into urgent, important, and later in X working days

Key Result 2: Implement X features from the ‘important’ list

Example 7 – Network management

Objective: Improve the reliability of the infrastructure

Key Result 1: Identify and implement essential software updates to increase productivity by X%

Key Result 2: Decrease breakdowns during peak hours by Y%

Key Result 3: Plan and execute training program to highlight newer features available to the development team

Example 8 – Security

Objective: Upgrade data and infrastructure security

Key Result 1: Take measures to achieve zero data breach

Key Result 2: Establish protocols to ensure 100% backup of critical data happens every day

Key Result 3: reduce data migration and backup times by 50%

Example 9 – Security

Objective: Enhance the cybersecurity features

Key Result 1: Create and execute a security awareness program for all employees

Key Result 2: Implement a new antivirus system

Example 10 – Team composition

Objective: Enhance the effectiveness of the engineering team

Key Result 1: Identify gaps in technical requirements and create a hiring plan

Key Result 2: Establish performance measurement metrics that highlight gaps between the needs and the requirements

Final words

It is important for engineering OKRs to be written with specific principles in mind, as it is in the case of writing OKRs for any other team or department. Using the SMART goals framework enables Objectives to be qualitative yet in the realm of possibilities, and the chances of them being extremely broad are high in its absence. Keeping the Objectives Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound simplifies the task of aligning engineering OKRs with the overall organizational vision (or strategy).

Having 3 to 4 objectives during the predetermined time frame also enables managers to focus on the individual growth while furthering the team and organizational vision. Related Key Results help quantify the progress made, and managers can edit them if they’re not pointing towards the direction one aims to go in.

Having individual OKRs for the members of the engineering team can be a team discussion where managers tally the pros and cons along with their team members. These goals can either be top-down and set by managers or the leadership group of the organization) or bottom-up, which are set by individual team members with the help of their managers. A healthy balance of both can propel engineering teams to focus on what is important right now, and prepare for the future requirements.

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