Choosing an OKR tool that's right for you

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In the last year or two, OKRs have really become a trending topic in the business world. More and more companies of all sizes are starting to adopt some sort of goal tracking framework. With that demand, came tons of new apps (including us) that can help your team strategize around OKRs or some flavor of it.

You've probably already seen a dozen other articles on other company websites that say "10 best OKR tools," or "10 best alternatives to [product name]," and list themselves as number 1 😏. Well this article is basically that, except we want to make sure you find the right fit for you. We hope it's us, but the truth is:

  1. The "best" is subjective and everyone does goals a little differently.
  2. Every OKR tool is built differently and solves the problem in different ways.

Let's start with the problem.

The problem: Teams need accountability

Developed by Google in the 90's as a framework to help drive productivity and employee performance, this three-letter acronym, OKR, is so popular that it has become synonymous with a whole range of cultural and productivity issues that teams face:

  • Lack of direction or clarity of business objectives
  • Lack of transparency on how teams are performing or progress on desired outcomes
  • Knowing what projects to work on, but not knowing how you contribute to the business
  • Having a centralized plan and a pulse on your business

That's a very general set of problems and every team will face different problems that are unique to their needs, product, team, culture, etc. The point is, adding OKRs isn't a catch all solution, because your problem isn't that you're lacking OKRs, it's that you're lacking focus and accountability.

Choosing a tool: What's right for you?

What the OKR framework does well is that it touches on a lot of these issues. Every tool however, tackles it in a different way. Some are really stick to the fundamentals of OKRs, some are more fluid or even use other workflows entirely. Some are more focused on people and performance analysis, while others are more centered around desired outcomes and projects.

We'll lay out the difference for you but you decide for yourself what's right for you.

Simplicity, flexibility and ease of use

OKR-only tools vs. Tability vs. spreadsheets and docs

When we talk to new customers, more often than not they were using docs and spreadsheets to track their OKRs before coming to Tability. Although spreadsheets are an extremely powerful and flexible tool, it's not a stretch to say that they weren't built to help you track your goals. Usually teams will start here with a few goals in a spreadsheet, but as their team and goals mature, they need more. Spreadsheets lack automation, frequent check-ins and usually forgotten until the start of the next quarter.

That said, we've had some customers choose to stick to their spreadsheet ways because that's what works for them! 😊

The opposite end of the OKRs tool spectrum is the OKR specific tool. These tools are often great for large teams who need complex mapping, cascade their strategy down to their teams, and custom configurations that come with really large scale orgs. They know the OKR framework inside and out, and if you're looking for the Google OKR, by the book experience, they fit the bill.

These tools also tend to be horribly complex. As a manager you'll spend your days setting up this complex web of strategy and will also be tasked with rolling it out to your team. Teams don't typically enjoy being thrown into a management tool like this.

So where does Tability fit?

Tability is built with flexibility and simplicity in mind. It's easy to transition from spreadsheet to Tability because of it's simplicity and ease-of-use, and it adds that structure and automation needed to support good weekly rituals around your goals. Tability focuses more on goal tracking and check-ins rather than strictly OKRs, so you can track goals in a way that makes sense for your team.

If you're a large, top-down org, that requires those complex cascades, we may not be a good fit for you — but your teams would love to have us. As a tool that's simple to use and get started with, it makes the roll-out less stressful and your team members are more likely to enjoy the tool as much as a manager or CEO.

Goals vs. Projects vs. HR tools

Based on your role, you may be approaching your OKR tool search in a different way. Where a product manager may start with Jira on their OKR tool search, an HR person might find Lattice. Because goals and OKRs have become so essential to workplaces nowadays, a lot of these non-OKR apps are adopting some built in or add-on solution. This can be a great way to go if you're already using one of these tools — nobody wants to add another tool to their suite.

However, there are so many tools out there that are made specifically for OKRs and though tool fatigue is real, you'll often find an OKR tool solves your problem more efficiently.

Project management tools tend to either lack the proper structure, or add too much complexity. Some apps have an add-on features for OKRs built on top of their project management offerings, but the configuration is complex. Others are used to do OKRs but they're treated too much like a project or task and lacks the feedback cycles or weekly/bi-weekly ritual that helps OKRs succeed.

HR tools offer all the people management needs that a lot of OKR tools lack. For large teams, goal management and performance management feel like a perfect fit to combine into one package. This is perfectly fine and works for many teams. However, this can be dangerous from a OKR perspective. OKRs should be a iterative process, just like your company. Tying bonuses and performance marks to an OKR limits the ability for that employee to succeed, or better yet, iterate and improve.

So where does Tability fit?

With Tability, your goals and outcomes are always at the center. Though we offer some task management features, there's no way we can replace your project management tools as they offer the detail and processes needs to complete your day to day (see: tools we integrate with):

  • Tability: What are we trying to achieve as a team?
  • Project management tools: How do we get there? What needs to be done to achieve our goals?
  • HR: How are my employees doing? How are they doing on their performance targets?

Try Tability for free

Hope this helps!

Every team has different needs when it comes to goal tracking. We know that we're not always going to be the right fit for your team, but if you're looking for simple, easy-to-use goal tracking solution, try Tability for free.

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Bryan Schuldt

Co-Founder, Tability

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