Table of contents

Table of contents

Using an OKR roadmap will empower your organization to execute on strategy by improving alignment and goal attainment.

Roadmaps and OKRs have a beautifully synergistic relationship – but many organizations use them independently. Using the roadmap and OKR together can help your enterprise unlock new levels of alignment, visibility, and success – connecting the what and why to the how and when.

Organizations can use OKRs to set and measure progress toward their goals, and they can use roadmaps to communicate the work involved in achieving their big initiatives.

OKRs & Roadmaps: How They Should Coexist in an Outcome-driven Enterprise

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Choosing an OKR Solution

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Achieve better alignment and goal attainment with an OKR roadmap
Achieve better alignment and goal attainment with an OKR roadmap

Let’s look at the differences between the two and then how you can use them together.

Differences Between OKRs and Roadmaps

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. They’re used to set goals and measure the progress toward achieving them. By definition, they’re time-bound, specific, and ambitious.

OKRs are easy to digest, easy to communicate, and challenging to achieve. They provide a way for companies to tie each individual project or initiative to larger organizational goals.

Two components make up OKRs:

  • The Objective: Our goal – the outcome we want to achieve
  • Key Results: How we track the progress as we achieve those goals

A key benefit of OKRs is their ability to create alignment between company strategy and the work teams deliver. They do this by clearly communicating team and corporate objectives. This makes it easier to identify and correct misalignment and ensures teams have a shared understanding of the company’s overall business objectives.

Roadmaps are used to communicate the direction and goals of teams and stakeholders by visually mapping out all work involved. This includes tasks, milestones, and dependencies that might support or impact the company’s ability to reach its goals.

In other words, a roadmap is a high-level representation of the work needed to achieve a goal or objective.

Let’s look at how you can combine the two and use an OKR roadmap. But first, here are at some differences between the OKRs and roadmaps.

Can You Use OKRs Instead of Roadmaps?

Don’t look at it as an OKR vs. roadmap scenario. There is some overlap between OKRs and roadmaps, but the two tools serve different purposes. OKRs cannot replace roadmaps and vice versa.

OKRs are used to set strategic goals and illustrate what success will look like. Roadmaps, on the other hand, translate the strategy into a timeline of business outcomes and deliverables.

In many organizations, OKRs are set at the company level and also at the team level. For example, imagine that a subscription-based financial app wants to increase profitability. The company might set a strategic goal to increase revenues (objective) and develop three key results that will exemplify progress toward that objective, like this:

Objective: Increase recurring revenues over the next year.

Key Result 1: Convert at least 20% of existing monthly subscriptions to annual subscriptions.

Key Result 2: Reduce churn to less than 2% monthly.

Key Result 3: Increase the average number of seats by 20% for monthly and annual subscriptions.

Use an OKR roadmap to keep track of where you are, where you want to go, and how you'll get there
Use an OKR roadmap to keep track of where you are, where you want to go, and how you’ll get there

At the team level, the OKRs would be even more specific. For example, the IT team may set a goal to increase uptime for the subscription app. The team’s OKR might look like this:

Objective: Achieve maximum uptime over the next three months.

Key Result 1: Hold a retrospective to determine the root cause every time we have an outage.

Key Result 2: Implement synthetic monitoring within the next three months to monitor app performance from the customer’s perspective.

Key Result 3: Design and communicate a feature release plan by year-end to ensure that all necessary parties are informed about upcoming releases before they are set to occur.

Where does the OKR roadmap come in?

In an effort to accomplish the overarching OKRs, each team will likely design individual projects or initiatives to get them there. At this point, a project roadmap would be helpful for setting direction and expectations for each project or initiative.

Roadmapping allows program and product managers, agile leaders, and other business planners to translate strategy into a timeline of business outcomes and deliverables. Roadmapping can be used to set direction and standards, as well as maintain clear communication throughout delivery of the project or initiative.

As these examples show, there’s no direct mapping between OKRs and roadmaps. But using the two together as an OKR roadmap can help teams stay on track and accomplish strategic goals.

How Do OKRs and Roadmaps Work Together?

Enterprises use OKRs to set the direction of where they want to go and what they want to achieve. The OKR framework is used to identify and communicate the organization’s big, ambitious goals and measure success as they work to achieve them.

In other words, OKRs establish the what and the why:

  • What do we hope to achieve?
  • Why are these goals high priority?

If OKRs are the what and the why, roadmaps are the how and the when. As their namesake suggests, roadmaps are a big-picture visual map of how the organization will achieve its goals, in what order, and on what timeline.

  • How do we plan to get from point A to point B?
  • When do we plan to do this work, and in what order?
Using OKRs and roadmaps together offers a complete picture. This can help establish short-term and long-term alignment – connecting the what and the why to the how and the when.

Benefits of Using an OKR Roadmap

There are several benefits that come from using roadmaps with OKRs.

Roadmaps fit perfectly into OKRs and can work to support your OKR outcomes. Roadmaps will help you prioritize products, features, and work by their level of strategic importance. That way, you can make informed decisions about what to deprioritize when making trade-offs.

Meanwhile, OKRs can help ensure you invest in the priorities that align with your strategic goals.

On their own, OKRs and roadmaps both help facilitate strategic alignment. Together, they ensure it.

OKRs are useful for creating an outcome-based approach to strategy and delivery. Roadmaps are useful for visualizing plans, prioritizing work, and tracking milestones. Neither is a suitable replacement for the other, but they work beautifully together.

When used together, OKRs and roadmaps can help to improve alignment and value delivery. Better alignment means that teams clearly understand the organization’s strategic goals, making them better equipped to identify work that is likely to have a positive impact.

Here are a few ways the OKR roadmap brings out the best in both tools.

  • Painting a complete picture of what’s important: OKRs demonstrate and prioritize the company’s most important goals, while the roadmap turns those goals into work in the form of tasks, milestones, and dependencies. This is helpful when managing resources, making trade-offs, and prioritizing / de-prioritizing work
  • Creating alignment between strategy and delivery: The roadmap is useful for improving collaboration and communicating the direction of a project, while OKRs provide a clear picture of the company’s goals – that way, strategy informs delivery and vice versa
  • Improving efficiency and productivity: OKRs and roadmaps paint a complete picture of the goals and how teams can achieve those outcomes. This makes it easier for people to focus on the work that really matters
  • Giving holistic representation of progress made: Track the progress made towards goals with OKRs while using your roadmap to see which milestones were reached, the tasks teams are working on, and what work remains

Because OKRs and roadmaps provide a complete picture of the company goals (and how to achieve them), they also help to improve team autonomy.

Use an OKR roadmap to track your progress and keep work aligned with your strategic goals
Use an OKR roadmap to track your progress and keep work aligned with your strategic goals

Teams can develop their own processes while staying connected to the enterprise’s vision and strategic guidelines.

These are just a few of the ways roadmaps and OKRs connect the what and why to the when and how – enabling greater alignment, visibility, and effectiveness throughout the enterprise.

How to Use an OKR Roadmap

Roadmaps work well with OKRs, especially when teams use their roadmaps as tools to support the OKR outcomes. Consider these three ways to use roadmaps to support your OKRs successfully.

Make your objectives part of your roadmap

Teams don’t need to simply focus on completing tasks; they need to focus on achieving specific outcomes that align with company objectives.

To do that, after defining your OKRs, you can make your objectives the default strategic themes on your roadmap. After your organization has agreed on OKRs, teams can create their own roadmaps that outline the specific tasks and milestones they’ll reach to achieve those objectives. A roadmap should provide a clear path for achieving the OKRs, while also being flexible enough to adjust based on changes in direction or new information.

Prioritize work within your OKRs

Being outcome-driven means prioritizing initiatives relevant to your OKRs. That means building roadmaps to accomplish the work that will move your organization closer to meeting its strategic goals. As you map out your initiatives, tie them to your OKRs. If a potential project or task does not match up with one of your agreed-upon OKRs, that project should be de-prioritized and replaced with one that is relevant to the organization’s OKRs.

Track your progress

Don’t just track progress by looking at what work has been completed on the project roadmap. In addition, measure your outcomes by tracking the progress of your OKRs. As you regularly assess OKR progress, you may need to adjust your roadmaps to ensure that the work you’re focusing on is the right work that will move your team and your organization closer to meeting its goals.

3 Tips for Using an OKR Roadmap

Using OKRs and roadmaps together can provide benefits for organizations, such as ensuring you focus on the right work to meet your goals more efficiently and effectively. To maximize the use of OKR roadmaps, consider these three best practices.

1. Don’t focus on outputs

It’s natural to focus on outputs when tracking a task roadmap. However, when working to tie the roadmap to OKRs, it’s better to focus on outcomes than outputs. That’s because the key results associated with your objectives are quantitative and can help you measure the impact of what the roadmap has delivered.

Key results align your team around the same outcomes to achieve the objective, and as a result, everyone is laser-focused on achieving those outcomes, as opposed to focusing on outputs.

2. Make your OKR strategy known at each level

An OKR roadmap needs to act as a North Star for your teams. The whole direction and focus of your teams should be represented in the roadmap, which is a visual and collaborative reference point for the work underway. To design a roadmap that can serve as a guiding North Star, you must define OKR strategy at each level of the company hierarchy, starting with your company’s goals. After defining how the strategy will play out at each level, your roadmap can use this as the connection point between your OKRs and the work items that are represented on your roadmap.

The OKR roadmap empowers teams to deliver work that drives value across the enterprise
The OKR roadmap empowers teams to deliver work that drives value across the enterprise

3. Empower your teams

The most successful teams usually thrive by setting challenging goals that push them to their limits. Combining the OKR framework with lean roadmapping allows leaders to set ambitious goals that are achievable and measurable. The most important step is ensuring the OKRs are aligned with your roadmap so that the team is working toward a common goal.

Keep the team focused and motivated by regularly reviewing OKRs together and tracking your progress. Taking time to acknowledge progress and celebrate wins can help keep your teams engaged, focused and motivated to reach your agreed-upon objectives.

Optimize Your Strategy with an OKR Roadmap

While useful on their own, OKRs and roadmaps bring out the best of each other when used together. They are a dynamic duo that can facilitate strategic alignment, improve value delivery, provide a direct line of sight to goals and objectives, and improve team autonomy.

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of roadmaps and OKRs, see how you can use the two together for better strategic alignment between strategy and delivery.

Access this on-demand webinar on OKRs and roadmaps to learn how to use them together to drive alignment and reach your key goals and objectives.