OKRs: Gtmhub vs Spreadsheets

Posted by Ivan Osmak
on May 22, 2019

When just starting with OKRs, many organizations decide to start with something simple – often a Google Sheets or Excel template.

Most people think that an OKRs platform can only help them once they master OKRs, but good OKR software can help you along the whole journey.

Ultimately, an organization will use OKRs and Gtmhub to align itself and focus on what’s really important. To achieve that, Gtmhub will also help an organization adopt OKRs and then manage them at scale.

There are over a hundred ways in which Gtmhub beats a generic tool like a spreadsheet, but I’ll focus on what I think are 10 most important ones.

#1 Visual alignment

Problem: One of the key reasons why anyone adopts OKRs is to drive alignment across the organization. In other words, we want to make sure that everyone in the company understands what needs to be achieved – we want to see the big picture – how it all comes together. The problem with a spreadsheet is that all you really get is a hundreds or thousands of rows making it impossible to understand how aligned you really are.

Gtmhub Solution: At Gtmhub, we understand that understanding and driving alignment is the key use case of OKRs. To that end, we provide multiple ways of visualizing the alignment between objectives. Furthermore, you can see how your quarterly (tactical) objectives align with your annual (strategic) objectives. Navigating the OKRs, isolating specific team or initiatives, owners or attainments is also possible – to quickly find what can be improved.

Visual alignment of OKRs in Gtmhub

#2 Focus vs information overload

Problem: Aside from alignment, second most important benefit of OKRs is focus. During the quarter or year, we will all get distracted by countless tasks, meetings and initiatives – this is where OKRs come to keep us focused on what’s really important. The problem with spreadsheets, especially in larger organizations, is that it’s hard to keep focus when all of the OKRs are in one spreadsheet – hundreds, thousands in extreme cases even tens of thousands of objectives.

Gtmhub solution: To solve this information overload, Gtmhub provides a functionality called The Hub. While there are situations when you need to see other OKRs and how they align, most of the time, you only need the relevant OKRs in front of you.

Relevant OKRs are your OKRs, OKRs of your team, OKRs where you own the key result (number) or where you are expected to complete a task.

The Hub: Only the relevant OKRs

#3 Automation

Problem: OKRs, like most other processes, die from neglect.

There is no value in having OKRs if you don’t keep track of the progress; correct the course where necessary; divert resources and in general, manage your organization based on the attainment of the targets.

What happens to most of OKRs in spreadsheets (and elsewhere) is that they are set at the beginning of the quarter and then updated at the end of the quarter, when for all intents and purposes it’s already too late.

Gtmhub Solution: A vast majority of data being tracked with OKRs is already available in the organization. In Salesforce, Jira, Google Analytics, Spreadsheets (!), databases and whatnot. To remove the mind-numbing need to copy & paste this data on a weekly basis, Gtmhub connects to 150+ business systems and automatically updates progress in real time. If your KR is to increase the number of leads – we can get this data from Salesforce (or Hubspot or Base or…). If you are trying to reduce the first response to a ticket, we can get this from Zendesk. If you are… well, you get the picture.

Automating OKRs through built-in data sources

#4 Reporting & Analytics

Problem: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If you are running your OKRs in a spreadsheet it will cause you a lot of anxiety. At any given moment, do you know how well are you doing as an organization? As a team? What OKRs are at risk? Which teams don’t have OKRs? Is progress being made?

Spending a ton of time to adopt OKRs only to be no better off in understanding what’s going on is as frustrating as it is futile.

Gtmhub Solution: Seeing the high-level picture, both on the OKR attainment, but also on the OKR process is crucial to quickly identify areas of improvement. In addition to seeing the key figures, you can slice and dice those by initiatives and teams; so you can compare perhaps how well is marketing team doing vs sales team. Once you identify the problems, you can then drill-down into details and take action.

High level overview of OKRs

#5 Process design

Problem: The best and worst thing about spreadsheets is that they are free form. You can do anything you please in a spreadsheet; the same applies to the thousands of your colleagues.

OKRs are fundamentally a process – the way you and your teammates will achieve goals. Agreeing on how this process should look like and then enforcing it in a spreadsheet is akin to herding cats. For example, how many objectives should a person own? What’s considered good attainment? Will you use numbers or color-coding? How often should check-ins be made? The list goes on and on.

Gtmhub solution: At Gtmhub, we have understood early on that to successfully run OKRs at scale rules needs to be established and then enforced. These rules will differ from organization to organization, so we make them all customizable – but rules have to exist – otherwise, everyone is wasting their time.

Among numerous settings, you can define in Gtmhub following:

  • how long is your planning period (quarter? 6 weeks?)
  • when is the deadline to check-in progress?
  • what are the grading scales (numbers, colors, emojis?)
  • what kind of notifications should users receive?
Defining the OKRs check-in cadence in Gtmhub

#6 Permissions

Problem: Yes, OKRs are about transparency. But there are cases when either for legal and compliance reasons (e.g. CFO objectives in a publicly traded company) or simple privacy (e.g. a personal objective which may embarrass a person in front of the peers), it is necessary to limit the access to some OKRs.

This is basically impossible to do in a spreadsheet; aside from having multiple files. That, however, creates more problems than it solves.

Gtmhub solution: Gtmhub organizes OKRs in planning sessions; time-bound collections of OKRs. Planning sessions can be protected by permissions granted either to individual users or groups of users. In addition to this, Gtmhub has a concept of a “private OKR”, which will be seen only by the manager of the OKR owner.

Defining access level permissions for an individual user

#7 Progress tracking

Problem: When you update your key results in the spreadsheet, all everyone will see is a number. There will be no trend, no context, no plan.

Knowing how a key result was trending over time, what were the infliction points is crucial for the learning process.

Gtmhub solution: At Gtmhub, we record every single change to a key result with a comment on what happened. This gives everyone insight into what were the key actions which resulted in progress.

Key result progress over time

#8 Security

Problem: OKRs are some of the most important data any organization will have. They contain targets and progress of everything a company wants to achieve. Storing such data in a file which goes back and forth in email, slack or Dropbox without any idea who is accessing it, who is changing it… well, is risky at best and may actually be illegal (GDPR, personal information, insider information…).

Gtmhub Solution: Unlike with a file which was downloaded, access to Gtmhub can be revoked (through Gtmhub or SSO solution). Furthermore, Gtmhub employs three layers of firewalls, full end-to-end encryption at rest and in transit, geographical isolation, indefinite backups, full access logs…

#9 Collaboration

Problem: Alignment comes from people working together, giving different perspectives and jointly pushing towards the desired outcome. To do this effectively, one needs a way to communicate and keep track of past conversations. While this is possible in a spreadsheet, we’ve all come to hate paragraphs of text within a cell.

Gtmhub Solution: At Gtmhub, we provide a way for people to communicate right within the context of an OKR. One can use mentions to involve more colleagues and all of this always follows an OKR.

#10 Bonus: Approval Workflow

Approval Workflow is a bonus use case, as it is still not available – but we will release it in Q2 2019.

Problem: At the beginning of the planning period, when OKRs are being set, people need to sync on what’s important; what are the appropriate targets. Doing this in a spreadsheet is organizational mayhem.

Larger organizations will have multiple offices, often in different time zones. Getting the entire organization to plan synchronously in a week or two is basically impossible. The end result of this is usually one of the two: a) complete chaos and anarchy or b) everyone is six weeks late with their OKRs.

Gtmhub Solution: In Q2 we will release an Approval Workflow for defining OKRs. This feature aims to streamline the communication and negotiation of OKRs between various stakeholders. By making the entire process asynchronous, we expect to allow even the largest organizations to finalize their OKRs within one week.

Final words

Running OKRs in a spreadsheet is signaling to your organization that OKRs are not that important. Your sales team is using Salesforce, your engineering team is using Jira, your finance team is using Xero, your HR team is using Workday… by using a DIY, IKEA-like solution for OKRs you are sabotaging the process from the get-go.

Even if your team somehow buys in, you are making it unnecessarily complex for them. Instead of working on achieving objectives, people will be spending significant time figuring out just how to do a common task within that spreadsheet.

In the end – spreadsheets will create so much friction that your organization will fail at OKRs.

Achieving results is what it’s all about. Right?