OKRs for Software Engineers: What Are Some Examples?

OKRs for Software Engineers: What Are Some Examples?

by Sam Prince


Published on 05.28.2019

OKRs are great for every industry and discipline, and software engineering is no different. In fact, OKRs were created at Intel, an engineering-led organization. In the beginning of Measure What Matters, John Doerr tells the story of Intel and how they used OKRs and won the microprocessor battle in the 80s. That Objective and Key Results went like this:

  • O: Deliver 500 8MHz 8086 parts to CGW by May 30.
  • KR1: Develop final art to photo plot by April 5.
  • KR2: Deliver Rev 2.3 masks to fab on April 9.
  • KR3: Test tapes completed by May 15.
  • KR4: Fab red tag start no later than May 1.

While technology has changed a lot since these OKRs were written in 1980, the basis of the OKR goal setting technique has not. Even beyond their inception, OKRs are especially important for software engineers, because, as Cristos Goodrow, Vice President of Engineering at YouTube, says, “Engineers struggle with goal-setting in two big ways. They hate crossing off anything they think is a good idea, and they habitually underestimate how long it takes to get things done.”

OKRs demand prioritizing ideas and assigning metrics to completion. They require that time spent by software engineers be used in a measurable, time-bound way—even if that does reduce the number of "good ideas” by picking the right OKR objectives.

Examples of Software Engineering OKRs

Whether your software engineering team is working on code reviews, unit testing coverage, data security, story points, or automated tools, here are some real-world examples of software engineering OKRs to draw inspiration from to document performance. Use them to motivate your own software engineering team and their OKRs.

Software Engineering OKR Example

For the rescue of Healthcare.gov, the engineering team had an ambitious goal.

  • O: Fix Healthcare.gov for the vast majority of consumers.
  • KR1: 7/10 people able to apply.
  • KR2: 1000 ms response time.
  • KR3: 1% error rate.
  • KR4: 99% uptime.

OKR Example for a Product Manager

O: Gain hard technical skills to become top 1% product manager in Silicon Valley. KR1: Spend 3 days a week practicing Python and SQL. KR2: Deploy sample project to Heroku by the end of the month.

OKR Example for a Data Analyst

  • O: Build tools that help nonprofit organizations access and apply their data __better
  • KR1: Increase usage of donation dashboard tool for nonprofits from 20% to 50% without decreasing performance times.
  • KR2: Host 30 CTOs from local non-profits for a seminar on embracing open source technologies.
  • O: Expand distribution channels for video content
  • KR1: Debut video game adaptation of original series at the 2019 E3 event.
  • KR2: 80% of comedy specials available for radio distribution by April 15.
  • KR3: Reduce backend costs to be able to offer HDR streaming without raising subscription prices.

Individual Software Engineer KR Examples

  • KR: Launch the new version of the shopping cart by June 30 that improves conversions from 20% to 45%.
  • KR: 120,000 new downloads this month.
  • KR: Automate the deployment of our production system to require no manual interventions and to take less than 10 minutes.

Are you a software engineer? Did you find these examples of software engineering OKRs helpful? Let us know by emailing us and be sure to check out all the other FAQs, Resources, and Stories here on WhatMatters.com.

Sam Prince (@samprincetweets) is a journalist, storyteller, and the content strategist of WhatMatters.com. 


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Get exclusive guidance from John, Ryan, and the What Matters team by signing up for our weekly newsletter, Audacious. You’ll learn week-by-week how to sharpen your OKRs and stay on track to reach your goals.

Get exclusive guidance from John, Ryan, and the What Matters team by signing up for our weekly newsletter, Audacious. You’ll learn week-by-week how to sharpen your OKRs and stay on track to reach your goals.