Goals and Metrics, like Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Goals are defined by metrics. Metrics are given meaning through goals. They go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

That’s why we decided to integrate goals into our customer reporting and data visualization platform, Juicebox. To help people make better use of data, we needed to think about how people set, track, and update goals. In the process, we tried to answer the why, who, what, how, when, and where of using data-driven goals.

Why do we set goals?

Goals help focus an organization and connect everyday activities to a larger purpose. Goals are a communication mechanism to emphasize what’s important. They define the gap between the way things are now and where the organization wants to be. Goals establish priorities.  

Who sets the goals?

Commonly, goals are set by the highest level of management and passed down to the rest of the organization. However, its not unusual for management to be disconnected from the constraints and realities of the metric and goal. The best people to set goals are those who know the context, can be accountable, and have access to the resources to impact change. It is also important that there is transparency in who set the goals and why it was defined as it was.

"The early models (some still common today) focus on management. Goals are established by top executives and then communicated down into the organization. Therefore, goals are not always meaningful to individual contributors and employees doing the actual job." - Goal Science Best Practices, BetterWorks

What is a well-defined goal?

A common framework for setting goals is the SMART criteria. Goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.

How should we set goals?

A metric-defined goal needs to find a balance between realistic improvements and previously-unattainable ambition. Finding this range requires analysis. Consider industry averages, historical performance, and expert opinions. Top performers can lend guidance as to what’s possible but extreme outliers will set an unrealistic bar.

When should goals be evaluated and re-evaluated?

Choosing when to update your goals depends on the pace of your business and how quickly you can track progress. You want to update goals as conditions change and as you bring in more information to know whether you’re expecting too much or too little. At the same time, goals without some sense of permanence are easy to ignore. Practically speaking, many organizations are evolving from annual goals to quarterly reviews to ensure better responsiveness to changes.

Where should goals show up?

Our Juicebox platform enables the kind of interactive reporting that people can actually understand, use, and act on. To make data more useful, we knew it was important to allow our customers to build goal-setting right into their apps. We paired our visualizations for showing key metrics with an expandable drawer to let users set their own goals.

Here’s what we did to implement a feature that would make goals part of everyday data usage:

  1. Enable permissions to allow specific user types to have the ability to set goals. The rest of the users see the goals but can’t make changes.
  2. Goals are paired with information about the key metrics (e.g. comparison to industry average, trends) to guide SMART goal-making.
  3. The user-defined goals become an integral part of the report — not only are key metrics compared to the goals, but other results throughout the interactive report are keyed off the goal.
  4. Enable collaborative discussions about the goals right inside the Juicebox application.

To get a better glimpse at Juicebox and the goal setting features, schedule a demonstration via this link.