Objectives are a great way to give your next project a sense of purpose, but only if they’re defined well. Things like ‘I want to get more customers,’ or ‘we need more website visitors’ tend to be a bit pie in the sky. Let’s be honest — if it were that easy, we’d all have the best, most successful product in the world.
In this article, we’re going to look at what project objectives are, why they’re so important — and most importantly, how to do them right. Let’s begin.
What are project objectives?
Project objectives are things you want to achieve by the end of your project. They can be tangible things, like logos, cakes, or adverts, or intangible things, like increased website traffic, higher productivity, or better team collaboration.
Objectives help you figure out if your project was successful. They’re also a way to define your goals before project kickoff. Having clearly defined goals makes it easier to create a project plan and get buy-in from stakeholders and upper management.
The benefits of project objectives
Knowing where you’re going is pretty important when it comes to running an efficient project — and project objectives do just that. They’re also really handy for helping you understand what worked and what didn’t. Armed with this information, you can ramp up the things that did well and kill the stuff that fell flat. The result? A more finely-tuned product that answers the brief perfectly.
When it comes to measuring things, try not to think of it as something with an endpoint. There are always ways you can continually make your site or app better — and the more you measure and tweak, the better you’ll be able to keep up (and outstrip) the competition. Not only that, but you can apply the things you learn along the way to other projects, saving you time and effort from day one.
Having a clear sense of direction is crucial for motivation and engagement — and project objectives feed into this. They not only connect granular tasks to the bigger company vision — but they also make it easier for team members to measure and evaluate their own work, and to a large extent, guide themselves. In this respect, project objectives are a little like the lights on an airport landing strip, guiding workers safely to landing.
Project objectives vs. business objectives
Project objectives are concerned with individual projects. There might be lots of them going on at once within an organization. Business objectives, on the other hand, are more top-level goals that shape the organization’s direction.
- A project objective might be creating an app for an online food delivery service.
- A business objective might be for that business to be the number one food delivery service provider in the country.
Project objectives vs. project goals
These two often get mixed up — and while there is some overlap, they’re not the same thing.
Project goals sit just above project objectives. Goals are concerned with how the project aligns with business objectives while outlining what will happen once the project is complete. Objectives are more geared toward deliverables.
– Delivering a logo would be a project objective.
– Rebranding the business so it’s more welcoming and human would be a project goal.
How to define your project objectives
Identifying your projects isn’t a hugely complicated task, but it does take a little thought. And the more work you put into this stage, the better your results will be. Here’s how to get started.
1. Identify the right project objectives
Not all objectives are created equally. For example, say you run a website that sells shoes. Sales are low, so what’s the solution?
You might think you want more visitors to your site — and that’s definitely a bad goal in itself. But the thing is, it’s not very specific or helpful, and it could lead to wasted efforts. It might be that you’re getting plenty of visitors, but your conversions are low — which means people are coming to your site, but they’re not following through to the checkout.
Rather than attracting more visitors only to have them turn away, it might be a smarter (and more profitable) endeavor to take a closer look at the site’s checkout process in depth. Here’s what this might look like written down as an objective.
- Bad objective: Get more site visitors.
- Good objective: We want to reduce the number of clicks it takes for a user to complete the checkout process to four clicks or fewer by March 1.
And here are two more project objective examples…
- Bad objective: Get more customer reviews.
- Good objective: We will increase the number of published customer reviews by 10% by sending out incentivized, post-purchase review request emails by the end of Q1.
- Bad objective: I want to finish more projects on time.
- Good objective: I will implement Agile project management techniques and start tracking progress daily. I will hold daily meetings with the team to communicate deadline expectations and aim to finish the next two projects within the deadline.
The take-away: Always question what you plan to measure, rather than relying on your gut.
2. Make objective-setting a collaborative effort
One way to make sure you’ve covered every angle is to involve other people from both your team, other teams, as well as those from outside of the business, including stakeholders and customers.
As with the example above, involving the analytics expert in your business means you’ll be able to dig into your site details and find the metrics that matter. The more you can make objective setting a collaborative effort, the better.
3. Write out your objectives
Think broad strokes here. Start with a topline statement — for example, ‘improving website dwell time’ or ‘reducing bounce rate.’ Then, once you’ve got that, fill it out with a little more information. The keyword here is ‘little’ — keep it one or two sentences long. Any more information, like deadlines, budgets, and team information, will be set out in your detailed project charter.
4. Analyze your objectives
Creating project objectives can be a daunting task, especially when your project’s a bit of a monster. Breaking it down into sections can help make it more digestible and less daunting. So start with some S.M.A.R.T goals.
S.M.A.R.T is a five-step system designed to get you to really consider your objectives and the outcomes. It stands for:
- Specific: Target a specific area for improvement, and make sure your objective statements are succinct and direct.
- Measurable: Quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress. You’ll need this to define whether the project was a success or not.
- Achievable: Will it be realistically achievable, given the available resources? Refer to your project scope and tie it into your objectives to avoid things like overwork and scope creep.
- Relevant: Are your objectives in-line with the overall company vision? Will they make a positive difference in the way things are?
- Time-related: Specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
5. Share your objectives
Projects run smoothly when everyone’s working toward the same thing. Good organizational communication can make sure your objectives are shared in a way that everyone understands what they have to do and how their work shapes the organization.
Sharing objectives isn’t something you do once then forgot about: Remember to update them regularly and check-in. It’s also a good idea to share them somewhere really visible so team members can see how the project is progressing. If you’re using a project management tool like Backlog, then set up automatic notifications and status reports so objectives become a central part of the team’s focus.
Project objectives are a key part of measuring your project and keeping it on track. If you define them well, they’ll work as a helpful, clear guide toward the project finish line. They’re also handy in terms of boosting team, client, and customer engagement: It’s easier to feel excited when there are clear, easy-to-understand expectations in place.
In terms of tools, you can use anything from Google Docs to project management software to keep track of your objectives. The latter is by far the easiest option: Instead of struggling with weird formatting and having to send update emails whenever you edit things, you can set up automatic notifications and let the software do the admin for you.
Whatever you use to manage your objectives, remember to share, explain, and update your documents regularly as the project progresses. That way, everyone can stay on track together.