Digital Strategy: Objectives

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FIR On Strategy with Andrea VascellariThis is part of a series of posts that explores the “Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework”, an operative guide that I created to plan, execute and manage online strategy programs more effectively and efficiently. Each of post of this series comes with an audio podcast in which you will find the audio version of the post with additional audio commentary about the discussed topics. The name of the podcast is “FIR On Strategy with Andrea Vascellari”.

Objectives are what you need to accomplish. Once the objectives are framed, strategies, tactics, KPIs, budgets and all the other activities will fall into the right place. Objectives come first. If your objectives are not clearly defined it’s going to be difficult for you to move towards achieving a successful project.

In this post/cast we will understand what are the most common mistakes made when defining objectives, how to actually define your objectives, I’ll give you some examples and at the end I will share also some tips based on my experience that I’m sure you will find valuable.

What’s the problem with objectives?

If you have ever failed to achieve an objective then chances are you made one of these mistakes:

  1. Your objective is too vague – i.e. we want to increase web traffic.
  2. You actually don’t know if or when you’ve achieved your objective – i.e. we want to improve loyalty.
  3. It’s a “dream” and not an objective – i.e. we want a perfectly organized social business department by the end of tomorrow.
  4. You defined something that can’t be performed – i.e. we want to increase sales (even if you don’t have resources, infrastructure or a dedicated team to do it).
  5. You didn’t defined a time or a date by when your objective should be completed – i.e. we want to create a center of excellence.

One of the best ways to avoid these mistakes is to set SMART objectives. ‘SMART’ is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

Now we will look into each one of these aspects and I will also share some helpful questions that you can ask yourself to understand whether you are on the right path to define SMART objectives or not. You can go back and look at the these questions any time or whenever you need it.

How to define SMART objectives?

- Specific: The objective is well defined and clear. Anyone that has a basic knowledge of the work area can understand what this is about. The more specific you are the easier it will be to accomplish an objective.

To determine if your objective is specific, ask questions such as:

  • Is the objective well-defined?
  • Can it be understood by everyone?
  • Is it clear enough?

Example
Not specific: Encourage more people to join the Music Center.
Specific: Increase membership of the Music Centre.

- Measurable: You should achieve tangible results. Define a concrete criteria to measure your progress toward the achievement of the objective. Helpful questions to determine if your objective is measurable? Here you go:

  • How do you know when the task has been completed?
  • How can you confirm it?
  • How will you evaluate if it has been completed?

Example
Not measurable: Increase membership of the Music Centre.
Measurable: Increase membership of the Music Centre by 20%.

- Achievable: Ensure that you can make your objective come true. Set a realistic path to achievement. Ask yourself these questions to determine if your objective is achievable:

  • Do you have sufficient resources to make it happen?
  • Is it within your capabilities?
  • Can it be achieved at all?

Objectives should be challenging but achievable. They should not be unrealistic. Looking at our example, supposing that we can’t stretch our resources to increase more than 30%. Keeping a 10% margin and aiming at a 20% makes it achievable.

- Realistic: The objective must be within the availability of resources, time and knowledge. You have to define an objective toward which you are able to work. To determine if your objective is realistic, ask these questions:

  • Can it be achieved in the current context?
  • Does it fit within your overall work structure?
  • Can you and your team perform the required actions?

Every project needs different skills, knowledge and resources. Asking yourself these questions helps you determine if you may need any training, development or other support in order to achieve the objective.

- Timely: You should ground the objective within a time frame and verify that there’s enough time to achieve it. With no time frame there’s no sense of urgency, hence less commitment. To determine if your objective is timely, ask questions such as:

  • Is there a tangible deadline?
  • Is it feasible to meet it?
  • Is now the right time to work on this?

Example
Not timely: Increase membership of the Music Centre by 20%.
Timely: Increase membership of the Music Centre by 20% over the next three months.

A Few Helpful Tips

1) If you are dealing with a particularly long timescale, you may need to break your objective down, identify the different steps you need to take to achieve it and define how long each step is likely to take so that you can set a target date.

2) Always remember to distinguish communication objectives from business objectives. Communications objectives should support the organization’s business objectives, but they are fundamentally different from one another. Making this distinction will help you to create a solid plan and also to measure more effectively the results of your project – communication objectives can be measured in responses, changes of opinion, content analysis, etc. and business objectives can be measured in sales, growth, units etc. We’ll talk more about measurement in other casts.

3) Define the department and the person that is responsible for the achievement of a specific objective (1st level manager, 2nd level manager etc.). This is extremely important because when you’ll have to evaluate the achievement of an objective you have to consider also the performance of the management. If you don’t define who is responsible for what you can’t measure effectively the overall success of your initiative.

Over to you

This is based on my experience, what would you adjust based on yours? What do you think about it? Is something missing? Looking at the sector you are working in, would you approach this differently? Let me know in the comments.

Andrea @vascellari
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About Andrea Vascellari

Andrea Vascellari is an award-winning digital marketing consultant and keynote speaker in the online communications industry. If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it, leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed or via email to have future blog posts delivered to your inbox.

  • issakainen

    Great post! I’m having a “retrospect meeting” (part of Scrum method) tomorrow with the team and I think I’m gonna use this as a tool. Let’s look at all the work we have done this year and which of tasks fit the most of the “SMART” criteria. And which ones the least.
    Thanks, I’ll keep you posted on how things went.

    • http://www.andreavascellari.com Andrea Vascellari

      I’m glad you found it useful!

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