How OKRs are helping us stay focused on what matters at Ally.io

By Matt Volm

VP of Business Operations at Ally.io 

At Ally.io, we are no different from our customers in how we use OKRs to align our teams around common goals to achieve the results we need to succeed. 

Shifting our company to remote work because of COVID-19 came with challenges, but it also solidified the importance of having the whole organization be aligned and focused on the goals that are most important to the business. 

And yes, some of those goals have changed in light of a changing world. 

Matt Volm, VP of Business Operation

How Ally.io uses OKRs 

OKRs stand for objectives and key results. In short, they are a framework to set goals and execute against those goals. Objectives are typically something lofty, like growing revenue 4x over the year. Key results are how you measure whether or not you achieved that particular objective. 

Internally at Ally.io, OKRs help with alignment and transparency, especially now that we are all working remotely. 

At any given point throughout the day, week, month, I can go into Ally and look at my team’s objectives, other team objectives, individual objectives and the company’s objectives.

There’s a huge amount of transparency where I can see how the work I’m doing on any given day contributes to the company’s broader objectives and how those are aligned and in sync with the company and other teams. 

Understanding performance 

Have you ever asked yourself when you get to the end of the week, month or quarter, “what did I accomplish?” Or “What am I supposed to be doing or focused on for the next week/month/quarter?” 

You might not understand how you fit into the broader picture. OKRs help solve that problem. 

When there is a ton of noise and distractions, my North Star is always referencing back to the OKRs. Understanding what my true goals and objectives are and what I signed up for and committed to. I ask myself if the work I’m doing on a daily basis contributes to the overall goal. This gives me and the whole team permission to say no to things, which I think is really powerful. 

For example, if the marketing team says they need a new piece of software, I make sure to ask the question, “what would happen if we don’t do that this quarter, would you miss an OKR?” Always asking those questions helps with clarity on what is important. 

On any given day I could be shuffling between watching my kids, participating in a meeting, and sometimes doing those two things all at once. 

At the end of the day, I need to know exactly where I stand and what I’m focused on. I wouldn’t be able to do that without OKRs. 

We have the same challenges as every other customer of ours. The OKR framework can be hard, but the benefits are giant. I’m there in the trenches with you all, but I see the value and the benefit and that’s the trade off we are making internally. 

How to get started with an OKR alignment session: 

Start at the company level. Make sure each department has input and sign off on what those company-level objectives are, and then dive into the department level goals and how those are going to align and roll up to company objectives. 

Force yourself to start planning early. If you’re on a calendar quarter, aim to start planning for the following quarter three to four weeks before it starts. 

Commit to the work you’re going to be doing every week. On Mondays, we commit to what we are going to accomplish for that week and how it aligns with our OKRs. On Fridays, we celebrate wins by having every team look back at the week and what they accomplished and understanding how those contributed to the goals we’ve set up. 

Connection, alignment and transparency are possible, whether your team is working 10 miles apart, or 1,000 miles apart.