Goal/Objective Analysis Template

As you may have experienced, defining the project goals and objectives early on in the project life cycle.

The SMART technique can be challenging to perform without performing thorough analysis of the problem you are attempting to solve.

I have used many resources that others generously shared over PM/BA networks and build upon them to create my own technique for identifying and trakcing goals and objectives.

This Goal Analysis Template consists of 5 elements.

A higher-level intent behind conducing the project. The ultimate reason.Objectives: You can call them sub-goals or whatever would be needed to do in order to realize the goal. Each goal would include at least 2 goals. If you end up with only 1 objective for a particular goal, you  might want to re-evaluate because the goals you have identified could just be an objective that should be part of another goal.
The tasks and activities that you need to perform in order to achieve an objective. This is still high level because you do not want to end up recreating a requirements document.
Expected Output 
What you expect to produce in you input the tasks included in the Input column.
Numbers. As John Novak, PMP commented on my previous post on LinkedIn, “some” is not a number and “soon” is not a time. Be as specific as you can and include minutes, second, dates, etc. as appropriate.

I hope this template helps. Please share your thoughts.

Download Goal Analysis Template  here 

The Issue with SMART Objectives

SMART objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) is a test or technique that helps achieve realistic goals within a specific timeframe.
SMART Objectives of SMART Goals
SMART Objectives

Defining the project goals and objectives often takes place during the initiation phase of a project life cycle, when writing the project charter to be precise (PMBOK 5).
It is challenging to define the project objectives as accurately as suggested by the SMART technique because of the nature of the initiation phase, which is by definition a phase that does not necessarily involve thorough analysis and detailed planning.

In most cases, it is arduous, not to say impossible, to attempt to produce objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable and time bound during the initiation phase because of the limited understanding of how complex the solution you are attempting to design would be.

Usually, you would not be able to determine a date by which you would attain an objective within the life cycle of the project because such a determination would involve thorough scheduling analysis; you can only guesstimate up to a point.  Likewise, you would not be able to determine whether an objective is realistic/achievable until you conduct further technical and resource analysis during the following planning phase.

Some and some have concluded that SMART goals are dumb,  inadequate or "down right dangerous" as Terry Schmidt stated here . I would say that the reason behind such a reaction stems from the fact that SMART objectives are not being used as they were intended when they first were constructed. This technique was designed for managing organizational growth (Doran 1981) by setting clear and definite goals for the organization to achieve in a given period of time. This, in fact, does make sense when we consider that developing the  strategic plan of an organization does not necessarily involve the four (or so) common project management phases and does not require defining SMART objectives before comprehensive analysis had been conducted.

PMI suggests that the project objectives be determined as an input for the project charter (PMBOK 5). However, the project management team could agree to determine the high-level goals and the objectives associated with them during the initiation phase, then elaborate them to SMART objectives when doing further analysis in the planning phase.  Alternatively, the project team could define objectives as SMARTly as possible for the charter, then agree to complete missing SMART components  during the following phase.  

Doran, G. T. (1981). There’sa S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management review70(11), 35-36.

What Are Project Goals & Objectives?

Defining Goals and objectives is an integral activity of the system development life cycle. Early on in the project, we need to know what are we trying to accomplish, why and how.

Reading around the internet, I found that is a confusion around the terms "goal" and "objective" and sometimes they are used interchangeably. 
A goal is a high-level intent the organization is attempting to achieving by taking on this project. An objective, on the other hand, is a specific deliverable that would get you partially or entirely reach a goal. A goal can consist of many objectives and completing all stated objectives would mean you   achieved the goal associated with them. If you end up with a goal with only one objective, chances are this goal could be integrated with another goal.

PABOK (2nd Ed) defines the relationship between goals and objectives as follows:
As goals are analyzed they are converted into more descriptive, granular and specific objectives, and linked to measures that make it possible to objectively assess if the objective has been achieved.
Objectives are precise and their completeness should be testable and measurable. Here is an example of a goal and its objectives:

  • Increase performance of the system's report management functionality 
  • Staff will be able to produce a report in 5 seconds (reduced by 6 seconds) by the second week of performance tweaking phase.
  • Staff will be able to load user data for reports in 2 seconds (reduced by 2 seconds) by they second week of performance tweaking phase.
There are techniques that the business analyst could use to develop objectives from goals. An commons technique is known as SMART objectives. 
The goal's objective must be
  • Specific: a specific deliverable.  If it can be broken down into smaller chucks, the could be a goal rather than an objective.
  • Measurable: Can be tested and the output can be measurable. Here you would need to define what the measure would be (minutes, seconds, days, amounts, etc.)
  • Achievable: Attainable given the resources available to you during the project life cycle. If an objective cannot be achieved within the project, it should not be stated as an objective.
  • Relevant: Relevant not only to your project but to the organization's strategic plan and vision. If an objective does not make sense in your organizational setting, even when achieved, it would not bring any value to your customer. 
  • Time bound: can be completed within a timeframe. You should indicate a date by/on which this objective would be met.
There are a few variations to SMART objectives but overall definition is similar. Here is an example from University of Virginia HR.

Hello PM/BA World

Sometimes I research a topic related to project management or business analysis and end up finding little content or static content without input from the readers.
This site will serve as a dynamic professional journal, where I would store my thoughts on project management and business analysis techniques and methodologies.