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.

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