How to Use SMART Objectives to Clarify Your Business Analysis
One of the most frustrating things that can happen between two parties is that they think they’ve reached understanding and agreement about the business analysis when they really haven’t. In those cases, both parties may walk away from the initial conversation thinking they’re talking about the same thing but later realize they were talking about two distinctly different points or different levels of acceptability or achievement within the same points.
The way to eliminate that issue is to be SMART about quantifying the objectives and then articulating them clearly and validating with stakeholders. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound:
Specific: The objective is clear and unambiguous and explains to the (future) project team exactly what’s expected.
Measurable: The objective gives concrete measurements to assess your progress against the objective and determine whether you’ve met it.
Attainable: The objective can be reached. It must be realistic; otherwise you’re setting yourself up to fail. Note: Sometimes agreed-upon is also suggested as the A here; if stakeholders don’t agree on an objective, it’s not necessarily a good one.
Relevant: The objective has to matter to the organization. Note: If the A changes to agreed-upon, the R typically switches to realistic.
Time-bound: The objective provides a time frame of expected achievement. This criterion often affects your solution option design choices or decisions. An objective to identify 150 new customer leads within three months may require a whole different solution than the objective to identify those leads over the course of 2 years.
The value in defining SMART objectives is that the team members understand clearly what they and the solution will be measured against, providing a basis and justification for making specific choices and decisions. Without the SMART objective, each member of the team may have her own perspective on levels of acceptability, which can cause conflict and frustration.
If you set an objective only to raise scores, then an increase of 1 percent would be technically acceptable. But if the sponsor feels that anything below a 10 percent increase isn’t really an increase, you have a mismatch. SMART objectives ensure everyone knows exactly what’s expected.
Some examples of SMART objectives for a hotel looking to address smoking problems include the following:
Reduce customer complaints related to smoking policy by 90 percent within 1 month of policy rollout.
Increase occupancy for the last 6 months of the year to prior year occupancy rates.
Reduce housekeeping costs by 15 percent for the last 6 months of the year.