Definition

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Objective

(Contrast with: goal)

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
                                   - Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

Objectives are general statements about the directions in which an individual or group intends to proceed, without stating specific targets to be reached at particular points in time. Reaching a particular objective might involve several intermediate goals.

The following statement is classed as an objective:
"The objective of the Purchasing System Maintenance Project is to improve system response times"

An associated goal might be:
"To achieve sub second respose times for the Purchase Order Update Function with forty concurrent users on the system by 20 June, 2014."

Profitable Objectives

Embedded in the following statement by Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs at the unveiling of the iPad 2, is an objective that has made Apple a highly profitable company:

It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough - it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.

The objective that paid off was:
"To merge the skills of artists, musicians and psychologists with those of engineers to build elegant products that make our hearts sing".

Deriving Goals from Objectives

General objectives are seldom achieved unless they are supported by specific goals. The table provides an example.

Objective

Goal

To improve the estimation accuracy on all software projects

  • Achieve an estimating accuracy of ±10% on all software projects by 4 July 2013
  • Appoint an Estimating Process Improvement Team by 1 March 2012
  • Identify and document commonly used estimating proxies by 4 July 2012. (eg. screens, transactions, tasks, modules, units, design entities)
  • Record working hours spent on designated proxies on all projects from 4 July 2012
  • Collate empirical results from all projects and issue the first release of the Estimating Manual by 1 December 2012
  • Conduct post project reviews of estimating accuracy from 4 July 2012 and document corrective action.
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