NorthStar metrics and OKRs to show DevRel value and get focus

Developer Relations (DevRel) foster communication between brands and their technical consumers.

While it is widely accepted that DevRel teams serve as a company’s marketing wing, they often lean more towards Engineering, Product, and Customer Success. Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on, DevRel’s activities overlap or touch all of these disciplines.

In this article, I will detail how you can show the quantifiable impact of DevRel by defining clear objectives and metrics using NorthStar and OKRs.

So what is a North Star metric, and why does it matter?

The North Star is the metric that defines the relationship between the customer problems that your company is trying to solve and the revenue that is generated by doing so.

The North Star also optimizes company-wide efforts to drive sustainable growth in the long term.

A North Star Metric helps in many ways:

  • It gives your team a singular purpose while working in different capacities

At the end of the day, it is all about money and customer satisfaction.

North Star Metric Examples

Anatomy of an OKR

OKRs stands for Objectives and key results, and almost like any strategic planning frameworks, it has 3 main elements:

  • Big overarching goal

When I first started OKRs some 4 years ago, I went about it the wrong way — we looked into the initiatives we had at the time, and then came up with goals for those initiatives.

But in order to lay down the foundation for success, you have to first know where you’re headed. Every goal needs to be rooted in a vision. So, what is the right way to start defining your OKRs?

Hint: Set the destination beforehand with North Star Objectives.

Anatomy of an OKR

So, how do OKRs improve alignment? As you well know, DevRel is in an influential position designed to maximize the work internal teams already do. But depending on where your responsibilities lie, you may be pressured to accelerate results. For example, if you’re in marketing, you’re probably asked to increase demand generation and sales. If you’re in product, perhaps it will be related to product ideation.

The picture below is a framework that you can use to define your goals.

The following image shows a framework that can help you to define your goals.

Creating alignment with OKRs

North Star is something long term and will translate into two primary business outcomes — money and customer satisfaction.

And to help achieve that, DevRel can help in 4 areas: Acquisition, Adoption, Education, Retention.

The question is, what should be your priority?

Where to Focus

To answer this question and besides the pressure of your department goals,

you need to look at two different aspects — the maturity of your product and community.

For example, if you have a mature product and a growing community,

you’ll probably be going to focus on Education,

If you have a new product and a new community, Acquisition should be your top priority.

It all depended on the stage your product/community is and the company's main goals.

Four pillars of DevRel

So, how do NorthStars and OKRs look together?

Let’s deep dive into a concrete example.

As I said before, the North Star metric at OutSystems comprises many live apps with many end-users. To achieve the targets, our company has some OKRs that we define every year.

At the DevRel level, we need to make sure that are enough developers to build those apps and serve our customers.

And it’s not just about the number of developers but their expertise with the product as well. We came up with our own North Star, “The ZeTa Gap” (zero talent gap).

The Zeta gap is about the operation model demand versus supply — so we need to make sure there is enough supply in terms of developers to fill in our customers' needs.

To reach the zero Talent Gap or Zeta Gap, we needed to:

- add new developers to the ecosystem.

- find the best ways to retain current developers and level up their proficiency to meet talent demands.

To do so, we decided to focus on two main areas — acquisition & retention.

So every quarter, we define goals for Acquisition and Retention — this example shows 2 of them.

In terms of KR, one was about to reach out to New Developers and do the certification exam.

And another KR was related to the online community — to evaluate progress in creating advocates.

To achieve this, we have some initiatives like badges, developer champions programs, and recognition initiatives.

Wrap-up

It’s been quite a ride since we started working with these frameworks, and there’s a lot of trial and error along the way. The examples that I just showed in this article look simple, but it’s a result of long hours of conversations with many people and departments involved. We must pause the execution and reserve time to plan priorities and create alignment with other teams.

Besides defining goals and metrics, is also fundamental to build a compelling narrative — because you need to explain why the goals you are proposing will impact business goals. Also, be transparent with your progress and always communicate your results.

On a final note, not everything can be measured, and you never know what benefits may come from the smallest interaction, because DevRel’s main responsibility is to build relationships with the community of developers.

So I recommend you to always follow your instincts, but whenever possible, prove them with data.

What can go wrong with OKRs?

Not all roses when using OKRs, and there a few things that you should avoid when working with this framework. This is a topic for the next article because this one is long already :)

I hope you find it helpful.

Recommended reading about this topic:
First, Understand The Company Goals, by Mary Thengvall
DevRel Qualified Leads: Repurposing A Common Business Metric To Prove Value, by Mary Thengvall

Vera is a former developer turned into a Developer Community Advocate. Gym rat, runner, and dancer.