Riding the High Roller — Goal or Objective?

Dagmar   Cole
Dagmar Cole Business Analyst / Project Manager, Read Author Bio || Read All Articles by Dagmar Cole

I am absolutely terrified of heights; my husband is insistent that I should ascend every tall structure, especially if it moves, to overcome my fear (to date, it has not).  When in Las Vegas last November, he insisted we ride the High Roller Observation Wheel.  Was riding the High Roller his goal or objective?

I see Business Analysts (BAs) and stakeholders often use the terms 'goal' and 'objective' as interchangeable terms when they are not at all.  The IIBA Business Analyst Book of Knowledge defines business requirements as "…statements of goals [and] objectives…."[1]  It is a critical and fundamental skill for a BA to be able to identify a business goal or an objective when encountered and understand the difference between the two.

A goal is a statement of a future outcome; it is a target being worked toward.

An objective is a measurable metric moving toward the goal.

The explanation I favor is, the goal is the destination (overcome my fear of heights) and the objective is a measure toward the goal (to ride the High Roller by November 2017).

There are enterprise goals and business goals; an enterprise goal impacts the entire organization whereas a business goal is related to a specific business function.  Business goals are indirect, long-lived, and exist beyond a single project.  The business goal explains the need for the business rule.  As an example, the business goal "to increase sales" provides the "why" for the business rule, "a customer with an order over $100.00 will receive free shipping."

The objectives are specific, measurable steps toward the business goal and survive only for the duration of a project.  An example of an objective would be "to increase sales revenue by 10% by December 31, 2018."  I recommend Ron Ross' How to Highlight the Difference Between Business Goals and Project Objectives[2] (below) to assist in crafting quality business goals and objectives:


Business Goals

Project Objectives

What should be emphasized?

Ongoing operation of the future-form business capability

One-time transformation to create the future form business capability

What kind of verb should be used?

Verbs conveying a clear sense of continuous activity

Verbs conveying a clear sense of transformation


To maintain, to support, to manage, to sustain, to satisfy, to conserve, to protect, to supply

To improve, to develop, to create, to become, to upgrade, to build to re-engineer, to correct to integrate

To answer the question, was riding the High Roller the goal or the objective?

For me, neither!


[1]  IIBA, BABOK, Version 3, Toronto: IIBA (2015), p. 16. return to article 

[2]  Ronald G. Ross, Building Business Solutions, second edition, Business Rule Solutions (2015), p. 29. return to article 

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Standard citation for this article:

citations icon
Dagmar Cole, "Riding the High Roller — Goal or Objective?" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 19, No. 10, (Oct. 2018)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2018/b970.html

About our Contributor:

Dagmar   Cole
Dagmar Cole Business Analyst / Project Manager,

Dagmar Cole has over twenty years of experience working in all facets of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). Her interest in applying quantitative management techniques to software began at George Mason University. While majoring in Decision Science, she published a paper on Software Quality Assurance. Later, she published her master's thesis in strategic information systems planning at Marymount University.

As a business analyst and project manager, Dagmar continues her quest to apply quantitative techniques to the SDLC. She is an active member of the Fort Worth Chapter of IIBA and was a speaker at the IIBA BBC 2015 conference. She also has extensive training in conflict resolution and is returning to the IIBA BBC conference in 2016 to discuss conflict resolution.

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