Particle 41’s Ben Johnson on Purposeful Business Planning with OKRs

In this episode of Talk Commerce, I had the pleasure of chatting with Ben Johnson, the CEO and founder of Particle 41, a global software development consultancy. Ben shares his expertise on using OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for purposeful business planning, Particle 41’s unique approach to software development, and his thoughts on the role of AI in the future of coding.

The Power of OKRs in Business Planning

Ben emphasizes the importance of being purposeful in business planning, and he sees OKRs as a powerful framework for setting and measuring goals. As he explains:

OKRs are a framework for goal setting. It’s one thing to say, hey, I have this. When I learned about OKRs, I actually put my family through them. I know. I would probably get charged for child abuse in some cultures.

By setting clear objectives and defining key results to measure progress, businesses can adopt a data-driven approach to goal setting and achievement. Ben even applies this framework to his personal life, demonstrating its versatility.

Particle 41’s Unique Approach to Software Development

Particle 41 offers a range of services, including advisory, software development, application modernization, DevOps, and data science. What sets them apart is their focus on building high-functioning tech teams that act as an asset of skill rather than just manpower. As Ben puts it:

What we do is put together really good tech teams. And a lot of folks think of outsourcing software development as the asset of manpower, like, hey, I just need some more bodies. But we really take pride in being the asset of skill.

Particle 41’s core values of visibility, velocity, and vision drive their approach to delivering dependable tech solutions that match their clients’ needs and market demand.

Balancing Custom Development with Existing Tools

When it comes to deciding between custom development and leveraging existing tools, Ben advises a balanced approach. He suggests mapping out the client’s existing IT stack and identifying areas of high need and high value. As he explains:

High need things are well established in the market. I don’t know anybody who’s going to go make their own email server or make their own computer and host it in their garage… And so those are like your high need things. And when we have high need, so I put that at the bottom of the diagram, those things, we just want to partner really well, pick the best to breed, you know, top right corner of the Gartner reference chart.

On the other hand, custom development should be focused on areas that differentiate the brand and deliver the most value to the customer.

The Future of AI in Software Development

As AI continues to advance, Ben believes that developers will still need to have a deep understanding of what they’re doing. While AI can help with tasks like writing and coding, he cautions against becoming intellectually lazy:

AI is not going to prevent software developers from having to do that… you’ll still have to very much know what it is that you’re doing.

As businesses explore AI applications, Ben observes that many end up narrowing their focus and arriving at more literal solutions rather than relying entirely on AI-generated output.

This insightful conversation with Ben Johnson highlights the importance of purposeful planning, adaptable software development approaches, and the evolving role of AI in the industry. To learn more about Ben and Particle 41, visit their website at or connect with Ben on LinkedIn.


  • Brent W. Peterson

    Who is Brent Peterson? Brent is a serial entrepreneur and marketing professional with a passion for running. He co-founded Wagento and has a new adventure called ContentBasis. Brent is the host of the podcast Talk Commerce. He has run 25 marathons and one Ironman race. Brent has been married for 29 years. He was born in Montana, and attended the University of Minnesota and Birmingham University without ever getting his degree.

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