New England Product Group Blog

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Focusing on Outcomes Versus Outputs

Image Credit Pexels / Yan Krukau

Many organizations mistakenly prioritize the delivery of features (outputs) rather than concentrating on the broader business goals and user benefits (outcomes) those features intend to achieve.

Prizing output as success can be misplaced. At its worst, the result can manifest as a feature factory that pumps out features, many of which don’t move the needle in making things better for customers, solving their problems, or improving their experience. Focusing on outcomes is the key to creating truly great products.

Here’s why prioritizing outcomes is paramount and where companies commonly fall short:

The Importance of Focusing on Outcomes:

User Value: The importance of focusing on outcomes becomes apparent in its capacity to ensure that product teams build solutions that authentically address user needs and provide tangible value. It shifts the paradigm from mere feature deployment to creating genuinely great products.

Business Impact: Prioritizing outcomes is the compass for aligning product efforts with overarching business objectives. Whether it's revenue growth, customer retention, or market expansion, an emphasis on outcomes becomes the linchpin for strategic success.

Flexibility: It allows product teams to remain adaptable and responsive to changing market conditions and user feedback. In a dynamic market landscape, the ability to remain adaptable and responsive is a strategic advantage. Focusing on outcomes allows product teams to navigate changing conditions and to evolve based on user feedback, ensuring sustained relevance and success.

Common Challenges with Focusing on Outcomes:

Feature-Centric Thinking: The pervasive challenge of a feature-centric mindset persists in many organizations, where success metrics often revolve around the sheer volume of features shipped, neglecting their impact on users and the business.

Lack of Metrics: Some organizations lack clear, measurable success criteria tied to desired outcomes. Without such metrics, organizations struggle to assess whether a product meets its intended goals. Clear and measurable success criteria are the bedrock of effective outcome-focused strategies. 

Short-Term Focus: Pressure to deliver results quickly can lead to a short-term mindset, causing teams to prioritize quick wins over long-term, strategic objectives. 

How to Improve Focus on Outcomes:

Define Clear Objectives: Start by setting clear, measurable objectives that tie back to your business strategy. These objectives should describe the desired outcomes you aim to achieve. Cross-functional objectives help to align the entire organization. 

Use Key Results: Establish Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that align with your desired outcomes. These quantifiable metrics help track progress and success. Cross-functional KPIs help ensure a shared understanding of the outcomes and that everyone is working towards the same goals.

Experiment and Iterate: Encourage a culture of experimentation, where teams can iterate on solutions and learn from successes and failures. Embrace failures as learning opportunities, allowing the refinement of strategies to achieve the desired outcomes.

User-Centricity: Continuously gather user feedback and insights to ensure that the product solutions you build align with user needs and expectations. Integrate that user feedback and the gathered insights into the product development process continually. This iterative feedback loop ensures that solutions align seamlessly with evolving user needs and expectations.

Regularly Review Progress: Periodically review progress toward outcomes, and adjust strategies and priorities based on what you learn. Periodic reviews of progress towards outcomes are essential. This ongoing evaluation enables adaptive strategies, ensuring the product roadmap remains dynamic and responsive to changing circumstances.

By shifting the focus from a fixation on delivering features to achieving meaningful outcomes for users and the business, companies can elevate their product management practices and create products that have a more significant impact. Remember, the success of a product is not determined solely by what is built, but by the value it delivers. The true measure of a product's success transcends the mere construction of features; it lies in the value it delivers to both users and the business.