Output, Outcome & Benefit - Stefanini

Output, Outcome & Benefit

A project, by definition, is “a temporary endeavor to create value through a unique product, service, or result.” Through projects, we envision a different and improved scenario and a way to achieve it by delivering a functionality, a product, a service, or an event. Can the success of a project be defined solely based on meeting the budget and time constraints for delivering the product/service? From a strictly technical perspective, probably yes, but will the client have the same perception of success? What the client evaluates and determines their level of satisfaction is not strictly tied to the delivery of what was agreed upon in terms of costs and timelines. The client’s expectation is linked to at least two other closely integrated aspects:

  • The benefits that the changes introduced by the project have generated;
  • The perception of the generated value, which emerges from the comparison between the benefits generated by a specific product or service and the sacrifices (monetary and non-monetary) necessary to obtain and enjoy those benefits.

One of the critical factors is that benefits are often measured after the project itself ends, sometimes even over a long period, and it is complicated to define them as success criteria. What sets project management apart? Project management distinguishes three different aspects related to the results produced by a project:

  • Output or Deliverable: these are the products or services that introduce something new;
  • Outcome: it is the effect that the product or service generates;
  • Benefits: it is the reason that drove us to undertake the project. Benefits are the measurable improvements resulting from the outcome.

What are the characteristics of these three elements and what is their relationship? Outputs are easy to measure: it is straightforward to determine if the project’s output has been achieved or not (within the time and cost constraints). Outcomes are mostly intangible and therefore difficult to measure. Benefits, on the other hand, are the most complex part. They are the expected results, even in the medium or long term, and measuring them requires statistics or surveys. An example clarifies these three aspects better: the output of a project could be the development of new software for online ticket sales for concerts. The outcomes could be the improvement of the service for users, with more payment options, a simple and fast sales process. The expected benefit, targeted by stakeholders when they approved the project, is instead a 20% increase in sales.

With OUTPUT, OUTCOME, BENEFIT, Stefanini Group talks about the “value chain” of a project, which is a fundamental aspect to understand for a project manager aiming to lead successful projects, not just those respecting delivery times and costs.

We also suggest to read the article “Requirements Gathering: A Strategy for a Successful Project“.

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