One thing that differentiates Moxie Labs from other agencies is we’ve built our digital solutions practice around outcomes, not outputs. This distinction is critical to understand if you’re considering partnering with us or any other digital shop. Let’s explore the difference between a focus on outputs vs. outcomes and the pros and cons of each.
We’ll start with definitions:
Outputs are tangible work products such as requirements documents, wireframes, design prototypes, and any software that is developed.
Outcomes are measurable results like increased site traffic, better customer engagement, increased revenues or customer satisfaction scores. When I say that Moxie Labs is outcomes-focused, what I mean is that the very way we think about and understand a potential project starts with what we’re trying to achieve. There are plenty of shops out there that instead focus on “what needs to be done.” Neither of these approaches is inherently right or wrong, but they could be a good or bad fit for your company and your project depending on your culture and what you’re trying to accomplish.
How to distinguish between an outcomes and outputs focused partner Imagine you’re running a small and quickly growing online store that sells the world’s best cold-weather hats. You realize that your website is getting a bit long in the tooth, and in addition to just not looking sleek and modern you think you might be losing sales due to a less than optimal mobile checkout experience. Your small team is busy keeping the lights on, filling orders, and putting out fires so you’re going to turn to an external partner to get this done.
Partner A is outputs focused. After you discuss your situation with them, they’re recommending you redesign and re-platform your eCommerce shop, and hire them to overhaul your digital marketing activities. If you do all of that, you should see an increase in site traffic and online conversations, especially on mobile. Partner B is outcomes-focused. After talking with them they know your goals include:
- Decrease homepage bounce rate by 3%
- Increase mobile checkout conversion rate on by 10%
- Optimize marketing spend (budget neutral) to drive 10% more traffic to the site in Q1
With a clear set of goals, they’ve recommended a set of activities and deliverables that they believe will help you achieve them. Namely a website re-platform and redesign, and a digital marketing overhaul. BUT BOTH COMPANIES RECOMMENDED THE SAME THING!
You’d be surprised at how often this happens. The nuances are in how they couched their recommendations and how tightly they’ve aligned their vision for success with yours. A good outcomes-focused firm understands that unless you hit your goals, the project isn’t a success.Here are some tips on how to spot an Outputs focused vs Outcomes focused proposal:
Partner A – Outputs focused
- A fixed list of deliverables
- A fixed process and timeline
- Low tolerance for unknowns
- Focused on managing “scope”
Partner B – Outcomes focused
- Clear identification of mutual goals
- A proposed set of deliverables
- A flexible process and timeline
- High tolerance for unknowns, and a process for addressing them
- Focused on creating value
Once you know how to listen closely and determine outcomes vs. outputs focus, it’s time to consider which approach is right for your company, initiative, or project.
How do I decide if outcomes or outputs focus is right for me?
The short answer is that it depends on the project, the in-house team you have assigned to the project, and the way you and your team talk about and measure success. I’d start by asking myself the following questions:
- How will my success on this project truly be discussed and measured internally at my company?
- How familiar is my company with the domain knowledge and skills needed to deliver this project?
- Am I asking my new partner to help me identify the steps that need to be taken to achieve my goals? Or do I already know what needs to be done and I’m just looking for great followers?
- What’s my personal management style like? Do I more frequently delegate accountability or responsibility?
The answers to these questions should help you pinpoint if hiring an outcomes or outputs focused partner is a good idea. It’s not politically savvy to admit that the outcomes don’t matter but within many organizations, especially those that are highly siloed, this is a reality. Large organizations are not good at delegating accountability, and identifying & acknowledging that this is an important step in finding the right partner.
It’s okay to select a partner that’s going to be razor-focused on delivering the work you ordered, and not sweat the impact that their work makes on your bottom line. On the flip side, if you’re looking for a partner that thinks through the business impact of their work and is always focused on value, then perhaps we should talk.
Here at Moxie Labs, our core team is obsessed with delivering technology with purpose. We like the added challenge of not just getting it done, but also ensuring that we’re doing the right things at the right times to make a difference. Digital technology has given us an incredibly exciting toolkit for making things happen, and we think the real magic comes from selecting the right things to do at the right times.