Outcomes over Outputs - A more meaningful way to measure success

Australian tech company Atlassian is renowned for its unique and comprehensive framework for evaluating its internal teams. Recently at PauseFest Atlassian's Head of R&D, Dominic Price, gave us a glimpse behind the curtain of how their internal teams manage themselves and their work.

One of the standout takeaways from his presentation was this:

Focus on outcomes, not outputs.

While this line has been repeated ad nauseam in various management books, podcasts and videos, the example Price used to supplement this statement caught our interest.

Price described how his team in Atlassian had stopped celebrating when code pushes went live (an output). The team realised that they were celebrating a situation that the customer had nothing to do with, even though the customer was the audience the team built the code for. Atlassian realised that a much better metric for success was to measure the outcome of that code push.

One drawback, Price concluded, was that outcomes tend to be delayed by three to six months after the code push, due to the delay in collecting data. But by celebrating the customer outcome rather than the output, they're celebrating a situation where both the team and the customer has won.

We'll be honest. We are ones for popping champagne when a new website goes live. A gong sounds for every new release of a mobile app that is approved by the app store. We've been guilty of celebrating our efforts through our outputs - not our outcomes.


A change of perspective

Price's presentation should give us all food for thought. While we recognise that it's important to celebrate the end of a big project (there's lots of hard work and collaborative effort gone in!), we've seen the benefit in sharing our celebrations with our clients.

Perhaps more importantly, we’re aware of the fact that a project is only one component of the ongoing process of a digital experience being enhanced and optimised over time. This change in perspective away from project-based thinking goes hand in hand with an outcome-driven approach. Digital is never done.

Ultimately, both us and our clients are serving the same purpose: to create a digital experience that customers will love. And we'll only really be certain of that when the data comes in. Celebrating outcomes means means moving away from output KPIs, such as hours spent vs quoted, towards KPIs that are impacted by customers actions.

This means that KPIs should be more like an increase in net promotor score by 25%, or a decrease in call centre volume by 10%. These numbers are measurable, and our teams are driven by acheiving them. After all, what happens if with our clients we don't hit these numbers - or indeed, experience the opposite of what we've aimed for?

Being accountable for outcomes means we focus on building digital assets - rather than outputting shiny objects. A great example of this is a dynamic landing page builder we’ve created in partnership with an insurance provider - it’s reducing their cost of acquisition by 90%.

In Fusion's values, we are 'Brave', and 'Responsible' - leading to us acknowledge what matters most to our clients and their customers, even if it means having tough conversations about the impact of what we’re delivering. It’s time for all organisations to start being braver and more responsible with their delivered actions, by aiming for outcomes, not outputs.