Bart Krawczyk Learning how to build beautiful products without burning myself out (again). Writing about what I discovered along the way.

3 types of outcomes (and how to achieve them)

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4 Steps To Achievable Outcomes

In product management circles, no phrase is more widespread than “outcomes.”

You probably often hear that outcomes are the only thing that truly matters, that you should focus on “outcomes over outputs,” and that teams and decisions should be outcome-driven.

But what is an outcome, really?

In this article, you will learn the three different types of outcomes, as well as strategies for making your outcomes achievable.

Table of contents

What are the 3 types of outcomes?

Outcomes are not built equal. There are various types of outcomes that are used for various purposes. The word outcome might even mean different things in different contexts.

However, the three main types of outcomes are:

Business outcomes

Business outcomes are the highest-level objectives that you’re chasing. Think of these as the main priority of the company as a whole.

You launch new products and services to drive these business outcomes.

For example, the most common business outcomes include

  • Growing revenue
  • Reducing costs
  • Increasing the number of people interacting with the brand

Each relates to business as a whole, not to a specific product in the company’s portfolio. You can think of them as determining how successful you are as a business.

Product outcomes

Product outcomes are the goals you have for current products or services.

Examples might include:

  • Improving feature X adoption
  • Increasing the 30-day retention
  • Growing average merchandise value

These speak to how successful your product is.

User outcomes

As the name suggests, user outcomes focus on the value users get from using your product.

Benefits might include:

  • Reducing the time-to-value
  • Improving user satisfaction
  • Increasing the value users get from the product

In this case, success refers to the outcomes of your users.

What is a simple way to create achievable outcomes?

Defining the right outcomes is essential.

After all, these outcomes then guide your decision-making and prioritization process. Focusing on the highest-impact outcomes results in high-impact roadmaps.

On the other hand, if you focus on the wrong outcomes, you might spend months shipping features and improvements that ultimately don’t lead you to where you want to go.

Use the following steps to define achievable outcomes:

  1. Deconstruct business outcomes
  2. Prioritize product outcomes
  3. Identify and prioritize user outcomes
  4. Map opportunity solution trees

1. Deconstruct business outcomes

Before you start, you need to understand what the business outcomes are and what contributes to them.

The C-suite and leadership of the company usually define the business outcomes.

From the product manager’s perspective, the critical part is to understand the business outcome formula, that is, what factors influence the outcome desired by the business.

Let’s say that the most crucial business outcome is revenue growth — defined as improving monthly recurring revenue (MRR) by 20 percent by the end of the year.

For MRR, the high-level formula would look like that:

MRR = number of customers x average revenue per paying user (ARPPU)

Then go deeper into the areas you influence. Say that you are a product manager in an area more focused on the number of customers than on the ARPPU. You should split the former into smaller pieces:

MRR = number new users x conversion rate (CVR) – churn x ARPPU

Now you could deconstruct it even further. For example, your overall CVR is usually the combination of the CVR of various touchpoints, such as onboarding, hard wall, checkout, etc.

By splitting the business outcome into a formula, you can identify a few possible product outcomes to chase, such as:

  • Increasing ARPPU
  • Increasing the number of new users
  • Increasing the CVR of new users to customer
  • Reducing customer churn

2. Prioritize product outcomes

After identifying potential product outcomes, you need to choose which ones you want to prioritize.

There are numerous ways to approach this challenge. I personally use the “10 percent improvement” approach.

I look at each possible product outcome and ask myself, what would happen if we made a 10 percent improvement in that area?

In our case, it would be:

  • What would happen if we improved ARPPU by 10 percent?
  • What would happen if we increased the number of new users by 10 percent?
  • What would happen if we improved the CVR by 10 percent?
  • What would happen if we reduced churn by 10 percent?

Run the math so that you can evaluate how driving each potential outcome by 10 percent would impact the business outcome.

If increasing the ARPPU by 10 percent would result in a 200,000 dollar MRR increase, but reducing the churn by 10 percent would drive MRR by 300,000 dollars, then reducing churn is a more impactful outcome to chase.

3. Identify and prioritize user outcomes

Now you need to ask another question — what needs to happen on the user side to reduce churn?

First of all, you need to understand why users churn. Apply various research methods, such as:

  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Quantitative analysis

These will allow you to come to a high-level understanding of what drives users to churn.

It might turn out that users churn for three main reasons:

  • They have problems achieving their desired outcomes
  • They are generally dissatisfied with the product
  • They achieved their use case and no longer need the product

Try to quantify their answers to figure out where the most impactful areas of improvement are.

Let’s assume, in your case, people are simply dissatisfied with the product experience they are having, and your satisfaction surveys say that the average satisfaction score is 60 percent.

In this case, improving user satisfaction seems like the right direction, so you could set a goal to improve the satisfaction score from 60 percent to 80 percent.

4. Map opportunity solution trees

Now, you need to develop a plan of action on how to improve user satisfaction.

I’d recommend creating an opportunity solution tree to better understand what problems users face, what opportunities it brings to use, and possible solutions to improve user satisfaction:

Solution Opportunity Tree

However, there are many other approaches to defining what specific problems to solve and what solution to ship. If you are not a fan of opportunity solution trees, just use a method that works for you best.

Final thoughts

There are three different types of outcomes.

Business outcomes tell you where you want to go as a company. Product outcomes define where you want to take the product. User outcomes answer what changes for users you want to drive.

These are all interconnected.

Understanding different outcomes and how they relate to each other helps you better understand what you do, why you do it, and how everything connects.

Ultimately, you must understand the outcomes you’re chasing to build truly impactful product roadmaps.

Featured image source: IconScout

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Bart Krawczyk Learning how to build beautiful products without burning myself out (again). Writing about what I discovered along the way.

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