Agile value delivery with Outcomes

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Agile is +20 years old. Most of the companies did not get it. I’m glad to see the several new UX movements are getting it and are producing some amazing books, not limited to UX but in the helm of digital products and discovery like: Sense & Respond, Outcomes Over Output, The Hard Things about Hard Things and Traction. I read all these books and really recommend you read it too. So the big fight that agile started and Digital Products / Discovery carry on is, stop focusing in Features make sure you understand your customer and deliver real value. Deliver value is not easy and still something everybody talks but feel know how to do it. The difference between a successful startup and a failed one is the ability to execute well knowing their customer and making products they love. I made some previous posts in regards to other forms of value I recommend you check it out here and here. In order to deliver the value, we need to focus on outcomes and stop focusing on output(features). There is a good relationship between OKRs and Outcomes. Output has a strong relation with project culture and Management 1.0 which does not make sense in the digital world any longer.

Tasks dont matter. Users don’t care about tasks. However, management still plans and thinks just in sense of outputs(tasks). At the end of the day, there are few things that matter but we could consider for the business that what matter most is:

1. Increase in Revenue

2. Decrease Cost

3. Increase new Businesses

4. Increase Market Share

5. Increase Revenue from the existing customer base

Easily you could see like 2 things. Increase revenue and reduce costs. Focus only on reducing costs could easily create the wrong culture and deliver poor results. So ideally we should focus on increasing revenue with means Impact. Outcomes lead to impact. So the business impact is what matters most.

Outcome and why they matter?

Outcomes matter because it unlocks ways to RE-INVENT the business and deliver better and more innovative results. Even if you team is agile, most organizations are not agile and are super hierarchical. So it’s super important that things start the right way.

So what are Outcomes? Outcome is a change in human behavior(final user or employee) that drives business results. Outcomes are things that people do that are observable and measurable. Why focus on outcomes now? Like I said before agile is saying a similar message for +20 years, building features does not work anymore. Look Lean Startup movement. Let’s see a sample:

Impact: Reduce Costs

Outcome: Reduce the number of support calls

Output: Improve user usability on complicated features.

Using this Outcome formula we can do much better discovery planning sessions and roadmaps. Using outcomes make us focus and think on ideas and experiments to improve user experience. So Outcomes have a perfect marriage with Lean UX and Product Discovery discipline.

Relationship with OKRs

When working with OKR you want your objective to be Inspirational. However, a great practice is to use Outcomes as Key Results in OKRs. You can achieve better key results by asking the question: “What user behavior has this initiative created that drives business results?”. This question is so so important because it moves us away from features(output) and makes us close to value delivery questions and experimentation.

One of the biggest OKR issues is that you can cheat! Easily you could shape your OLD KPI goals and tasks in an OKR language and format. OKR is not only about comunication dont be fooled by OKR nice communication what matters is drive business initiatives that create impact.

OKR’s main goal is to make you THINK about your goals and have goals in an agile fashion. If you are not thinking hard about your goals and think in a set of experiments to improve things be careful OKRs might not drive the results you want.

Outcomes enhance OKRs and help OKRs happens in the right way. How did that happen? Consider OKRs Key results and Outcomes, in other words, what user behavior change or employee behavior change that needs to happens to drive business results.

Outcome-based Roadmaps

Finally, when doing discovery we need to get away from features and tasks. We need to avoid the Management 1.0 trap. One way to do it so is focusing on Outcome-based roadmaps instead of feature-based roadmaps. Feature-based roadmaps result in fixed price/scope projects, waste, low tech solutions, and poor user experience. In other words, Fiction, guess, Lies and other incidents.

It’s important to plan a roadmap based on user journey using methods like * impact-mapping* or * outcomes-mapping*. Planning based on outputs limits team agility. In order to-do, outcome-based roadmaps you need to have a list of questions, possible will become discovery experiments, themes, and outcomes instead of a feature list. Outcome-based thinking is one of the keys to true digital transformation. You need to think that everything is an experiment and your colleagues and customers are outcomes as well.

Cheers,
Diego Pacheco

Originally published at http://diego-pacheco.blogspot.com on March 18, 2020.

Brazilian, Software Architect, SWE(Java, Scala, Rust, Go) SOA & DevOps expert, Author. Working with EKS/K8S. diegopacheco.github.io (Opinions on my own)

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