If your technology or transformation projects are failing or simply not reaching their full potential, perhaps you are wearing “outcome blinkers”?

By Wayne Davies

Have you ever been involved in a tech or software project that on paper, was performing well but somehow felt off? It wasn’t late and it wasn’t over budget. The governance was solid, and the methodology was textbook. It was more of a gut feeling that something wasn’t right.

We’ve had this conversation countless times with clients across all sectors. We start by asking the seemingly obvious: “What’s the intended outcome?”.

At this point, clients will usually talk us through the software and the intended use and design. And there it is. The light bulb moment. All too often (and way too easily), organizations can often fall into the trap of focussing on project outputs rather than business outcomes. We call this “outcome blinkers” and it happens a lot.

Technology is the enabler and software, simply a deliverable or an “output” of a project but not the reason why the project has been signed off. The project had been approved because there was a business need of XYZ. Often though, focusing on outputs can lead projects down the wrong road and it can often be done without anyone even realizing — until it’s too late. We see this time and time again when we are called in to rescue failing or failed implementations.

In essence, the why which is all about outcomes, is often replaced by the how.

It may help to think of business outcomes as the benefits enjoyed by you, your end-users, and your clients because of your technology project. Simply delivering a project, even on budget and on-time does not guarantee realization of these benefits and it does not guarantee the necessary ROI either but when you align identification of intended business outcomes with IT project initiation and management you increase your potential for success.

So how do you make sure that you don't confuse project outcomes with business outcomes?

“What is the objective of this project?” should be the first question you ask when you embark on a new project.

It is not just the executive leadership team and project managers who should be asking. All stakeholders, sponsors… anyone who touches or interacts with the project should have this question burned into their subconscious. That way it becomes part of your DNA and comes naturally to mind in any decision making.

Starting with the end in mind is important – you need to know where you are going to better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.

Our end goal gives us a fixed point to work towards. This point is something we can evaluate against and check in with. We can measure any decision against whether the outcome will move us closer or further away. The ending can help orient our actions and efforts in the present. An ending is a real destination, it is tangible and concrete and we all know the benefits of having one.

It can be difficult to bridge the gap between business and technical conversations. Talk to us about our business outcomes template. In this template, business outcomes focus on three topics:
  • Aligning to stakeholders or business decision makers.
  • Understanding business drivers and objectives.
  • Mapping outcomes to specific solutions and technical capability.
For us here at sa.global, when we run any digital transformation project with clients (and internally), it is the same mantra: “What’s the intended outcome?” When you start your project with your intended benefits in mind (and keep focused on them during your project lifecycle), you have a greater chance of not being distracted by project outcomes and outputs.