As my friend Josh Seiden made so clear in his book, Outcomes over Outputs, setting goals for teams that measure behavior change is the most impactful thing you can change to drive agility and a clear focus on your customers and users. Josh and I enshrined this concept in our Lean UX Canvas. In fact, we love this concept so much, we put it in the canvas twice. In Box 2 we refer to business outcomes. In Box 4 we refer to user outcomes. Let’s clarify exactly what we mean with each type of outcome.
Business outcomes are your measures of success
Business outcomes are measures of human behavior. They are the things that humans do in the systems that we build. They can be things like “set up an account” or “add something to your shopping cart” or “complete a data entry task with no errors.” We build products and services so that people can complete these activities. We believe that these activities are what make us (the business) successful. The more that our users do these things the more successful we will be. It’s these metrics that end up as our key results.
In the majority of cases the completion of these tasks is aligned with the needs of the user. We believe that when we see our customers doing these specific things they are deriving value from our product and, in turn, our business will grow from that. There are obvious case studies where this isn’t the case – Facebook is always a good example – and the goals of the company (e.g., sell and show ads) are at odds with what the end user is trying to achieve (e.g., read a few relevant posts from friends, family, et al). In all cases however, business outcomes tell us when we are done working on something and should move on to the next item in our backlog.
User outcomes are your customers’ measures of success
“Stay connected with family that lives far away.”
“Finish my work on time so I can get home to my kid’s soccer game.”
“Ensure my company is never at any legal or compliance risk with regulatory organizations.”
These are examples of user outcomes. They are the reasons your users are seeking out, using and recommending your products and services. This is the reason they buy. They don’t buy so they can “add another item to their shopping cart.” They buy so they “never run out of diapers for the babies.” These are their motivations and goals. These are the end-states they are seeking. Your customers, users and buyers went looking for your products to meet their user outcomes.
Often these are not measurable goals. They are intangible states of being. When we talk about the value our product delivers to customers, this is what we should be talking about. This is how our customers describe a product they love. They don’t normally talk about the features embedded in the systems you’ve built. They talk about the convenience of having everything integrated in one place, for example. When we talk to our customers about why they should try out our new product or service we use these motivations as the basis for those pitches.
Two types of outcomes, ideally aligned
Both types of outcomes – business and user – are important to the success of your product. In an ideal world they are aligned so that when a user achieves their “user” outcome, they change their behavior in a positive way that is also beneficial to the business. It’s through this connection that we know that we are both delivering and capturing value from the products we are making.