Project Outcomes: Definition and Examples
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Project outcomes are the changes that occur as a result of your actions. These typically involve improvements for a product or service. When designing a project, it's important to know what your project outcomes are so you have a way of measuring your success and understand what your overall goal is. In this article, we define what project outcomes are, provide several examples of project outcomes and offer steps to take when measuring yours.
What are project outcomes?
Project outcomes are results that occur from creating your product or service. They are the changes in policies, people and communities that you aim to achieve with your work. Outcomes may be positive or negative and sometimes occur unintentionally. These statements are specific and measurable, letting you know when you accomplished your goal. While they lead to creations, project outcomes focus more on the broad mission.
For example, when creating a bookshelf, the overall purpose isn't to have more bookcases and wooden furniture, but to have a place to store your books. If the bookshelf company keeps that in mind, they focus on designing a bookshelf that helps you hold your books.
Why is it important to understand project outcomes?
Project outcomes are valuable for businesses because they help create deliverables to meet their purpose and goal. Other benefits of understanding your project outcomes include:
Determining if you met your business objectives
Learning lessons for future projects and identifying areas for improvement
Providing an overall purpose for your project
Discovering ways for meeting the needs of your clients
Helping make sure all parts of the project serve the end goal
Related: FAQ: Project Management Basics
Project outcomes vs. project outputs
Project outputs, or the products and deliverables, are the materials or events created as a result of the project. While project outcomes and project outputs are both constructed from your project, they vary slightly. Here are some differences between the two:
You can easily measure project outputs since they typically involve reaching a specific number. For instance, a nonprofit organization may set its project output to be delivering 100 free meals to students.
Project outcomes, however, are more challenging for you to measure and tend to be intangible since they involve bigger picture ideas. For the example above, the organization's project outcome may be to lower the rate of malnourished children and promote healthy eating habits. Since these are broad concepts, it can be challenging to figure out if their actions helped lower malnourishment.
Relationship to the project
When designing a project, companies create the project outputs to designate what they plan to produce and create the project outcome to explain why the project is necessary. The project output is the "how" or action, and the project outcome is the "why" or what you need to accomplish. For instance, a sustainable clothing company may decide that they want to make more sustainable clothing options as their output, and their outcome would be to provide an eco-friendly option, attracting those who are ethically conscious when purchasing their clothing.
Examples of project outcomes
Here are some examples of project outcomes:
"Offer a safe place for teenagers to get help with their homework." (For an after-school tutor center)
"Lower the amount of Malaria outbreaks, resulting in an increased life expectancy and enhanced quality of life for those in areas at risk of Malaria." (For a nonprofit distributing mosquito nets)
"Identify and solve integrative chemistry problems after reading our textbook." (For a chemistry textbook company)
"Raise our number of subscribers by 15%." (For a movie streaming service)
"Improve student reading scores by one grade level in the next six months." (For a reading mentorship program)
"Build confidence in teenage girls and help them learn to communicate their opinions**." (For a female empowerment class)
"Reduce the number of complaints from users." (For a software company redesigning their app)
"Make a comforter that helps people sleep better." (For a bed comforter company)
"Increase participant's knowledge of the history of quilt making." (For a quilt lesson workshop)
"Offer soap that cleans hands better." (For a hand soap company)
How to measure project outcomes
Follow these steps when measuring your project outcomes:
1. Define the outcome you want to achieve
Consider what kind of impact you want your organization's actions to have. To do this, review your company's mission and the type of clients you currently serve. Also, consider what types of new clients you want to attract and how you want to make a difference with your product or services. Create a list of your desired outcomes to help guide you in future projects. When setting your outcome goal, make sure it's SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples
2. Design quantifiable measures
In order to measure the success of your project outcomes, design quantifiable measures that represent success in reaching your goals. For instance, if your project outcome is to reach more clients, consider setting a goal of increasing your client growth by a set percentage rate. Also, begin your project outcome statement with an action verb to describe what you plan to accomplish.
3. Access the relationship between your project outcomes and outputs
Review the outcomes of your project to see if you achieved them through your work or the project outputs. Sometimes a project output is successful but doesn't accomplish your outcome. Review to see if the change you were hoping for happened. Consider using a logic model when measuring your outcomes to get a visual representation of your project to see if you reached your expected result.
4. Track your progress
Since project outcomes tend to have a broader impact, they may take a while before you see effects. Choose a method for tracking your progress. For instance, if you are trying to determine how many participants learn more from an educational workshop, consider giving a questionnaire to participants before and after the event so you can see how much they learned.
5. Review your outcomes
Once your project is complete, review your outcomes to determine what effect it had on your client. You can do this by taking data measurements and comparing them to your initial outcome goals at the start of the project. Based on your evaluation, you can make adjustments for future projects to create outputs with stronger effects on the outcome.
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