Care About Your Users? Then Focus on Outcomes Over Outputs.


Outcomes or outputs is nowhere close to being as contentious a topic as tabs versus spaces, but it’s still a source of debate in the tech industry, especially among product teams.

Or is it?

In Austin, the choice was unanimous among the four product professionals we surveyed: When it comes to new product or feature development, outcomes are more important than outputs. 

This may come as a surprise given the tech industry’s obsession with metrics and KPIs. Although outputs are easier to measure, the speed at which new features, updates or products are released is much less important than the overall product’s quality in the eyes of users. As SciPlay Chief Product Officer Ehud Barlach noted, a narrow focus on outputs can ultimately harm a business’s bottom line.

“We can easily develop many things in a short period of time that will eventually not impact product performance,” Barlach said. “In that case the output is high, but it is bad for the company and the business.”


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Rex real eseate

Kill Your Darlings

“We work at a fast-paced, high-growth startup in an ever-fluctuating industry that became even more unpredictable during the pandemic. It is therefore important that our team doesn’t get attached to any specific solution as we may need to scrap it as soon as market conditions change.

Last year, I was ecstatic to be leading a project that was truly the first of its kind. This product illustrated the change REX wants to make in the real estate industry. And when we launched in June, we didn’t consider how the problem we set out to solve for our customers now paled in comparison to the slew of new issues they faced because of the pandemic. 

After seeing the initial data, I realized that this was my opportunity to practice the art of “killing your darlings,” which I preach to my team. I overhauled the flow completely to something simple but effective. It is crucial to work at a company that holds you accountable for how well your solution fixes the customer’s problem rather than carrying out someone else’s vision, especially when developing your foundational product management skills.”

Nikki Werner is Sr. Director of Product Management and Sales Operations at REX, a real estate company.


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“There’s the product we want to have and there’s the product that puts more workers to work. In the long run, we get to have both. But in the short run, we have to make choices. Sometimes the right choice isn’t the first that comes to mind or even the one we’re most excited about working on.

In our business, the product is the job you want or the worker you need: The software is there to facilitate. At any given point, there’s something in our system keeping some set of workers from finding their first job or their next. Our North Star — putting 1 million workers to work by 2030 — demands that we put the worker first every day. It demands that we go beyond our first idea of what we want to build, or even what we planned to build, and get to the thing that stands in the way of providing consistent work to the next 100, next 1,000 or next 10,000 workers.”

Luke Tucker is director of product at Workrise, an IT company.


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Explore Different Approaches

“Focusing on outcomes as our North Star allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the true needs of our end users. It lets us explore all the different avenues for how we can approach a solution so that our new features hit that desired outcome with more certainty. 

For example, after analyzing the numbers of users who completed registration, we realized our biggest hurdle was a government form that people often only partially completed in our app. We did research to better understand our end users’ struggles and determined that the best solution would be to move the full form to our app, which improved the user experience by streamlining the process so the user never had to leave the app. We have yet to release this feature, but we expect to see a sharp increase in the number of users who complete the onboarding process, leading to more workers booking jobs using our app.”

Saidí Granados is product lead at Adia, an HR company.


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Think Long Term 

“Our business is very results-oriented, starting — most importantly — from the growth of top-line revenue, which drives planning and decision making. In order to grow efficiently, we need to very carefully decide what we develop and create a roadmap with a healthy balance between new mechanics and features, improvements to existing ones, customer care improvements, and more. The roadmap and prioritizing its items are key factors for the future of our products. Every development effort that does not result in a positive impact to the product is basically a waste of development time and postpones growth. That’s why the quality of our features is much more important than the quantity we create. 

We can easily develop many things in a short period of time that will eventually not impact product performance. In that case, the output is high, but it is bad for the company and the business. On the other hand, there are many industry examples where a single change to the product drove a long-lasting positive impact and made a huge difference. So generally speaking, if I need to pick which is more important, outcomes is the obvious answer.

At SciPlay, we have evergreen games, so we focus on the outcome of optimizing sustainable, long-term growth. This focus on outcomes led to decisions to rewrite the code base of multiple games, and each rewrite took a tremendous effort. Projects like this are massive and require most of the team’s focus. We took this route because we understood the games’ technical foundations wouldn’t allow us to scale in the long run.

We needed to choose between near-term outputs and suboptimal long-term growth or sacrifice near term-outputs and put the games in the best possible position for maximum long-term growth by focusing on the technical foundations. The decision was clear: Focus on the outcome enabling our best chance to compete in the market for the long run. We were willing to lose short-term outputs to achieve that. This strategy has been successful time and time again.”

Ehud Barlach is chief oroduct officer at SciPlay, a gaming company.

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