Insights: How to connect product with business success


In the past couple of years a lot has been said and written about how to build products that people love to use. During our last Beyond Design roundtable we decided to dive deeper into this topic with the community, which led to some great questions, insightful observations and generally an excellent discussion with like-minded colleagues from the product design field. In this article we highlight a few of those insights about connecting products with business success and how to move from output to outcomes.

Managing by outcomes vs. output

The discussion was more specifically inspired by Teressa Torres' book "Continuous Discovery Habits" and Joshua Seiden's "Outcomes over Output". The former talks about the importance of structured continuous discovery that caters to business results as well as to customer needs. The latter is about the difference between managing product teams by outputs (a fixed list of features) vs outcomes. (a change in human behaviour that drives business results).

To learn more about aligning product and business outcomes, check out our whitepaper on working towards outcomes.

Food for thought from our discussion

The path to transforming the way your organisation and product team collaborate is not without obstacles. Often traditional management may be hesitant to adopt an outcome-based approach. There can be a certain level of fear that if they manage by outcomes, they may feel like they have no control over the product. So how can you influence the managing team?

  • Highlight the risks of managing by outputs

The top-down mentality could often result in a cycle of business and product collaboration without trust and lack of shared outcomes, with micromanagement of outputs and thus a focus on features. From both the business and product side, we spot a knowledge gap between the product team and the business, making it easy to point fingers when things go wrong, but not beneficial for the business, the product, or the customer in the end.

  • Understanding and leading with empathy

Product teams can help their stakeholders see the value in managing by outcome, by communicating with them in a language they understand. Product teams should use this opportunity to challenge what they know, why they believe what they believe, and what data supports their assumptions.

  • Utilise stakeholder and product team expertise en knowledge

Once they speak the same language, product teams and stakeholders can build trust. When the trust is there, they can challenge each other in defining the correct outcomes and finding the right solutions to achieve these product outcomes.

"Instead of communicating your conclusions (e.g. we should build these solutions), you are showing the thinking and learning that got you there. This allows your stakeholders to truly evaluate your work and weigh in with information you may not have." - Teresa Torres
  • Make frameworks work for you

While using different frameworks and metric models can be valuable, it's critical to assess them and make sure they are adapted to your context, company, market. Frameworks don't have to be followed rigidly if they are not serving your company.

The benefits of managing by outcomes

Providing input without dictating output can be a challenge for managers. What helps with managing by outcomes is to adopt a small-team model approach for your team. By having insight into the shared business goal, the product team is empowered to make decisions and prioritise work based on their understanding of both user needs and business goals, and not just blindly follow a list of features.

A key advantage to this approach is that it creates collaboration between the business and product teams. By focusing on the end goal, both teams are able to work together towards a shared vision. To create a that unified and aligned organisation, it is necessary to have a conversation with the business about the end goal, rather than just discussing features. The product team must be taught how to work towards outcomes and externalise the thinking process to make it visual.

Photo in header by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

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