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Project Management

Outputs vs. Outcomes in IT and Infrastructure Projects

Over the past week I’ve been having a conversation with a student who is writing a dissertation on the difference between Outputs and Outcomes.  This is a topic I’ve written about several times, but his focus is on IT and infrastructure projects and he was keen to find out about any case study examples which he could include in his discussion.

Here are some of the links and comments from our conversation:

The topic is very interesting to me and I come across lots of examples of projects where they fail to understand the difference. The result is a very poor approach to Benefits Identification and Realisation (outcomes) and a failure to demonstrably connect Deliverables with Benefits. 

Of course, one of the other issues is the variety of terminology used and the way the terms are used interchangeably, for example:

Outputs = Products = Deliverables

Outcomes = Benefits = Impacts

 
There ought to be lots of examples of IT projects that have failed to achieve their benefits (outcomes), or even delivered the required outputs.  For example, the government’s Major Projects Authority describes what’s being achieved in major IT and Infrastructure projects:
https://engage.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/major-projects-authority/
 
There is also the PWC Annual Report into Project Management:
http://www.pwc.com/en_US/us/public-sector/assets/pwc-global-project-management-report-2012.pdf
 
A recent example of a failed IT Project was at the BBC:
 
Steve Jenner wrote a really good book on Benefits Management in public sector IT projects and there’s a slide presentation here:
 
The report into the success of the Olympics Project is also worth reading and makes useful points about the need to focus on outcomes, but tightly specify the scope and delivery of outputs.:
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/05/what-can-government-learn-olympics
http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/making-games
 
The recent APM Slideshare on Benefits Management also contains some case study examples.
 

 

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