Deliverables can be defined as:
- A product
- A tangible
- Something that can be provided
Outcomes, on the other hand are:
- A consequence
- A way things turn out, usually in combination with other factors
- A business benefit
While clearly different, and relatively easy to see on paper and, in theory, where to focus, it is by human nature the people gravitate toward immediate returns - the ‘now’. Besides, it’s easier to show your superiors that you have done your job when you have a tangible on-hand to show.
Aiming for outcomes, on the other hand, are much more complex and at times, may be protracted. But if you stop and think about the returns you could reap from it - like the benefits your business stand to gain - then taking a strategic view and conscious effort to work toward the desired outcomes make so much more business sense.
If the outcome is positive or desired, this, in turn, creates value for the client in different ways: it could be in the form of more sales, leads, or traffic; it could be increasing the brand’s visibility or salience; or attracting more users.
Consequently, if an agency partner is able to deliver this for the client, then it also raises the agency’s value to the client. This could mean a longer partnership, referrals or more business for the agency.
A few examples demonstrating what happens when focus is given to one or the other:
Brand Positioning vs Collateral Materials
Many times, due to various pressing factors, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture, or the ‘Why’ of the company or even just the project. In an industry like ours, it’s common to hear ‘We need a catalog yesterday’ or ‘I need a billboard a week ago’ and that’s all par for the course. The knee-jerk reaction of many agencies is to cram the designing and development of these items.
What we do instead at Mäd is to get clarity on whether the brand is already properly positioned or if assets are in place. If not, then the first thing we do is attempt to crystallize the brand: define its target personas, what the brand’s personality might be all the way to its functional and emotional benefits. We did this for a multinational beverage company based in Singapore and a large Cambodian conglomerate. While it pushed their timelines back a couple of weeks, both clients saw the value and business benefits that we created for them making the small delay worth their while. At the same time, by recommending this approach, both clients’ trust in the agency team slowly started to take root and more projects from the clients are falling into the pipeline.
Follow the Crowd or Lead the Crowd
In a market like Cambodia where clients’ choices and preferences are still largely conservative, a conscious decision to go against the grain is not an easy one to make. The fin-tech and financial players’ identities are mostly made up of the solid, primary hues of greens, blues and reds. Convincing the client to own a sassy bright pink color was not easily accepted at first. Eventually the decision held and became a clear example of creating value for the brand.
In as little as 2 years, the color was a clear standout in the Cambodian fin-tech arena, enjoying high recall and brand association (by anecdotal data and observation). Other companies in tangent industries like telecommunications followed suit, copying the now-signature pink for their own identity. As to whether that works for the telecoms players or otherwise is beyond this piece.
When Process Takes Precedence
This is an opposite example where the client became overly-preoccupied with following a specific project management method to the letter that the main objective was lost - which was to create a booking platform that had the basic functions of accepting or rescheduling appointments.
As an agency, we believe part of our duty is to help clients clearly see the possible implications of their decisions including possible less-than-ideal outcomes of taking a process-centric approach. Many discussions ensued to try to resolve the situation but at the end of the day, it is the client who makes the final call on how they’d like to proceed.
In this case, it appeared that even the deliverable was set aside for the sake of process which we believe to be an unfortunate misstep. While process is good and beneficial, it should never be treated as sacred and even more so, at the expense of your business objectives.
Us or Them
There are times that clients themselves might not be aware that they should aim for value instead of focusing on deliverables.
An example of this is a multinational insurance company pushing for the release of their new platform by year-end because staff bonuses were tied to its release. Clearly a strong incentive to complete the platform but driven by the wrong factors since it does not address real business issues or solve consumer/user needs.
Interestingly enough, outcomes can also be immediate and we’ve seen this in the Design Sprints we’ve run for clients (we’ve written about Design Sprints too). When shared in a non-judgmental and open environment, it is easy for key stakeholders and middle management to see clearly which issues need priority or which direction the company needs to take and bringing everyone to the same page. Having this clarity is a key outcome for any company because it helps the teams move in the right direction together.
At the end of the day, it’s not a question of what’s more important because deliverables are still important and necessary. What they aren’t is ‘all-important’ in the sense that the desired outcome is disregarded altogether. Deliverables should be thought of in the context of the desired outcome or, even better, the value you want to create.