ITIL: Difference between Output and Outcome Explained with Example

The words output and outcome sound similar and many a time, we tend to use it interchangeably. But there is a world of difference between the two terms.

Let’s say that you subscribed to a streaming service to watch a particular crime show. You binge watch day and night to complete the entire season in a day. The quality of the streaming service was excellent at 4K resolution and you had no problems whatsoever in streaming, and absolutely no buffering.

After you completed watching all the episodes, you were not happy with the production, story writing, dialogues and the suspense that you felt was silly.

The streaming service that helped you watch the show without buffering and at excellent quality is an output. The entertainment value out of the show is the outcome. So clearly, the output was spot-on. But not enough as the entertainment quotient lacked, and the outcome did not match the expectations.

I hope through this example, you were able to distinguish between an output and an outcome. From the eyes of the user, the output does not matter. What matters is the outcome. ITIL is measured and seen through the eyes of a end user. If the end user cannot meet his business outcomes, no matter what the output of the service is, it does not matter. The service is as good as a car with a blown head gasket.

Let’s take a look at the official definitions of an output and an outcome.

Output: A tangible or intangible deliverable of an activity.

Outcome: A result for a stakeholder enabled by one or more outputs.

To summarize, value is driven by the outcome of the service and not by the output. It must meet the end user’s objectives, and not just deliver to specifications. However, output ensures that the outcome is meaningful and the outcome depends on the output for its continued success.

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