Business Outcomes Playbook:

Solution Providers


Create a Business Outcomes centered company to deepen and extend profitable customer relationships and market differentiation.

Business Outcomes Playbook for Solution Providers

Maximizing Purpose and Payoff of Initiative Investments
What is a Business Outcome and why does it matter?
A Distinct Role
How does a Business Outcome differ from a requirement?
How are Business Outcomes developed?
Why the Business Outcomes Framework?
Telling the Story of Why
True North
Setting your course to True North

Purpose of this Business Outcomes Playbook

The purpose of this Business Outcomes Playbook™ for Solution Providers is to equip leaders like you and solution providing companies like yours to embrace the power of Business Outcomes as both a customer relationship builder and competitive market differentiator.

The Playbook will help you:

    • Build marketplace, prospect and customer confidence that your solutions will deliver the return on their investment that customers require.

    • Ensure that each member of your solution family is mapped and responsive to your company’s vision, strategy and goals for serving your target markets.

    • Energize your team throughout each step in the solution and customer lifecycles, reflecting personal motivation and commitment.

    • Minimize the risk and impact of failure, and

    • Create a Business Outcomes centered company that deepens and extends profitable customer relationships and market differentiation.

For a more complete understanding the importance of Business Outcomes to customers and prospects, we recommend that you review our Business Outcomes Playbook™ for Buying Organizations.


An Executive Preview

The Business Outcomes Playbook™ is based on three unified components:

    • Business Outcomes that define measurable business results from you and your customers’ investments of time, money and other resources.

    • Business Outcomes Framework™ that provides a comprehensive and reusable reference for catalyzing and organizing your business outcomes planning, ensuring that nothing gets missed.

    • And Business Outcomes Maps that tie your people, solution investments and initiatives to your vision, strategy and goals for supporting those of your client base and target markets.

    Together, these form a durable and dynamic platform for elevating conversations, planning, and decision-making internally and with your customers and prospects to define and accelerate the business value of investments in your solutions.

    It all starts with Business Outcomes…

    Introduction to Business Outcomes

    A Business Outcome is the measurable business result from some investment of time, money and other resources.

    Generating more revenue, reducing expenses, gaining more customers, and opening new markets are all familiar examples of business results that would be expected of an investment.

    This familiarity allows us to justify investments, e.g. “If we build this building, we can sell more widgets”, “If we buy this software system, we can produce those widgets faster” and “If we build this module or add this enhancement, we will sell more software.”

    And the generality and acceptance of broadly stated justifications is what enables buying organizations, for example, to say, “We all know the big reasons why we need a new [building, software system, etc.], so let’s analyze our processes and document our requirements so that we can compare the options available in the market.”

    For those buying organizations, the focus quickly becomes the nitty-gritty details of “what” and “how” the competing solutions fulfill the requirements at, of course, the lowest responsible cost.

    Lost in the shuffle is the “personally motivating why”, where measurable business results that stakeholders can relate to and are driven by are defined at:

      • Levels of specificity that directly impact leaders and their teams

      • Magnitudes of scope and impact that boards and cabinets care about, and

      • Against which the solution providers can be intimately compared.

    For Solution Providers like you this also means what it has always meant: having to continuously spend enormous amounts of time, energy and money trying to differentiate yourselves within a requirements-driven process that makes differentiation nearly impossible to achieve.

    Enterprise Software Systems as Our Example

    While Business Outcomes are central to any business investment or initiative, we will use enterprise software system planning, selection, implementation and on-going optimization as the primary example throughout the Business Outcomes Playbook.

    The Distinct Role of Business Outcomes

    Where requirements focus on “what”, Business Outcomes focus on “so what?“.

    Requirements form an essential core of enterprise software planning, selection, implementation and optimization initiatives.

    Requirements take many forms, including detailed specifications, specific or general questions, and even operational scenarios, that seek to convey the functional abilities and technical attributes the buying organization is looking for, and to ascertain what the available solutions can or cannot do in response.


      • System must do XYZ function.

      • Ability to do EFG.

      • How does the system automate this task?

      • How would the system support this process?

    Business Outcomes play a distinctly different and catalyzing role.

    Requirements help buying organizations understand how a new system might help them do their work. Business Outcomes enables them to define how they will leverage a new system to move the organization forward.

    Read each example below, leading with the phrase “We intend to…”:

      • Increase retention of employees with 3-7 years by 10% by the end of next year.

      • Reduce the number of staff hours needed to support the hiring process by 35% within 18 months.

      • Increase our NPS for new-hire onboarding of persons with disabilities to 95% within 12 months.

    Stating intentions this way creates within the buying organization excitement and a personal connection to the future state that requirements never have.

    It also clearly conveys to the solution providers like you the specific business results the buying organization needs to achieve once the new system is operational. In other words, it defines the expected business value of the investment.

    This gives your and your team the opportunity to show how your solution has helped other organizations like theirs to achieve similar business results, or how you and your team would approach achieving such results.

    With so many of your team members being deeply knowledgeable former colleagues and peers of the buying organizations, focusing on Business Outcomes elevates the conversation and unlocks excitement and know-how in a way that demonstrating capabilities in response to requirements never will.

    Creating Business Outcomes

    The creation of business outcomes requires four things:

      • Useful Context

      • Knowledgeable People

      • Productive Collaboration

      • Trusted Decision-Making

    Let’s continue to use enterprise software system planning, selection, and implementation as our working example.


    Useful Context

    Business Outcomes must be connected to a context to have meaning.

    If your organization has a clear vision and a well-developed strategic plan, then context starts there.

    The question becomes “What are the business outcomes this enterprise software system initiative must deliver to fulfill the vision, support the strategy, and achieve the goals of our plan?”

    In the absence of an available overarching plan or vision, context can be created for an enterprise software system initiative by determining which major aspects of the enterprise could be positively impacted by a thoughtful deployment of the new system.

    Revenue, efficiency, new opportunity, productivity, satisfaction, risk reduction and more are all good places to start. (We did this very same thing and refer to it as a “business outcomes framework“.)

    Knowledgeable People

    Determining relevant, impactful and achievable business outcomes requires people who know and understand the target markets, mission and vision, and operations of the organization – and who are excited about its future.

    People who can see and think both deep and wide are ideal members for your Business Outcomes team.


    Productive Collaboration

    Your Business Outcomes team will need to collaborate effectively to ensure the full value of each individual’s perspective, know-how, ideas, questions, and willingness and capacity to contribute.

    Group and individual focus, discipline, respect, timeliness, communication skills, energy, a sense of urgency and more are important elements of productive collaboration.


    Trusted Decision-Making

    Your Business Outcomes team will ultimately need to make decisions. Outcomes scope, criteria, priorities, and final recommendations are just a few of the primary decision areas.

    How decisions are made becomes critical very quickly, so establishing an appropriate decision making model and process is key.

    People inside and outside of the team need to be able to trust the recommendations and the work that led to them – and understand how the Business Outcomes relate to them and your organization.

    The process above can be used by your team to guide your customers to retrospectively and categorically determine the Business Outcomes they have already achieved with the support of your solutions and determine the next set of Business Outcomes they must now work on achieving, confident that your solution will continue to deliver.

    Why a Business Outcomes Framework?

    Enterprises and initiatives are complex and dynamic things – and the human mind needs a framework to make sure we cover all the important results we need to achieve our vision, goals and strategy.

    Like the business model canvas is a guide for a team to make sure they have thought through the different pieces they will need for their strategy …. the Business Outcomes Framework helps your team think through the different results your solutions must support to achieve their vision, goals and strategy and those of your client base and target markets.


    The Business Outcomes Framework

    We created our Business Outcomes Framework™ to provide a practical set of tools to help teams map their organizational strategies, initiatives and solutions to the business outcomes they need to achieve success.

    It’s easy to image dozens and maybe hundreds of individual business outcomes that a new enterprise software system, for example, could (and should) support. With so many and varied business outcomes to consider, the Business Outcomes Framework™ serves as a starting point for imagining, crafting, organizing and prioritizing business outcomes for any initiative investment.

    Then, as the initiatives move along, the Framework provides a reference for measuring results and determining optimization efforts throughout solution and customer lifecycles.


    The Back Story

    When we began Outcomes Work, one of the key ideas was to connect each client’s creation of Business Outcomes to their strategic plan. In the very first handful of projects, and in examining scores of strategic plans across various markets, we quickly determined that strategic plans varied so greatly in availability and usability that a new and much more uniform approach was necessary.

    At the core of this new approach emerged the idea of a standardized, reusable framework that – independent of but relatable to any strategic plan – would provide immediate value and traction for the buying organizations and solution partners that we were committed to serve.


    Elements of a Business Outcomes Framework

    The Outcomes Work Business Outcomes Framework™ has five primary elements. The first three provide structural hierarchy for outcomes while the last two pertain to the outcomes themselves:

      • Business Value Categories represent the key areas that your organization manages to grow and be successful. In our Framework, we have six Value Categories, including Satisfied Customers, Optimal Capacity, Revenue Growth.

      • Business Drivers are the internal levers that directly impact or influence your organization’s strategy, operations, and ultimately performance. Each Value Category would contain one or more Business Drivers that are key to success within the category. In our Optimal Capacity Value Category, we’ve included Optimal Structure and Talent Attracted and Retained.

      • Investment Areas refer to a specific focus points or domains within which your organization chooses to allocate its resources, such as capital, time, and talent, to achieve its vision, strategy and goals. They represent specific operational initiatives, programs or projects that align with your broader Business Drivers and are designed to deliver your desired Business Outcomes. For our Talent Attracted and Retained Business Driver, the Investment Areas include Employee Well-Being Success and Valued Employee Experience.

      • Business Outcomes are the measurable business results from your investments of time, money and other resources.

      • Value Vectors form the basis for the metrics of business value scope and impact of each Business Outcome. In our Framework we have included Value Vectors such as Revenue, Expense, Culture, and Agility.

    What is Business Outcomes Mapping?

    Business Outcomes Maps tie your people, investments and initiatives to your vision, strategy and goals for supporting those of your client base and target markets — so that everyone understands the “why”.


    Portfolio Business Outcomes Mapping
    The Portfolio Business Outcomes Map identifies the overarching business value delivered by the Solution Provider across its families of solutions. This provides a powerful way for Solution Providers to respond to new market opportunities, competitive threats or to expand focus to new Business Drivers and Investment Areas in demand by customers.


    Solution (Family) Business Outcomes Mapping
    You and your team maps each Solution Family to the Business Drivers and Investment areas they impact in the market. Business Outcomes are captured leveraging this framework and then selected to highlight to Buying Organizations interested in achieving similar Business Outcomes.


    Opportunity Business Outcomes Mapping
    An Opportunity Business Outcomes Map enriches a Solution Provider’s response to an RFP by clearly articulating the Business Drivers and Investment Areas where their solutions deliver impact and the proven Business Outcomes their solutions achieve, providing valued clarity, differentiation and confidence for the buying organization.


    Implementation Business Outcomes Mapping
    Aligning the extended team of a buying organization, solution providers, and consultants on Business Drivers, Investment Areas and Business Outcomes is essential to a unified vision of success.

    An Implementation Business Outcomes Map fosters a common understanding that sharpens decision-making, focusing implementation choices on achieving the desired Business Outcomes.


    Optimization Business Outcomes Mapping
    A regular review of existing solution installations and their business outcomes is valuable for everyone involved.

    For you and your team, the Optimization Business Outcomes Map offers valuable insights into how well your solutions and services are meeting the needs of customers and providing for continuous improvement and adaptation to changing market demands. Developing an optimization map strengthens customer relationships by demonstrating a commitment to their ongoing success and can uncover opportunities for additional features or services to meet new needs.

    Help your Customers Achieve their True North

    Now, as a Business Outcomes centered Solution Provider, everyone is more confident and excited about how to help customers reach their True North.

    These are some of the ways you show you are now operating to achieve a new level of confidence:

      • Your solutions align to and anticipate the current and future Business Outcomes of the Buying Organizations in their target market(s).

      • Solutions are differentiated in the marketplace because they highlight your track record for supporting their client’s measurable Business Outcomes.

      • Conversations, proposals and product demonstrations are aligned with each prospect’s required Business Outcomes.

      • Continuously encourage and assist your customers in optimizing installed solutions to support their current context and evolving Business Outcomes.

    Helping your customers achieve their True North with confidence and excitement!


    Need a little friendly guidance?

    Resources for your Business Outcomes Journey