Project outputs and customers’ outcomes


Series on increasing project management contributions to helping achieve broader ends
Article 1 of 4

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia


In the project management world, all too often the project is viewed as an end in itself. The focus is usually on delivering planned project outputs. However, this viewpoint loses sight of the bigger picture. It is virtually always the case that projects are really only part of a means to help achieve broader ends. If we focus more on the latter, opportunities can emerge to increase the contributions project managers can make towards the achievement of such ends. I believe it is important for the project management industry to understand and embrace this broader context, because it provides a platform for project managers to add more value to customers.

This series looks at how project management can add value through three mechanisms.

  • Helping convert project outputs to actual realisation of customers’ planned business (or equivalent) outcomes;
  • Helping customers determine their business needs, plan for appropriate outcomes, and establish requirements of projects to help realise these outcomes;
  • Helping organizations determine their strategic objectives, plan for achieving them, and develop an appropriate portfolio of projects to help such achievement.

This article addresses the first bullet point.


In this article we look in more detail at some of the increasing number of contributions by writers in relation to project outputs, and particularly on how these outputs contribute to the realisation of business (or equivalent) outcomes for clients and key stakeholders – whom I will jointly describe as “customers” in this article. We then look at how much involvement project management could or should have in helping customers actually realise these outcomes.


Zwikael & Smyrk 2009

The nature of, and difference between, project outputs and (what I have termed) customer outcomes are well described by Zwikael & Smyrk 2009, as follows.

…although all projects are approved in order to achieve outcomes (benefits) defined by the project funder, project management is often perceived by organisations as a process aimed at generating a unique output. While output delivery can still be accepted as an important milestone towards outcome achievement, a project should be considered complete only after the reason for its approval has been fulfilled.

Zwikael & Smyrk go on to present models which show the context of each. We start with their input-process-output (IPO) model.


To read entire article (click here)

Editor’s note: This series of articles on general management principles applied to project management is by Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), a pioneer in the field of professional project management and one of the most widely recognized voices in the practice of program and project management.   Long retired, Alan is still accepting some of the most challenging research and writing assignments; he is a frequent contributor to the PM World Journal. See his author profile below.



About the Author

pmwj36-Jul2015-Stretton-PHOTOAlan Stretton, PhD

Faculty Corps, University of Management and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)
Sydney, Australia


Alan Stretton
is one of the pioneers of modern project management. He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA. In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects. He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France). Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992. He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996. He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management. He has published over 160 professional articles and papers. Alan can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.