Outcome vs Output: Difference and Comparison

Every project you do, or every action you take ultimately ends up with two results- outputs and outcomes. Most people interchange these two germs.

Suppose you are going to arrange a charity. You think about giving away warm clothes to street children during the winter.

You organized the event and gave away 200 blankets and 150 sweaters to poor children. These numbers are the exact outputs of the event.

However, the outcome is that these children are smiling now, are warm, and feel better. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Output refers to tangible or intangible products, services, or results from a program or project produced. In contrast, outcome refers to the changes or benefits that result from the program or project.
  2. Output can be measured quantitatively, while the outcome is measured qualitatively.
  3. While both output and outcome are important in the program or project management, the outcome is ultimately more important as it measures the impact of the program or project on its intended beneficiaries.

Outcome vs Output

Outputs are the products or services that result from a process or project; they are tangible and measurable. Outcomes are the changes or benefits that result from using those products or services; they are the effects or impacts of using those outputs.

Outcome vs Output

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOutputOutcome
Time-periodWe get immediate results after taking an action which is known as output.The outcome is a prolonged process that does not occur right after you finish the project or take action.
MeasurementYou can measure output in numbers.You cannot measure outcomes in numbers. 
ControlOutputs are controlled by the program or the action you take.Outcomes are just influenced by the deed you do.
RelationFrom outputs, we have our outcomes. Outcomes are the result of outputs. This means we cannot have outcomes if there are no outputs. 
SimplicityOutputs are rather simple to achieve.However, outcomes are not so simple to get and are rather complex. 

What is the Outcome? 

Simply put, the outcome means the consequence of any action. If you take any action or complete any project, how it ends, or its impact on people and society is known as the outcome. 

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Every business has a certain outcome as its target for which it undergoes certain projects. But the process of achieving this outcome is not simple.

You cannot get an outcome in one night. It is a long process.

You cannot even validate or measure any outcome as they are intangible. They are the ultimate end-products you wish to achieve in your work. 

You cannot control an outcome. Though it is the result of output and depends on it, how the outcome turns out is not in your hands. 

For example, a kid wants to celebrate his birthday by cutting a huge chocolate cake. You go to the cake shop and order his much-desired cake.

When he cuts it, he is extremely happy and smiling. This is the outcome of your desire in this entire project. 


What is Output?

In simple terms, the things you get or achieve to have a proper outcome for your project are the outputs of any particular action. Outputs are simpler than outcomes.

You can even control the outputs of your projects and measure them in numbers as they are tangible. It results in outcomes, and getting an output means your project work is done. 

The programs have control over output. It is a result that we can get immediately and don’t have to wait for. 

Suppose we take the same example as your kid having a birthday party. The output is the cake that you ordered and got delivered.

It does not depend on your efforts and is not the ultimate desired product. You get it immediately, and it is also countable. 


Main Differences Between Outcome and Output

  1. The primary difference between an output and an outcome is that outputs are simple. They do not take much time to happen and can be measured in numbers or other units. It is easier to get outputs and does not relay the effectiveness of an action or project. On the other hand, outcomes are way more complex and take time to occur. You cannot get the outcomes immediately. They cannot be measured in units and are to be felt. 
  2. Outputs result in outcomes. But, they do not depend on outcomes. On the other hand, outcomes are heavily dependent on outputs. If your outputs aren’t present or not good enough- your outcomes might not be so good either. 
  3. We use effectiveness, efficiency, and efficacy to measure how the outcome went. We cannot measure the effectiveness of an action or a deed by its outputs. 
  4. Even the education system is based on outcomes and outputs. Suppose you are a teacher who teaches 200 little children in school. That is your output. But, on the other hand, these children grew up to be good human beings and help others. This is the outcome of the entire process. 
  5. You will arrange your parents’ anniversary; you must order a cake and food for the event. When you order the things, and they deliver the cake and food items to you, those items are the outputs of your particular action. Whereas, At the same anniversary event, after ordering all the food items, calling people, and arranging the party nicely- you see the happiness and smiles on your parent’s faces. That is the outcome of this effort or project. 
  6. You do not do any projects or take any action for the output. On the other hand, outcomes are the main reason people take any step or action. 
  7. Outputs are in complete control of the one taking a step or action. However, the outcomes are not in anyone’s hands. No one can control the outcome of any project or action. 
Difference Between Outcome and Output
  1. https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-1795.2011.00516.x
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1475-4991.2012.00504.x
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Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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26 thoughts on “Outcome vs Output: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I still think that outputs are more important as they are tangible and measurable, outcomes are too intangible and cannot be easily controlled.

    • I disagree since outcomes capture the real impact of projects or actions on the stakeholders while outputs are just the first step.

  2. The real-life examples used in the article provide a practical understanding of the difference between outputs and outcomes.

  3. The comparison table presented in the article simplifies the understanding of the differences between outputs and outcomes which is very helpful.

  4. It’s evident that outcomes are more crucial for the evaluation of the success of any project or action than the outputs. The article explains this point quite effectively.

  5. Great analysis of the way outputs and outcomes can be measured and compared with each other, very informative and well structured.

  6. This article successfully clarifies the misconception between outputs and outcomes and provides a clear understanding of both terms which is very helpful.


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