Input, Output and Outcome

How many ways can we classify indicators?

Some common classifications follow:

1) economic, environmental, social
2) efficiency, effectiveness
3) input, output, outcome
4) leading, lagging
5) eco-efficiency or cross-cutting

Click to listen to a short audio for more information about indicator classifications.
Indicator Classifications

Indicators can be classified as input, output, or outcome.

An input indicator will measure what is going into a process, such as dollars invested into a community, but it does not determine what result occurred with those dollars.

An output indicator measures what is coming out of a process, such as number food bank meals provided.

An outcome measure attempts to look at the impact of the input or output, such as health effects from the meals or satisfaction from eating the meals. Outcomes are important but are sometimes difficult to measure.

Although it seems straight forward, input, output, and outcome classifications depend on a clear definition of where a process starts and where it ends. The output or outcome of one process might be the input of another process.

For example, as an indicator of research and development (R & D) performance, Syncrude indicated that it received 129 Canadian and US patents for technological developments.

Question: Is “number of patents received” an input, output, or outcome measure?

Answer: It depends upon what is being measured. If measuring just the performance of R & D, it would be classified as OUTPUT. However, the patents would be an INPUT to the production process, and if the patents are successful, it could be an OUTCOME measure.