Most projects go through several stages depending on how large or complex they are. In the initial stages, the expected outcomes are decided, and the planning is done with the objective of achieving those outcomes within the constraints of time, budget, and quality. In a complex project, there are several things that can go wrong. The planning may not have been sufficient. The expectations may have been different for each stakeholder; the budget may be inadequate. These problems in planning or in execution will usually surface only when someone realizes that the progress of the project is slow or the outcomes are different from expectations.
What could be done to ensure that such wasted efforts can be avoided? How can the issues be identified before they become a drain on all resources? This is where identifying and defining the deliverables for a project plays an important role.
What are Project Deliverables??
To start with knowing about project deliverables, let's first understand "what a project is?"
As Per the Project Management Institute (PMI) definition, "Project" signifies "a temporary endeavor with a definite beginning and end." In simple terms, a project is a pre-meditated set of tasks and activities that must be accomplished to arrive at a particular goal and either/all of the project results:
- Outputs: products created by performing the project
- For example, the introduction of a new sales system
- Outcomes: development/changes achieved using the project outputs
- For instance, efficient tracking of pre-sales milestones using the sales system
- Benefits: improvements/optimizations made resulting from project outcomes
- For example, an increase in QoQ sales of 15% with the new system
In layman's terms, a deliverable would mean anything resulting from a deliberate effort or work. According to the above citation, outputs, i.e., products created by performing project activities, are nothing but project deliverables. Therefore, in project management, project deliverables denote a specific output created as the result of work performed during a project. However, for an output to be categorized as "deliverable" from the project, it has to meet certain conventionalities:
- Should result from a deliberate project activity/work
- Should agree with all project stakeholders
- It should be with the baselined project scope
- Should have a pre-determined completion/creation date
- Should have a definite role in the accomplishment of a project goal/objective
Project deliverables in project management have specific attributes, they may be:
- Tangible or intangible
- Product or process or planning related
- Stacked i.e., resulting in predecessor or successor deliverables
- Internal or external i.e., created for internal or external stakeholders, respectively
We will now review each of these attributes and what are deliverables in project management in detail in the following paragraphs. Start your career as a project manager and get a holistic understanding of all project management activities with our exquisite hands-on PMP training from us today!
Internal vs External Project Deliverables
A project deliverable i.e. the result of any objective-focused work completed within the project processes, may be internal or external:
1. Internal deliverables: these are items created internally within the organization. It is not visible or shown to people outside the entity. These may be created to support business functions, optimize processes, and improve ways of working. Examples of internal deliverables may be:
- Project Initial/Intake Assessment Document
- Project Budget statement with margin information
- New governance/process model
- Effort tracking template
2. External deliverables: these are items of work created for a client, stakeholder, or customer with the objective of revenue generation. These are created for the purpose of making money by providing the required products or services. Examples of internal deliverables may be:
- Legacy to Cloud Implementation for a customer
- New process consulting/Existing process optimization done in the customer landscape
In both cases, the attributes of the deliverables are common, i.e., they are created out of a deliberate effort against a pre-determined timeline, and should contribute to value delivery i.e., the realization of the output to the customer bringing them some value in the form of benefits or cost reductions.
Who Oversees Project Delivery?
All team members designated to participate in the project are usually involved in delivering project deliverables, but it is the project manager who has the whole and sole responsibility for overseeing project delivery. It is the project manager, sponsor, and team who collectively define the project deliverable meaning in project management. However, the end responsibility for taking the required stakeholder sign-off to create project baselines and set the ball rolling for the team to perform activities and tasks and engage resources effectively in creating these deliverables lies with the project manager.
While in the execution process, the project manager acts as a liaison between the team members and stakeholders to align expectations, progress, and results of activities to iteratively add value to the output, i.e., project deliverables. In short, the project manager assumes primary responsibility for overlooking delivery while the whole team, the sponsor and stake, and stakeholders contribute to this process.
Categories of Project Deliverables
To summarize, project deliverables may primarily be tangible or intangible and may along with carrying either of the following attributes; they may be:
- Internal or external
- Product related or Process related (i.e., revenue-generating or function-enabling) or planning related (i.e., project documentation/artifacts)
- Big or small in effort, complexity
- Stacked, i.e., have its related dependencies or independent and standalone.
- Varying from project to project depending on the business scenario
- Domain-specific (for example, marketing deliverables, business analyst deliverables, legal deliverables, and more.)
How to Define Key Project Deliverables?
Defining key deliverables in project management is often daunting for any team. While it may look relatively simpler on the outer aspect of determining what outputs a project can have, several stacked deliverables may require definition En route to achieving the final output. Some activities that may aid in the description of project deliverables include:
- Identifying project stakeholders
- Assimilating stakeholder requirements
- Determining validation metrics
- Baselining the goals/plan to achieve the outputs.
1. Identifying project stakeholders
This is the first and foremost step that will help understand critical facets of the project, such as:
- Why is the project being carried out?
- What are the project objectives?
- What do the stakeholders intend to achieve?
- What steps need to be carried out to accomplish the goals?
- What investment does the project involve?
- What is the importance of the deliverables in the overall project?
- How is the project going to affect the current landscape?
Identifying the project stakeholders & understanding the business context of the project will not only help build a solid project foundation but will also help outline the outputs, i.e., the project deliverables that the project aims to achieve.
2. Assimilating stakeholder requirements
Once the stakeholders have been identified, understanding their key points, gathering details, and mapping their expectations to delivery timelines help determine which outputs may be required for delivery at what intervals. Most importantly, it also helps to understand how the deliverables will be accepted by the respective stakeholder(s). Unclear/not gathered stakeholder requirements will result in scope-creep changes, which may derail the project's progress. Therefore, while addressing stakeholder requirements, the value addition to end users is essential to keep in mind, which will ultimately define the project's success.
3. Determining validation metrics
This critical stage will determine the feasibility of creating the deliverable and, among other things, also helps review/revisit the priorities to adjust their delivery timelines. The validations also help break up deliverables into smaller chunks, thus making the overall project delivery more structured for governance.
4. Baselining the goals/plan to achieve the outputs
This is the final stage to determine project deliverables – after they have been defined, analyzed, and prioritized according to user needs. In this stage, the team involved so far looks to work with the respective stakeholders in signing off on the deliverables and setting them as goals for the team to meet, along with approving the acceptance criteria, i.e., the thresholds for accepting deliverables.
Why Are Deliverables Important for Project Management?
Deliverables are outputs of the project from which the outcomes and benefits are derived. Without deliverables, there would be no clear way to understand the feasibility of working on the project or evaluating the returns from the project intake into the organization. In addition, deliverables provide a yardstick to measure an organization's profitability by weighing costs incurred versus revenues earned. Not only this, but they also work towards transparency to the customer in terms of time-to-time value delivery in the form of committed deliverables.
Well-defined deliverables keep an active check on stakeholder satisfaction, thereby causing minimal changes to baselines, avoiding overruns or expensive change requests later in the project lifecycle. In short, deliverables are the key measure that shows how your project has been planned, managed, and executed while also acting as additives to organization revenue when created as external deliverables. You can refer to the PRINCE2 Certification to gain all the necessary information regarding PRINCE2 and project deliverables.
Project Manager’s Role in Building Project Deliverables
A Project Manager (PM) plays a significant role in defining project deliverables. However, this may not mean that it is only the PM who defines deliverables. Instead, they help the team identify, analyze, review, discuss and determine what may be called a deliverable and, out of all deliverables, what may be the key deliverables for a project. This activity is also carried out by the PM while scheduling the project in the form of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) which, as the name suggests, breaks up the larger project into smaller chunks of work activity, clearly demarcating the project deliverables.
PMs may also utilize deliverables as governance mechanisms as they clearly outline what needs to be done/created and by whom to bring all the project participants on the same page while working on expectation-setting about the project activities.
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How to Add Changes to Our Project Deliverables?
Now that we have seen what project deliverables are and understood the project deliverables meaning in project management let us see what happens to deliverables once the plan is established to create them. As soon as the deliverables are identified, they are baselined post approval from stakeholders, following which the respective activities and tasks are chalked out to perform the process of creating them. Any changes happening thereafter, as a best practice, have to be versioned to track and manage changes effectively. Similarly, any changes that are being requested for project deliverables too have to be thoroughly reviewed, moved through the versioning strategy, assessed for impacts, and then the change should be applied after taking approvals from the sponsor and stakeholders. Any deliverable escaping through this process's loopholes would be classified as scope creep and result in impacting project baselines, which may be a negative metric on the project.
How to Manage Project Deliverables?
Managing project deliverables is no mean feat and requires a scrupulous effort from the project manager and team members in creating, managing, and delivering value as part of the project deliverable framework. Some of the best practices that project managers can apply include:
- Having a clear definition of deliverables
- Utilize project management tools to streamline the process
- Ensure built-in quality in the process of creating deliverables
- Keep the delivery process coordinated and collaborative
- Keep a constant check on the progress and report any variances immediately
These, among other practices such as constant customer feedback, frequent reviews, collaborative workspaces for a team, etc., help seal loopholes and manage project deliverables better.
How to Present Deliverables to Stakeholders?
Once the stakeholders have been engaged for the project deliverables definition, they need to be constantly involved to ensure the progress of deliverable creation is on track, and the deliverables are aligned to the expectations, keeping in mind the constantly changing market conditions and business needs. Presenting deliverables to stakeholders and bringing them on a common page becomes much easier with project management software which helps align stakeholder expectations, develop a common communication platform, support change management effectively, and mitigate any risks or changes that may occur during the process of stakeholder and deliverable management.
Project Deliverables Examples
A typical project management deliverables list broken up phase-wise may include some/more of the following project management deliverables examples:
|Monitor & Control
|Project Management Plan
|Individual Management Plans – Scope, Cost, Schedule, Cost, Quality, Resource, Risk, Procurement, Stakeholders
|Tracking and Status Reports
|Requirements Traceability Matrix
|Project Scope Statement
While the above sample project deliverable may not be embracive, these are general project deliverables across various phases. The exact process maturity and governance model may define the respective deliverable and tailoring framework adopted.
Checklist to Manage Deliverables in a Project
A project deliverables checklist provides a clear overview for completing a project and helps track project information, tasks, and results. The deliverable checklist is vital for giving an understanding of what’s achieved vs. what’s left of the project and transitioning to any other PM when situations demand. Here is a quick summarized checklist of project phases and deliverables:
Download the Free Project Deliverable Template PDF/Excel
Here are some convenient project deliverable templates in different formats that may help the project deliverable planning, tracking, and progress evaluation.
Deliverable Vs. Milestone: What’s the difference?
Software project deliverables are recurrently flummoxed with project milestones – while deliverables are outputs of the project activities, milestones are goal points at different time intervals in the project lifecycle. Deliverables represent what work the team is to accomplish, while milestones chalk out the important events on the project timeline to portray these accomplishments.
Milestones can be thought about as checkpoints in the project journey, which may be included at key points to signify the completion of the designated activity/task. Milestones don’t have any associated deadlines or impact on project objectives – they are utilized merely as a project tracking mechanism.
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Should You Use Project Management Software for Project Deliverables
Projects entail numerous tasks, and all organizations, irrespective of their size, deal with multiple projects, people, and processes daily. It takes a lot of hands and minds to build any successful application. Not utilizing project management software will add to the organization’s woes with so many teams, team members, and leadership involved. It is undeniable that a tool makes our life easier, and many to-dos in a day are quickly sorted when a tool comes into the picture, eliminating redundancies due to manual processes. Similarly, having tools that can nourish business structure at all phases/stages of the project will help get the project organized and save valuable money for the organization by reducing overheads/loopholes in the processes.
Project management software, in essence, provides guidance to the organization, its project managers, and its project management office (PMO) in tandem with some benefits, such as:
1. Reinforcing collaboration
PM tools foster smooth collaboration, easy file-sharing, and documentation, resulting in the centralization of all processes and interactions to bring all stakeholders to the same page and weed out differences that may occur later in the project lifecycle.
2. Powering project coordination and management
Managing resources to achieve the right balance and benefit from economies of scale while also looking for opportunities to reduce/cut down costs where applicable are some benefits that get magnified while using a tool. It is also important to note that the PM would be free from mundane or redundant project management activities and can give attention to optimizations where required.
3. Bolstering planning efforts
A typical project involves a detailed planning effort as planning involves analyzing all critical flows of the project and segregating/breaking them up for estimation, management, and tracking. PM tools augment the team's planning efforts by maintaining a structure based on business hierarchy and sequence of components.
4. Monitoring overall progress
Any PM tool, correctly configured according to the organization's processes & business flow, will help improve the productivity of the project manager. It will allow focus monitoring of the project more effectively by delegating responsibilities, assisting where and when needed, and focusing on the bigger picture outside the routine tasks.
5. Data/information sharing
PM tools help the teams radiate information to make project efforts, resulting outputs, and outcomes transparent. Every team/team member involved, from the core team to senior leadership, provides real-time data, dashboards, and information in various reporting forms.
However, apart from the above benefits, the case for using project management software is very subjective to a gamut of factors such as the organization process maturity, leadership/business buy-in, and specific business scenario, among other perspectives.
Just like any other decision-making process in the organization, choosing the viability of having PM software is subject to the vision, the roadmap, and the growth trajectory. This kind of decision-making involves taking a magnified look at costs vs. benefits by various methods, including brainstorming, surveys, or other forms of information gathering.
Why Manage Your Deliverables with Project Management Software?
Project management software (from now on referred to as PM tools) has a magnitude of benefits if implemented rightly according to the organization’s business and technology landscape. Starting with visibility, accountability, and centralization of processes, PM tools aim at creating cohesion and coherence across various departments and value streams of the organization. There are some key reasons why an organization may choose to manage deliverables using project management software:
- Provide a unified platform for tracking and managing work, time, tasks, and many more.
- Streamline planning and project scheduling activities
- Provide transparency to the team/stakeholders on the roadmap, milestones, and goals
- Managing task hierarchy, assignments, and tracking of unit-level tasks
- Aligning resources effectively to reduce bottlenecks and achieve optimization
- Enhancing productivity by making information readily available and cutting down mundane redundant activities
- Identifying and managing risks effectively to save time and costs and enhance quality
While this may not be an exhaustive list – project management software offers multiple intrinsic benefits such as centralizing documentation, accesses, and information sharing, bringing in collaborated ways of working and agility across the organization.
Rising Importance of Deliverables
From all the understanding we have obtained so far, it would not be flawed to say that deliverables are not only project results/outputs, but they are key means that elucidate how the project has been planned, executed, monitored and delivered.
Apart from being a barometric measure of project success, they also help to keep stakeholder expectations intact, ensure timely fulfillment of customer requirements, and foment a culture of transparency that ultimately bonds trust between the organization and the stakeholders.
Process Deliverables vs Product Deliverables
Analogous to the above categorization, deliverables may also be categorized as:
- Process deliverables: intangible creation/updates done to optimize operations or define surrogate working methods. In most cases, these are outputs that aid the functioning of a department/work stream and may not directly contribute to the satisfaction of a tangible project requirement. A prevalent project deliverable example for process deliverables can be technical debt requirements for a team that lay the path for the project thresholds to be met.
- Product deliverables: These are outputs that help meet afore–mentioned customer/product requirements, i.e., the product deliverables satisfy a tangible project requirement. An example of these is the development of a new app/flow, coming up with a blueprint, and deploying a website. Looking for a better understanding of project management and getting certified with a globally recognized certification – know from us today and earn a prince2 certification at the lowest cost. Hear from the experts soon.
To summarize, project deliverables may be the actual outputs of the project yielding outcomes and benefits or can be anything that gets created En route to achieve the project requirements. They can have varying attributes depending on the project, organization, and customer needs. Deliverables act as the glue, binding all stakeholders and laying the roadmap to project completion, apart from illustrating responsibilities and bringing all coordinating parties on a common page.
Project success can be directly attributed to the timely completion of the defined and agreed project deliverables. However, projects operate in complex environments, and there is always a high probability of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in all phases of the project. Consequently, it is exigent to structure the project efficiently to reduce distractions, enhance revenues, overcome impediments, reduce unwanted costs, and derive economies of scale from contributing to overall project success and a higher return on investment.
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