As a project manager or team leader, you recognize that the key to a successful project isn't just hard work or long hours. It's about clearly defining and communicating project deliverables. This involves ensuring that:
- Every team member knows precisely what's expected of them and what they must deliver
- Stakeholders understand how each project deliverable contributes to the overall project objectives
In this guide, we'll delve into the significance of outlining project deliverables with stakeholder involvement—from establishing clear goals to breaking down complex projects into smaller, manageable tasks—and how they relate to milestones and objectives.
So, whether you're an experienced project manager or a newcomer, keep reading to master the art of defining and conveying project deliverables like an expert.
Objectives vs. milestones vs. deliverables: How do they differ?
Project objectives, milestones, and deliverables are three distinct yet closely related concepts in project management. Let's explore their differences and when to utilize each:
What are project deliverables?
Project deliverables are the tangible outputs or results that the project team must produce to achieve the project objectives.
They are specific, measurable, and time-bound, clearly indicating the project's progress, as defined in the project planning phase. Use project deliverables to communicate particular outcomes or outputs of a project to stakeholders.
Here are some examples of project deliverables:
- Conducting a workshop
- A project plan
- A training plan
What are project objectives?
Project objectives are typically established at the beginning of a project and steer the team's decisions throughout the project lifecycle.
They help define the project scope, formulate a project plan, and assess its success. Use project objectives when you need to convey a project's overall purpose and strategic alignment to stakeholders.
Examples of project objectives include:
- Raising donations by $75,000 by the year 2025
- Boosting customer satisfaction by 40%
- Launching a new product or website
- Enhancing brand awareness by 60%
What are project milestones?
Project milestones are significant points or events that indicate the completion of a substantial stage or phase of work. They can be part of a deliverable divided into multiple segments.
For example, imagine reviewing logo directions for a company with the board of directors. If your deliverable is to create logo concept directions, the process could be broken down as follows:
- Four brand direction concepts are developed and presented to the project stakeholders.
- The stakeholders agree on two concept directions for further refinement.
- The two concepts are polished and presented to the stakeholders.
- The stakeholders select one concept direction to submit to the board for final feedback and approval.
A project milestone can contribute to completing a deliverable, but this isn't always the case or directly related in every instance.
All three elements—objectives, deliverables, and milestones—are crucial for a project's success and should be defined considering one another.
Extracting the right deliverables from overall project goals
In many cases, project deliverables are defined during the sales process and incorporated directly into the proposal or contract agreed upon by the client. They represent the tangible and measurable results that stakeholders will receive at the end of a project, aligning with their overall goals.
➡️ Use one of our project charter templates to help manage your project goals.
In other situations, you may have a budget. As the project manager, you must collaborate with your team and sometimes the client to identify the project deliverables necessary to meet the client's goals and objectives.
Follow these steps to define your project management deliverables:
- Identify project objectives: Begin by understanding the project's aims. This will help you pinpoint the key results the project must produce. Collaborate with your key stakeholders on this step.
- Break down the project: Split the project into smaller, more manageable pieces, such as tasks or milestones. This will help you determine the specific outputs needed to achieve each objective. Your team can assist in identifying how the project can be broken down, what can be delivered, and within what timeframe to ensure accuracy.
- Define the deliverables: Identify the specific outputs or outcomes required for the completion of each project segment. Be as precise and measurable as possible to avoid ambiguity.
- Prioritize deliverables: After identifying all the deliverables, prioritize them based on their importance to project success. Involving your stakeholders in this step will foster trust through visibility and collaboration on the project.
Why stakeholders should be involved in project deliverables
Involving stakeholders in defining project deliverables can lead to enhanced outcomes, increased transparency, and improved stakeholder buy-in and support. Effective stakeholder management from the start is crucial in ensuring the success of any project.
- Improved buy-in and alignment: Stakeholders are more likely to feel invested in the project's success as they can directly align deliverables with their expectations and requirements. This leads to more significant support and buy-in from stakeholders, making securing resources and backing throughout the project easier.
- Transparency: Involving stakeholders increases transparency and fosters trust. It allows them to see what is being delivered and how their needs are addressed.
- Reducing risk: Involving stakeholders helps identify potential risks and issues early in the project. This can mitigate risks and prevent problems derailing the project, such as unrealistic expectations or budget constraints. Knowing this early can save difficult conversations later in the project.
- Prioritizing and improving outcomes: Engaging stakeholders helps identify and prioritize the most critical outcomes for the project. Knowing the prioritization order that is important to the client upfront saves time and budget.
How to manage and achieve project deliverables
Successfully managing and achieving project deliverables demands careful planning, effective communication, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Here are some tips to help you manage and achieve project deliverables:
- Define the deliverables: As emphasized throughout this article, defining deliverables is crucial in ensuring a project's success. Each internal deliverable and external deliverable should be clear from the get-go.
- Create a timeline: Outline when each project task needs to be completed, considering dependencies and potential roadblocks. This helps you stay on track and ensure the project remains on schedule.
- Allocate resources: Ensure each team member has the necessary skills and resources to complete their assigned tasks.
- Monitor progress: Regularly track progress and update the project timeline and budget as needed. This enables you to identify any issues or delays early on and take corrective action.
- Communicate effectively: Maintain open communication with all stakeholders, including team members, clients, and vendors. Ensure everyone knows the project status, changes, and potential issues. As a project manager, keeping everyone informed is crucial.
- Adapt to changes: Be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances, which may include adjusting the timeline, budget, or project scope. Plan for the worst and hope for the best in the project management world.
- Celebrate success: Acknowledge even the most minor achievements to maintain high morale and motivate the team. You are their cheerleader throughout the project.
Make sure you use technology to the fullest
Technology plays an essential role in ensuring project deliverables are met. By harnessing technology tools and solutions, project teams can enhance their efficiency, minimize errors, and achieve better stakeholder outcomes.
Here's how technology can assist:
- Collaboration: Technology allows project teams to collaborate and communicate more effectively, enabling them to work together efficiently on project deliverables. Platforms like Float help keep communication on specific tasks organized and connected to deliverables.
- Planning: Project management tools support project teams in planning and organizing project deliverables, guaranteeing that deadlines are met and resources are appropriately allocated. Float provides a clear view of team members' availability and task workloads, helping you allocate resources effectively.
- Automation: Automation tools streamline project tasks, such as data entry or report generation, reducing errors and allowing project team members to focus on other aspects of the project. Float's phases feature helps break your project into smaller tasks and subtasks, which can be assigned to team members with deadlines, ensuring clear deliverables and timely completion.
- Tracking: Technology enables project teams to track and monitor progress towards project deliverables, offering real-time data and insights to inform decision-making. Float's time tracking feature allows you to monitor how your team spends its time, generating reports that show the time allocated to each task and helping you identify bottlenecks or areas for improvement.
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Achieving project deliverables is a complex process
In project management, it's essential to recognize the roles of objectives, milestones, and deliverables to attain success. To tackle the challenge of defining the right deliverables, involving stakeholders is crucial, ensuring their needs and expectations are met.
Achieving project deliverables also requires strong leadership, effective communication, and thorough planning. Teams should monitor project progress, promptly address issues, and adjust plans to ensure successful delivery.
By adopting a strategic approach and utilizing the appropriate tools and techniques, teams can deliver projects that meet and exceed expectations, ultimately leading to greater project success.