It can be tangible or intangible, for example, a contractor who is hired to provide a training course provides the course itself back to their client as the project’s deliverable.
To external parties, a project is often defined by its deliverables. For example, in a house building project the house itself is the deliverable. The focus of the external parties is not the internal metrics like how much profit the project made, how many other clients it produced, and so forth. They are also the measuring stick by which the success of the project, and by extension the competence of the project manager, are measured.
Deliverables vs. Objectives
Project objectives are the goals that the project is trying to accomplish rather than the products that the project is trying to produce. There is a distinct difference. The objectives focus on things external to the project and the deliverables focus on things internal to the project.
A project can seek to accomplish many things, such as:
- Position the company for more work
- Achieve a certain return on investment
- Appease a regulatory agency
These are not deliverables because they don’t get delivered to the project sponsor. Although one could argue that the production of the project deliverables is one objective of the project, it is best to keep the two separate. Most projects have other objectives they are trying to accomplish apart from producing the deliverables.
Deliverables vs. Milestones
The main difference between deliverables and milestones is that milestones don’t require a product to be delivered to the customer, client, or project sponsor.
A milestone can be any threshold during which a project transitions to another phase. For example, the completion of the foundation of the house is a milestone, but does not require any submission to the client, customer, or project sponsor, hence it is not a deliverable.
Big vs. Small
Deliverables can be any size. For example, a Contractor might have a project to build a large petrochemical facility worth several billion dollars. The main deliverable is the completed petrochemical plant, although there might be many other deliverables along the way (they have to be provided to the owner to be a deliverable). But to the small engineering company who performs a hydrological study, the deliverable is the completed report.
Internal vs. External
We have described project deliverables to be items developed by the project for its customer, client, or project sponsor. It is irrelevant which organization these people work for, and indeed any one of these people can be internal or external. For example, a project to update the human resources protocols could be carried out in-house. The project sponsor, who is “above” the project, works for the same organization as the project manager. The deliverables are the new human resources protocols, and they are delivered to an internal party.
According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), the project deliverables are identified in the project management plan (PMBOK 184.108.40.206). At the conclusion to the project planning phase the project management plan is approved by the project sponsor who has then agreed to the type, size, and format of the deliverables. All parties need to be clear with what is going to be produced.
During the project the Validate Scope process (PMBOK 5.5) requires that the deliverables be validated. This means that the project sponsor reviews and formally accepts the project deliverables, thus concluding the project work that produced them.
Therefore, the project manager should document and track each deliverable to ensure the product is formally delivered and accepted. This can be done in the form of a table within the project management plan, for example:
|Deliverable: Design Drawings|
Issued for Internal Review
|Feb. 2||Jon Hartney||Email: Feb. 6|
Issued for Client Review
|Feb. 7||Bob Jones||no comments|
Issued for Construction
As you can see, this type of tracking makes it clear what version is the working version and what it’s status is.
Obviously, the quality of deliverables is an important item that comes into play in almost every project. During the planning phase, as part of the Plan Quality Management process (PMBOK 8.1) the project manager determines the quality criteria that the deliverables will meet and defines this in the project management plan. Almost every industry has standards which can be pulled from agencies such as:
- ISO 9001 standards
- American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
- American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
- American Society for Quality (ASQ)
Other quality-related criteria such as a technical review, project management review, or some other quality criteria can be specified as well.
The relationships between project management knowledge areas is more important than the absolute success in any one knowledge area. For example, if the finished product is something different than what was expected, clients, customers or stakeholders can be left disappointed even if it was the best product of that kind ever produced.
For this reason, I will also talk about the knowledge area of Project Communication. In this knowledge area, the project manager performs the following tasks:
- During project planning, a project management plan is produced which identifies the deliverables and gives a brief overview of their features and/or functionality. This should be shared with all stakeholders. Also, project communication needs are identified such as monthly progress reporting, investor circulars, and the like.
- During project execution, the regular communications identified during planning are circulated, ensuring the stakeholders have a chance to catch any deviations from their expectations before they become too difficult to change.
Here are a few examples of project deliverables.
Example #1: Writing a Class Paper
Writing a class paper is a project because it is a temporary endeavor that produces a unique product.
- There is only one project deliverable – the completed paper.
- The project objective is to score the highest possible grade on the paper.
- There is only one project milestone – the completion of the paper, although other milestones might be an interim meeting with classmates, completion of a research task, etc.
Example #2: Building a House
A house building project has the following characteristics:
- There are several project deliverables. Although the completed house itself is the main deliverable, submission of plans for approval might be another deliverable (assuming the project sponsor wants to approve them).
- The project objectives might be to make a profit on the project, obtain future projects in that geographical area, or gain experience building a certain type of house.
- The project milestones can be anything deemed valuable for tracking purposes, like the completion of the foundation, framing, exterior, plumbing, or landscaping.