Great deliverables sit at the core of every successful project. Whether it’s the meetings you run, the plans you build, or the outputs you create, project deliverables help set stakeholder expectations, guide your team’s work, and monitor your progress.
But, despite the criticality of project deliverables, many project managers still only have a surface-level (or misguided) understanding of what deliverables really are and the value they bring.
Ignoring the importance of deliverables is like bringing along a map but forgetting your compass. You might have a high-level view of where you want to go, but you won’t know what directions will get you there.
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In this guide, we’ll define what deliverables are (and aren’t), show you how to properly use them to run successful projects, and provide real-world examples from different industries.
What are project deliverables? How are they used?
Project deliverables are the specific, tangible and intangible outputs produced during a project that help it move towards its objective.
If that definition feels overly vague, that’s because it’s meant to.
Project deliverables refer to any project-related output your project generates, including your team meetings and ceremonies, project artifacts, and the final products or services you deliver.
But while anything can be a deliverable, the best teams are purposeful and specific with what they want to deliver. Meaningful deliverables are planned in advance, scheduled throughout your project’s lifecycle, and measured and reported on as you progress.
Structure your project deliverables in this way, and they serve as good markers of your progress while providing clear checkpoints to pause, review, and learn.
Here’s a few examples of common deliverables at each stage of a project’s lifecycle:
|Project lifecycle stage||Tangible deliverables||Intangible deliverables|
|Initiation|| || |
|Planning|| || |
|Execution & Monitoring|| || |
|Test & Go-Live|| || |
|Closure|| || |
Where many project managers go wrong is in focusing too much on the major tangible deliverables and ignoring the intangible ones that often drive a project forward.
Internal vs. external project deliverables
To better understand the deliverables in your project, it helps to look at them through different lenses, starting with internal and external project deliverables.
Internal project deliverables
Internal project deliverables are used by the project team members to help them collaborate, plan, share ideas, and progress forward.
Examples of internal project deliverables can include:
- Team meetings
- Project plans
- Sprint backlogs
- Lessons learned documents
External project deliverables
External project deliverables are used by stakeholders outside the project team, often to report on progress, review updates and changes, make decisions, or grant approvals.
Examples of external project deliverables can include:
- Business case documents
- Project board/steering committee meetings
- Project status reports
- The final product/service
Process vs. product project deliverables
Another common way to categorize project deliverables is to compare process and product deliverables. Both are equally important and help you deliver a successful project. But again, it’s easier to focus on the more tangible aspects (product) and ignore the intangible (process).
Process project deliverables
Process project deliverables help the project progress forward toward the objective without directly delivering a project requirement.
Examples of process deliverables can include:
- Defining a project’s scope change process
- Completing a project team meeting
- Lessons learned sessions
- A resource management plan
Product project deliverables
Product project deliverables directly deliver the project requirements. They are often tangible and form part of the final product or service the project delivers.
Examples of product project deliverables can include:
- A feature on a new web application
- Foundations of a newly built house
- Customer documentation
- A final architectural design
Project deliverables vs. milestones vs. objectives
Now that we’ve covered the many things that deliverables can be, it’s time to look at what deliverables are not.
One of the worst mistakes new project managers make is assuming that project deliverables, milestones, and objectives are all the same. This is dangerous, as studies by the PMI show that 37% of projects fail due to poorly defined objectives and milestones.
Here’s a quick guide to help you understand the differences between these three project elements:
|Project Deliverables||Project Milestones||Project Objectives|
|Definition||The specific, tangible and intangible outputs produced during a project that help it move towards its objective.||A specific point in time or event that’s used to measure the project’s progress toward its objective.||Describe the project’s aim, set the goalposts for success, and when achieved, solve a problem or exploit an opportunity.|
|The key differentiator||Project deliverables are outputs that the project creates.||Project milestones are checkpoints that measure project progress.||Project objectives are positive outcomes that the project aims to deliver.|
|Software development example||The project team writes the code to complete an item in the sprint backlog.||The project team completes 50% of the items in the sprint backlog.||The project team completes the sprint and releases a new product feature that solves a problem for the user.|
How to use deliverables to run successful projects
Deliverables on their own are great to know, but don’t necessarily help you run a project. Instead, it’s important to understand how they’re used in the context of a real-world project.
Here’s how to use project deliverables properly at every stage of a project’s lifecycle:
1. Initiation: Scope your high-level deliverables in your business case
The specific deliverable: A business case document.
What you’ll do: The first big deliverable of any project is a business case.
A good business case outlines key project details, including the objective, the work required to deliver that objective, and the forecasted business benefits. Ultimately, the business case is used by senior management to approve the project starting.
While the business case is a deliverable in itself, it will also detail some of the critical future deliverables of the project.
How you’ll do it: To create a business case, you’ll need to work with several stakeholders to gather information, consider options, and gain approval for your project. You can read more about this process in our guide on how to write a business case.
A real-world example: Sally is a Project Manager working for Plantz, an education company that helps children learn more about wildlife.
Sally is leading a project to build a new app for children to learn about plants by photographing them. Sally starts by building a business case, working with stakeholders to understand the app’s objectives, the high-level deliverables, the costs, and the benefits. Once complete, Sally sends the business case to her sponsor, the IT Director, for approval.
Deliverables on their own are great to know, but won’t help you run a project.
2. Initiation: Run a kick-off meeting to get your project going
The specific deliverable: A project kick-off meeting.
What you’ll do: With your business case approved, your next key deliverable is to formally kick off your project by completing a project kick-off meeting.
The key benefit of a project kickoff meeting is to build consensus and excitement around the project, align expectations, and assign roles and responsibilities. Many project managers also create a project kick-off presentation to record the deliverable electronically.
How you’ll do it: There’s no right or wrong format for a project kick-off meeting, but as a rule, you’ll want to introduce all your stakeholders, the project’s scope, deliverables, timelines, and approach, and agree on how you all want to work together. Our project kick-off guide is a great resource if you need additional support!
A real-world example: Sally brings her team and stakeholders together to kick off the Plantz app project formally.
She starts with a round of introductions, discusses the key scope features of the app, and the timeline they’ll all work to. She assigns roles and responsibilities to key project members and lays out the next steps for the following two weeks. After the call, she sends the project kick-off presentation to stakeholders who couldn’t make the meeting.
3. Planning: Define your project deliverables in more detail with a requirements workshop
The specific deliverable: A requirements gathering workshop.
What you’ll do: As you move into the planning phase, your deliverables will be focused on defining the detail of your project. A key deliverable here is to host more detailed requirements workshops, where stakeholders get together to define the deliverables for the rest of the project.
How you’ll do it: Everyone has their own style when planning and running workshops, so don’t be afraid to do what works for you.
The goal is to ensure all attendees feel comfortable, have the chance to contribute, and aren’t scared to politely challenge or question the group’s thoughts. Like with the kick-off meeting, many requirements workshops finish by creating a project or product requirements document to record future deliverables.
A real-world example: Sally asks the Business Analyst in her team, Geoff, to host a requirements workshop to define the features of the app.
Geoff invites eight stakeholders from across the business to contribute, facilitating a session that lasts two hours. By the end, the group has defined 13 core features the app should have, which Geoff records in version one of the requirements document.
4. Planning: Plan your project’s deliverables in a more detailed project schedule
The specific deliverable: A project schedule document.
What you’ll do: Perhaps the most important deliverable you’ll create in the planning phase is your project schedule. This document will become your bible for the project going forward, helping you track what tasks, deliverables, and outputs need completing, who will do each one, and when they’ll do them.
How you’ll do it: Start by reading the Planio guide on creating a project schedule you’ll stick to. Once you’re comfortable with the details, we strongly recommend building and visualizing your schedule in a project management tool such as Planio.
Not only will this make your schedule easier to manage and update in the future, but it will give your entire team a central place to collaborate from, helping enhance team productivity, accountability, and accuracy. Find out more about how it works here.
A real-world example: Now that Sally knows the details of the deliverables required to build the Plantz app, she pulls all the information into her project schedule.
Sally builds this directly in her project management software, assigning particular tasks to team members as she goes. Once complete, she gets everyone together to review the schedule, making tweaks and updates as required.
5. Execution & Monitoring: Structure your work with a deliverable-driven sprint plan
The specific deliverable: A sprint plan document.
What you’ll do: As the team begins creating their product there’s lots to juggle. Deliverable-driven sprint plans help you maintain control by breaking your execution down into manageable chunks. Depending on the size of your project, you may create up to 20 different sprint plans in this phase.
How you’ll do it: The key to a good sprint plan is systematically working through the various sprint ceremonies, including daily stand-ups and sprint retrospectives.
Start by breaking your project or product backlog into manageable two-week segments and guide the team through each one. If you’re stuck, check out our 5-step sprint planning guide.
A real-world example: With the Planning phase complete, Sally breaks her high-level schedule into sprints. She hosts a sprint planning meeting with the team to select the tasks they want to complete first, assigning roles and responsibilities to each one.
Sally continues to use her project management software to manage this, using agile project management features to visualize progress on a task board.
6. Execution & Monitoring: Create your first product project deliverables
The specific deliverable: A tangible ‘thing’ you create.
What you’ll do: Whether software code is written, training guides are created, or bricks are laid, it’s time to start tracking the real ‘things’ that make up your product or service.
How you’ll do it: Through your sprint plans and project schedule, you’ll keep track of your product deliverables, ensuring they get delivered on time and to the proper standard. As we saw earlier on, don’t be afraid to track milestones in this phase, too, as you monitor your progress against the finished product.
A real-world example: Sally’s project team starts building the app, with the software development team writing the first lines of code for the homepage. Alongside the code, the business analyst team creates a range of user training guides and video tutorials to help children use the app day-to-day.
7. Testing & Go-Live: Quality check your deliverables with a Test Plan
The specific deliverable: A test plan document.
What you’ll do: Testing is a common area that project teams gloss over in the excitement of getting their new product live. To avoid this happening, focus on making your test plan a priority. It’s a key deliverable to ensure quality, but it also helps you manage risk and ensures your customers aren’t disappointed by silly bugs.
How you’ll do it: While test plans look different depending on the type of ‘thing’ you’re creating, they should all include a clear view of what you’re testing, how you’ll test it, and what are the outcomes/criteria that mean a test has passed or failed.
If you’re testing a new software product, we’d recommend checking out our test plan guide for more detailed support.
A real-world example: As Sally’s team completes the bulk of their development, alongside the Testing Lead, she creates a test plan to ensure the app is up to standard.
For the technical side, there will be a round of functional testing followed by integration testing. Then, the app is given to some trial users to test and give the green light for deployment.
8. Closure: Capture what went well and what could be improved as part of Lessons Learned
The specific deliverable: A lessons learned document.
What you’ll do: While there are many deliverables to complete in the Closure phase, from a project management point of view, we’d recommend you take some time to capture lessons learned.
In a world where PMs flick from project to project, there’s a lot of value in considering what went well and what could be improved to help you develop ahead of your next initiative.
How you’ll do it: Get the team together to discuss how they feel the project went. While it’s important to focus on what could be improved, don’t forget to focus on what went well and celebrate your success as a team. If, for any reason, your project failed, check out this guide on how to make the most of a bad situation.
A real-world example: The Platz app passed all of its testing and was released to customers.
Sally now works to close down the project by completing a closure document, handing the app over to the Business As Usual (BAU) IT teams, and hosts a lessons learned workshop with her team. She writes down some of the critical points and saves them on the project management tool for others in the business to learn from.
15 examples of project deliverables from different teams
No two projects will have the same deliverables — which can make it hard to always know what ones you should be focused on.
To finish, let’s look at examples of different deliverables from other types of project teams.
How a development team at Netflix might see their deliverables
Development teams are responsible for coding and building software products. Some example project deliverables from development projects could include:
- User journey maps
- User stories
- UI wireframes
- Sprint plans
- Release notes
How a consultancy team at Deloitte might see their deliverables
Consultancy companies engage with businesses to assess their performance and suggest improvements. Some example project deliverables from consultancy projects could include:
- Initial sponsor meeting(s)
- Stakeholder interview notes
- Company organizational charts
- KPI tracking dashboards
- Organizational recommendation reports
How a construction team at Bechtel might see their deliverables
Construction companies build key public infrastructure such as roads, railways, and apartment blocks. Some example project deliverables from construction projects could include:
- Client statement of work
- Detailed business case
- Structural design plans
- Subcontracting agreements
- Health & safety sign-off document
The bottom line: Deliverables will determine your success
Successful projects are those with well-defined, pre-planned, and expertly-delivered project deliverables. Whether they directly or indirectly contribute to the final product, deliverables help you track your progress as you move toward your project objective.
If you’re running a big project, the chances are you’ll have hundreds of individual deliverables that all need managing and tracking — you can’t do that alone!
That’s why so many project professionals use Planio to manage their projects. Whether it’s task management, knowledge management, team communication, or repository integration, Planio helps you get your team on the same page, track your progress, and deliver the best project results every time.
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