If you're a project manager, these stats may shock you – but you’re in the right place to learn how to deliver your projects successfully. And in order to achieve all of your project management goals, you need to understand the concept of project deliverables.
Deliverables are the outputs produced by your project, either tangible or intangible. And we’re not just talking about the finished product; deliverable examples include reports, designs, code, or marketing communications — anything created during a project that contributes to its objectives.
While they may sound simple, project deliverables are deeply significant. Poor planning can doom projects before they ever leave the ground, especially without set deliverables in your project plan. By clearly understanding project deliverables, project managers, team members, and stakeholders can keep their projects on track, exceed their goals, and guarantee their spot in the 60% of successful projects.
This guide outlines everything you need to know about project deliverables, their role in project management, and how they contribute to your project success.
What are project deliverables?
In project management, a project deliverable is any tangible or intangible result produced from a project – the outputs of your work. Essentially, it's anything created or developed during a project that helps achieve its goals and objectives.
Here are some examples of project deliverables:
- Budget report
- Requirements document
- Media plan
- Final deployment of a new service
As you can imagine, the examples of project deliverables are virtually endless and of nearly any size. A deliverable for a construction company could be an entire building, whereas an individual person's deliverable might be as small as a status report.
Still, as their name suggests, they are all something that is ultimately delivered, whether it be to your boss, a customer, a colleague, or another stakeholder.
Project and product deliverables evolve throughout the project lifecycle. They are influenced by inputs, transformed through processes, and produced as desired outputs.
Let's take a closer look at each of these:
Easy enough, but as a project manager, you'll need to understand the nuances that go into the ideation and production of deliverables. This is what gives you and your team the power to plan, execute, and monitor their delivery and keep your projects on track.
After all, no matter what’s being produced, the right inputs must be considered, the necessary processes must be followed, and the desired outputs must meet stakeholder expectations and support project objectives and goals.
Nevertheless, deliverables come in different types, and project managers need to know the difference:
Tangible vs. intangible deliverables & examples
Tangible deliverables are physical or digital outputs created by the tasks of a project. They can include prototypes, infrastructure components, software, UX designs, or manufactured goods. For example, a tangible deliverable for a website app could be a new software feature or website wireframe.
Ultimately, any output generated by a project that is "living in a material world," as Madonna would say, would count as a tangible deliverable.
Intangible deliverables are measurable, but non-physical or conceptual outputs produced during the various phases of a project. Training, new users, product adoption growth, or an increase in brand awareness are all examples of intangible deliverables.
Ultimately, these are the types of deliverables that still exist, but you can't quite hold them in your hand or touch them.
Internal vs. external deliverables & examples
Internal deliverables are the outputs produced within the project team and delivered to internal team members or relevant stakeholders. Internal deliverables are also frequently referred to as project deliverables – here are some examples:
- Budget reports
- Project proposals
- Risk registers
- Work allocation plans
- UX wireframes
- User requirements documents
- Software testing summaries
And more (we'll touch on what these are later in the article).
In other words, the deliverables that anyone on your team – engineers, designers, marketers, and project managers – submit throughout the project before the final result is produced for external customers or stakeholders.
These internal deliverables are often vitally connected with other deliverables, as they enable the team to coordinate their efforts, track progress, and ensure the project's successful execution. For example, a work allocation plan is a document that defines what people's tasks are in a project – without this internal deliverable itself, no one will know what they're supposed to be producing.
External deliverables are the outputs shared with stakeholders outside of the company, such as investors, customers, or product end-users. These deliverables represent the new value you’re providing for your clients and could include examples like:
- New product or service
- New feature improvement
- New marketing or sales campaign
- New ROI report on company impact and performance
Ultimately, the objective of external deliverables is to help an organization win or retain customers.
Are project deliverables the same thing as milestones?
A common question for many folks is whether project deliverables are the same thing as milestones. The answer is: not quite.
As we mentioned, project deliverables are the actual things produced by the tasks within a project. They represent the results, products, or services created and delivered to stakeholders. In contrast, milestones are vital points or significant events that mark key stages or achievements within a project. They serve as markers of progress and help project teams stay on track.
Often some confusion pops up as milestones are typically used to mark the completion of specific deliverables. In fact, some milestones and deliverables often directly overlap. For example, "project approval" may be the milestone that kicks off a project, but the "project plan" may be the final deliverable necessary to achieve this milestone.
Both project milestones and deliverables share a special relationship and help support project teams in the following ways:
- Progress tracking: Milestones are strategic checkpoints to track and measure progress across phases of the project.
- Coordination & alignment: Milestones coordinate and align the team as reference points around the timeline, dependencies, and priorities of deliverables.
- Managing dependencies: Deliverables are interconnected, and milestones help manage and plan dependencies to avoid potential bottlenecks.
- Stakeholder communication: Milestones act as communication touchpoints for project stakeholders to stay informed on the progress of high-level deliverables.
How to define your project deliverables in 7 steps
So we've covered the basics of what a deliverable actually is – but how do project managers define them in the first place?
Of course, the exact nature of the deliverables will depend on the project. A "Homepage Redesign" project will produce very different outputs from "Build New App" for example.
No matter what, project managers must ensure their deliverables are:
- Within the project scope
- Agreed upon by all relevant stakeholders
- Support the project’s goals
- Specific, measurable, and provable (demonstrate that it exists upon delivery)
Here's how to define the deliverables for your projects:
And as always, plans are easier to make than follow. As Simon Sinek once said, "Always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan." Things happen, timelines get pushed back, priorities shift, we get that.
This is where project managers might benefit from a smart time-blocking tool like Reclaim.ai. You can block time for your and your project teams' tasks and regular routines throughout your week, but keep these time blocks flexible to accommodate new meeting requests and priority changes. And as your schedule fills up, your time block events shift from "free" time (or bookable time) to "busy" to maximize your availability while defending your time blocks for critical project tasks.
By following these steps, you'll have a much easier time managing project deliverables and setting your team up for success.
Deliverables templates for large projects
We all know every project is different – and your project deliverables will depend on countless factors completely unique to your business.
But there are some key project deliverables many projects will need (shout-out to Mike Clayton for this extensive list!) – though if you’re a small scrappy team, don’t let these slow you down. Here are some examples to consider for your large projects:
Minimum project deliverables template
- Project definition, charter, or brief: High-level overview of the project's purpose, objectives, scope, stakeholders, requirements, constraints, and assumptions.
- Business case, proposal, or budget: Justification for the project, outlining the expected benefits, financial framework, and ROI to secure approval and support.
- Project plan: Outlines the project roadmap, approach, timeline, activities, and resource allocation for successful project execution and management.
- Risk register: Identifies and assesses potential risks and uncertainties that could impact project completion, including risk mitigation and contingency measures.
- Handover & sign-off document: Formal acceptance and completion of the project, outlining final deliverables, agreed-upon requirements, and deployment to end-users.
Advanced project deliverables template
- Stakeholder engagement plan: Strategic outline for identifying, engaging, and managing stakeholder communication, involvement, and support throughout the project.
- Work allocation plan: Defines each team member's roles, responsibilities, and tasks, providing clarity and accountability within the project team.
- List of deliverables, specifications, or quality standards: Inventory of all variables to maintain consistency, ensure deliverables meet requirements, and confirm validation.
- Status reports & updates: Communicate progress, achievements, and challenges through status reports to facilitate informed decision-making and necessary interventions.
- Lessons learned review: Performed at the end of the project to identify successes, failures, and opportunities for improvement for future projects.
Super advanced project deliverables template
- Procurement documentation: Formal process to buy the things you need for your project, such as purchase orders and contracts.
- Quality design, assurance & control: Procedure to ensure the final product meets quality standards and customer expectations.
- Change control documentation: Records all changes made during a project, including who made the change, the reason, and the impact.
- Gateway reviews: Structured and independent assessment of a project's progress and readiness to move to the next stage.
- Testing scripts, plans, & sign-offs: Documentation for testing the functionality and quality of other deliverables.
Keep your projects on track with excellent deliverables 📦
Too many projects fail. But with clear and well-defined deliverables, measuring progress and keeping everyone on the same page can be easy for any team. By taking the time to carefully outline and communicate your deliverables throughout the project management process, teams can stay on track, achieve their goals, and deliver high-quality results that exceed the needs of their clients or customers.
What do you think about project deliverables? Anything we missed? Tweet us @reclaimai to get in on the conversation!
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