A Project Manager’s Guide to Project Deliverables

A Project Manager’s Guide to Project Deliverables

As modern teams tackle an array range of digital projects, it’s more important than ever to define and execute project deliverables successfully. In fact, most project plans thrive or fail on the basis of timely, high-quality deliverables, so it’s essential to understand what they are and how they shape a project’s path.

A good project manager is able to recognize which goals they need to reach on the way to project completion and create an in-depth project management plan for making them a reality.

This guide will show you what project management deliverables are, why they’re important to project management, and give you some tips for handling them in your own projects.

What are project deliverables?

Deliverables are created during a project, from initial designs to the finished product. They must fit into the project’s scope, be agreed on by the project team, and help achieve the overall project goal.  

Every project needs a definitive goal and timeline. Deliverables fit into that timeline. You can think of them as the components or pieces that come together to build a complete project. They’re not the same as project milestones, though. Deliverables must be turned in to clients or stakeholders involved in a project, while milestones are points in a project’s schedule that let a project manager gauge its progress.

For example, a deliverable might be a prototype of an application presented to a client or stakeholder. A milestone would be the point in time at which the project team completes the prototype. The project manager would use the milestone to see whether the project schedule is being met and what tasks need to be completed next.

Deliverables can be tangible or intangible. Tangible deliverables are physical things like reports or products. Intangible deliverables include new capabilities a team needs to learn to finish a project. For example, if you realized that your team needed to be trained to use Amazon Web Services (AWS) before completing a project, the training they receive would be an intangible deliverable.

Deliverables can also be big or small. However, there’s no set metric for whether a deliverable is big or small. A small team might find a deliverable to be a massive undertaking, while a larger team might consider it a small task.

Examples of project deliverables

  • Work-in-progress (WIP) deliverables: These are fulfilled during a project. They can be website wireframes, blueprints, design mockups, and drafts.
  • Deliverables supporting subsequent work: These back up your project. They can be research reports supporting a specific design choice or analyzing user data.
  • Final deliverables: These are the results of your overall project. A completed website or product would be an example of this.
  • Reporting deliverables: These evaluate the feasibility of a project or its processes to see how efficiently a team worked and how well a project met the client’s or stakeholder’s needs. An example of this is a summation of effort.

Project deliverables: A deeper dive

Since there can be several types of deliverables involved in a project, it can be challenging to keep up with them. In the next few sections, we’ll go over a few concepts involved in managing deliverables and give you some practical advice for keeping your project on track.

Internal vs. external deliverables

An internal deliverable is done for the benefit of the business doing it. On the other side, an external deliverable is client work or work done to win more clients.

The best way to remember this is that internal deliverables are for internal stakeholders. External deliverables are for your clients.

Managing projects with multiple deliverables

Most development projects will have several deliverables that will be created for your stakeholders and clients. It’s important to know what deliverables are needed and which team members will be responsible for them before you can begin the project.

You can create a few documents in the beginning to help you discern which deliverables you’ll need for the project. Making a project charter will help you see the overall project objectives, and creating a project scope will give you a chance to map out the deliverables needed.

These documents are also deliverables themselves. You’ll share them with your clients or stakeholders for approval.

Creating a project charter

Before you can plan the deliverables involved in a project, create a project charter. This document defines your project’s overall goals, identifies the stakeholders or clients involved, and points out their responsibilities. Some things that should be included in your project charter include:

  • Why you’re taking on the project
  • The purpose and objectives of the project
  • The identities of the clients and stakeholders
  • The project scope (length of time, in-scope and out-of-scope tasks, or process)
  • Risks, solutions, and benefits
  • Project budget

The project charter is like a mission statement for your project. It briefs your client or stakeholders on your project to get their approval.  

Making a project scope

After you know what your project entails, plan the deliverables to complete it. A project scope is more detailed than a project charter, but it’s still only an outline. It lists all the objectives, tasks, and deliverables to get the job done. Here’s a list of things a good project scope should have:

  • Why your project is needed (what problem your end software or application will solve)
  • A description of your project’s scope (the boundaries of what your team will and won’t do) and what all stakeholders and clients can reasonably expect
  • Your project goals (completion dates, what the project will accomplish, etc.)
  • A list of the project deliverables that need to be completed
  • The challenges and restraints that could come up during your project (for example, not enough funding or time)
  • All assumptions you have about a project (milestones for when a project will be completed, availability of team members, problems, etc.)

Different types of deliverables (project vs. process)

Project deliverables are client- or stakeholder-facing. They’re achievements that fit into the scope of a project, for example, a web design proposal as a PDF or providing an initial briefing report when consulting. These types of deliverables are the goals of your projects.

Process deliverables help plan the direction and action that your project will take. These types of deliverables are for internal use and let your team know what needs to be done. These can include your statement of work and product testing.

The importance of clearly defining deliverables at the outset

It’s vital to have clear, agreed-on deliverables before beginning a project. Otherwise, a project might not meet all the client’s or stakeholder’s needs, and your team could end up wasting a lot of time and money. It’s up to you as the project manager to document—in detail—each deliverable required in the project scope and the processes that your project team will follow.

One of the best ways to define deliverables is by starting with the main objective of the project and reverse engineering—working backward from—it to find the deliverables you’ll need to create leading up to it. It’s important to also know what resources you’ll need to complete each deliverable. Here are a few things to consider when defining deliverables:

  • The main aim or objective of the project
  • The parts that lead up to it (primary deliverables and secondary deliverables)
  • How each part should be formatted
  • The resources you need to complete each deliverable

Here’s an example of how you can work backward if your team is tasked with creating an e-commerce website for a software company.

  • E-commerce website: The website would be the objective of the project.
  • Website mockup: Before you can finalize your website, you’ll need to make a mockup (a high-quality website simulation with images). A mockup gives stakeholders an in-depth view of how the finished website will look and feel.
  • Website wireframe: Before you can make a mockup, you’ll need a wireframe (basic visual outline of the website’s structure). A wireframe lets you conceptualize how your ideas will fit together in a website’s design.
  • Reports: You’ll want to back up your wireframe with some research. You might create a user experience (UX) research report to show stakeholders that your website design will have great usability.

After you’ve defined your deliverables, decide on the requirements that each one will need to meet. These are the standards you’ll use to judge whether a deliverable is acceptable. These can involve things like functionality or appearance.

Many project requirements will be given to you by stakeholders or clients. For example, the software company in the above example would likely have a requirement that any images on the website need to follow company branding guidelines.  

You can find other requirements by connecting with users. For your website, you could send customer surveys out or hold focus groups to see what users want to see from a website. You might use quality function deployment (QFD) to develop technical requirements based on customer needs.

Here are a few possible requirements that the example website may have to meet:

  • Page load time must be under half a second.
  • The website must include a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section where users can find information about the product.
  • The site must include training material for new users.
  • All pages must display the company logo prominently.
  • There must be user contact forms that integrate with the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Communicating deliverable details to all clients or stakeholders

A good project communication plan is key to a successful project. As a project manager, decide how you want to communicate with both stakeholders and clients in your project. You should also determine who needs to know what information and when to share information with clients or stakeholders.

It’s up to you to decide the best method of communication for your team, whether it’s meeting in person or virtually, using asynchronous messaging platforms like Slack, emailing everyone, or other methods of reaching your team.

When you meet is also important. For example, Agile teams have daily short meetings between project team members to discuss what everyone’s working on, what sticking points they have, and ensure their project is still on track. They meet with their client or stakeholder at the end of each sprint or segment of a larger project to ensure that all project requirements are still being met.

Remember not to dump too much information on a stakeholder or client at one time. If you do, you run the risk of them misunderstanding project goals or updates. A good communication plan dictates when to share certain information like designs, status reports, and updates so that you don’t overload anyone at one time.

Providing updates on deliverable timing and tracking

Project management software like Asana or Monday.com can be great for sharing a project’s progress with your team and keeping communication in one place. This type of software provides a hub for everyone to post updates on where they are in a project and lets everyone see what progress has been made as a whole.

Different development methodologies have different schedules for providing updates. Agile teams provide updates and deliverables to a client or stakeholder after each sprint (a portion of their project timeline). On the other hand, the DevOps methodology practices continuous delivery. DevOps developers add IT professionals to their teams so that they can constantly update their work.

Find talent that truly delivers

There’s more to a project than just the final product. Project teams need to be able to complete a slew of deliverables along the way to meeting their objectives. Plans, contracts, training programs, and models are all examples of deliverables created during the lifetime of a project.

As the leader or project manager of a project team, it’s your job to make sure your team members know what they need to work on and can meet your client’s or stakeholder’s deadlines. By creating a detailed plan for your project deliverables, you give your project the best chance of succeeding.

To ensure even greater project success, Upwork is the best place to engage independent professionals who can help you complete any deliverable, no matter how specific or challenging.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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A Project Manager’s Guide to Project Deliverables
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