How to Assign Deliverables that Hold You Accountable

7 min read
Assigning Deliverables for Better Project Management

No matter what type of work you do, it’s a safe bet that you’re striving toward some kind of tangible outcome with every project. Your intended outcome might take any number of different forms, but there is always an end result fixed in view. The end result of any project a business undertakes — whatever that result may be — is called a deliverable. 

What Is a Deliverable?

In the most familiar sense, a deliverable is a project’s final outcome. This could be a physical product, a software feature, a report, a change to a metric, or any other kind of verifiable, measurable result. 

However, “deliverables” can be more than just final outcomes. A project can have multiple, smaller deliverables throughout the process that contribute toward the final deliverable. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most important kinds of deliverables and their differences, the various stages of planning and executing deliverables, and how to manage deliverables effectively.

Why Are Deliverables Important?

Clearly defining deliverables early in the process is crucial for effective project management. Additionally, deliverables are the outcomes you’re working toward, meaning they’re the whole purpose of undertaking any project in the first place. A high-quality deliverable that makes it into the client’s hands (literally or figuratively) on time and within budget almost always equals a successful project.

One of the best ways to keep a project on track is to ensure all actions are linked directly to a deliverable. Every action along each step of your project process should contribute toward the production of a deliverable in some way.

Types of Deliverables

While one of the most common definitions of “deliverable” is a project’s final product, this actually only describes one type of deliverable. There are multiple kinds of deliverables that play a role throughout the process. Let’s go over the definitions of some of the most influential types of deliverables and analyze the main differences between them:

Project Deliverables

A project deliverable is the final, tangible outcome of a project. In the simplest sense, a project deliverable could be a completed physical product, but project deliverables can take many forms. For example, a project deliverable could also be a digital product like a software update, an operational outcome like a record of a new policy implementation, or a performance-based outcome like a report that demonstrates improvement to a valuable metric. Project deliverables can be external or internal (more on that in a moment).

Process Deliverables

Process deliverables are the individual internal deliverables a team uses to produce a final project deliverable. If the project deliverable is the destination, you can think of process deliverables as the means of getting there. Process deliverables include all the tasks and materials that are required to effectively plan and execute the project, including:

Process deliverables are sometimes called planning deliverables. You may hear the terms used interchangeably, but “planning deliverable” can also be used more specifically to refer to very early-stage, intangible process deliverables like project summaries or proposal drafts.

Internal Deliverables

The effects of internal deliverables are contained within a company and are not customer-facing. For example, an internal deliverable could be a blueprint, report, or KPI-based training objective. Internal deliverables are often process deliverables that play an important role in creating a final project deliverable for a customer. However, an internal deliverable could also be the final result itself of an effort to promote some kind of internal outcome like improving customer retention or building a new sales strategy.

External Deliverables

External deliverables are project results that are intended to be seen or used by clients. An external deliverable is exactly what most people associate with the term “deliverable” — something you produce for a client, whether it’s a car, an advertisement, a social media campaign, a website, or just about anything else.

Stages of Deliverables

It’s important to plan and execute your deliverables efficiently. Here are some tips for managing deliverables at each of the four main stages of a typical project:

1. Clearly Define Your Deliverables

Step one is to identify and describe your project deliverables in clear terms. This step should be directly tied to your objective for the project. Ask yourself what quantifiable outcome you are hoping to achieve with the project and define a clear end result that supports that outcome. For example, if a marketing firm is tasked with achieving the outcome of improving a client’s lead conversion rate by 20%, an appropriate end result — or deliverable — could be a new marketing campaign that prioritizes conversion rate.

You’ll need to define both project and process deliverables. Often, you’ll work with the client to define project deliverables, and then your team can collaborate internally to determine the process deliverables that will be required. 

2. Deconstruct and Assign

The next step is to deconstruct the project and assign individual responsibilities. Deconstructing the project is the process of reducing it to its smallest possible components and organizing those components into a work breakdown structure (sometimes called a WBS). By breaking the project down into individual tasks, you can plan a blueprint with steps for completing it from start to finish.  

After deconstructing the project into its individual elements, the next step is assignment. This is when you delegate each task to specific team members. Matching tasks to team members with the most appropriate skill sets can help ensure the project moves along as efficiently as possible. You can actually think of your company’s hiring process as a factor in the assignment process. Hiring highly skilled and knowledgeable employees pays off when you have just the right person for every task on your work breakdown structure. 

3. Track Progress

Throughout the course of the project, it’s important to keep track of your progress. There are various processes and tools you can use to monitor project progress, like a Gantt chart or Kanban board. Many businesses also use project management software to help track tasks through the project pipeline. 

One of the most important parts of progress tracking is ensuring that each step is completed by the allotted deadline. When effective progress tracking measures are in place, project managers can immediately identify when a specific task is running behind schedule so the issue can be addressed and does not trickle down and result in missing the deadline for the final project deliverable. 

Whether you use software to track progress or not, it’s a good idea to use periodic project reports to communicate progress on all aspects of the project to both internal and external stakeholders.

4. Measure Success

The final stage of the deliverable process is measuring success. During this step, you should review the quality of the final project deliverable, the effectiveness of the process, and the efficiency with which it was carried out. Taking a detailed, retrospective look at each project is essential for improving future projects. If your deliverable was successful, what went right that you can repeat or build on next time? If it wasn’t, what went wrong? Did you overshoot your budget? Did team members miss deadlines throughout the process and cause the project to fall behind schedule? How can you prevent these issues next time?

Scope Management

A project’s scope is simply its parameters. The scope of a project defines the expected features of the deliverable itself and the extent of the work that will be required to produce the deliverable, such as the amount of time and resources you expect the project will occupy. Defining a project’s scope up front is crucial for accurately setting deadlines and budgets and communicating expectations both ways between business and client. 

What Is Scope Creep?

Scope creep is when a project expands beyond its original scope after it’s already been started. As the name suggests, scope creep usually doesn’t just happen all of a sudden, but rather results from poor scope management that either underestimates the requirements of a project or allows them to gradually grow beyond what was originally agreed upon. Well-meaning customers might attempt to add on extra deliverables after the project begins, so it’s important to have a plan for keeping every project within scope. 

What Is a Scope Plan?

A scope plan, or scope management plan, is a strategy that’s designed to help you keep your projects within scope. Scope management plans consist of processes to ensure the scope of each project is accurately defined and that each project does not veer outside its established scope. Most scope management plans follow a process that’s similar to the four stages of managing deliverables we outlined in the previous section:

  1. Collaborate with stakeholders (both internal and external) to identify the project’s requirements.
  2. Use those requirements to define the project’s scope.
  3. Create a work breakdown structure that divides the necessary work into individual tasks.
  4. Assign roles and responsibilities.
  5. Get all stakeholders to sign off on the scope management plan.
  6. Monitor and control the project’s scope throughout the process with software or other project management tools.

Conclusion

Planning, executing, and tracking project deliverables is one of the most critical parts of keeping projects on track. Not only will careful deliverable management increase the likelihood your projects will remain within scope, but it also ensures your clients receive high-quality outcomes every time. Defining and executing strong internal deliverables will also help your business’s operations remain as healthy as possible. 

Assigning deliverables is challenging — if you’re struggling to manage your startup’s deliverables effectively, consider drawing upon the expertise of a mentor to help you develop an action plan for better deliverables.


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