Project deliverables are the life’s blood of project management, so it only makes sense to do what you can to safeguard against the most common pitfalls. Whether you’re talking about internal or external project-management goals, successfully meeting client deliverables is a primary objective. Those deliverables may be different for each project, depending on the industry, nature of the project, project size, company strategy, and a host of other variables. However, there are multiple shared factors that can compromise these deliverables and ultimately client satisfaction. Here are just a few.
Inaccurately defined deliverables
Inaccurately defined deliverables remain one of the biggest risk factors when it comes to project success or failure. Many companies have suffered the consequences of missed objectives and deliverables simply because of a lack of clearly identified or defined intangible and tangible deliverables at the onset. Having a vague understanding of project and client needs or company direction is usually at the root of most unsuccessfully identified deliverables. Project managers should slow things down enough at the beginning stages to be able to accurately gather all pertinent information from key stakeholders before charging ahead.
Omitted deliverable documents
Don’t wait until some project aspects go sideways or things become murky before you start documenting what may or may not have been agreed upon. Omitted deliverable documents and details impacting other documents—including work breakdown structure (WBS), project charters, plans, project resourcing, schedules, budgets, change-management documents, quality-control reports, test plans, and so forth—can lead to unnecessary stress for project managers, teams, and especially stakeholders.
Keep updated version-controlled documents easily accessible and use simple language to avoid confusion for individuals at all levels.
This can go a long way in ensuring that project deliverables are met with the least amount of resistance and frustration from all parties. Making it easy for all team members and stakeholders to seamlessly access the necessary documentation increases the likelihood of meeting deliverables.
Avoid informal agreements
Deliverables that are not formally recognized or approved can emerge through misunderstandings or informal discussions, which can then end in further confusion, aggravation, and decreased confidence. When documenting required project deliverables be sure to obtain formal approvals in writing to avoid any disappointment later after a project is already underway.
Never assume anything; rather, use more than one round of review with applicable stakeholders to ensure that nothing is missed.
This is a good way to not only find errors or misinterpretations but also to permit additional time and mechanisms for project owners to ensure that they are certain about the intended deliverables.
Don’t make assumptions
Incorrect assumptions have a way of setting a project on an erroneous path, thus making it virtually impossible to achieve required deliverables without many iterations of rework. As with all projects, assumptions play a vital role in setting the stage for project deliverables and activities as a whole. Having the wrong assumptions sets company’s, resources, efforts, and project managers up for failure. Talk with key subject-matter experts not only about what the assumptions were predicated upon but also about how the assumptions were determined during their thought process.
All people must pull their own weight
Team members who are not pulling their weight throughout various phases can considerably compromise the scope of the project and ultimately make it extremely difficult to meet deliverables. When selecting a project team, ensure that team members can commit the time, are fully invested in the project, and are capable of carrying and willing to carry out the work required of them. Anticipate and build in a sufficient buffer to allow for regularly expected absenteeism, vacation, and general delay during handoffs. Consider the possibility that you need to deploy backup resources should the need arise.
There will be times when all of this has been anticipated and built into project plans, yet deliverables are still negatively impacted due to team members who simply choose to drag their feet for one reason or another. Factoring in a contingency can greatly reduce the impact to other team members, but it must be built into the project at the onset.
Deliverables have dependencies
Proceeding without achieving previous deliverables can be problematic for obvious reasons. Deliverables that have dependencies are identified and sequenced for specific and needed reasons, and this makes it disastrous to bypass them without factoring in the impact and including that in the change-control process. It’s important to recognize that there are dependencies when it comes to deliverables, as well as an enormous impact if these are not met prior to advancing to the next.
Additional project-deliverables factors
Other factors to consider include vendor relationship management, as limiting agreement terms and arrangements may translate into procurement issues. Contractor-relationship considerations are another factor to consider, as much-needed outsourced staff might critically hinder deliverable success if staffing needs for the project exceed available resources.
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Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is a recognized project management influencer, thought leader, a regular correspondent for PMI’s Projectified podcast, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership”. Moira has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes thought leadership content for top-tier publications and business blogs and oversees or writes sponsored content and software reviews on PMWorld 360 Magazine.