If a picture is worth a thousand words, a deliverable’s diagram saves a million meetings. Familiar to all project managers is the project lifecycle: initiating, planning, executing and controlling, and closing. In this lesson we will share the important deliverables required to come into this process, and the critical deliverables coming out for each phase. The deliverables diagram sets the vision for the team and stakeholders so that everyone knows where they are going, how they will get there, and what’s due when.
The Business Opportunity
At the outset, submitting a business opportunity is the important deliverable for the initiating phase of the project, as it identifies why the project is being done. So many times everyone becomes so focused on their task that they actually forget why they are doing the project and perhaps even what the main deliverable is. The business opportunity comes from the business, and may come in from many different directions, or for many reasons, but most importantly it is the primary input at the outset.
The Project Charter
In the process of working with stakeholders and critical team members, the exchange of information is used to create the project charter. It may be called something different in your company, such as a statement of work, an estimate response document, a proposal, etc., but ultimately it is the document that identifies the scope, and high level timeline and budget of the project. The project charter immediately feeds into the next phase, planning.
In addition to the project charter, it’s very important to share lessons learned. Even if the current project being planned has no relationship to previous projects, the universal lessons we learn improve performance of any project. As the project charter and lessons learned are fed into the planning process and all the important stakeholders and people on the planning team get that information, the project plan can be produced, and subsequently all the sub plans that identify the deliverables diagram.
One of the more critical sub plans is the communications plan. Frequently, in many teams the communication plan doesn’t clearly articulate what level of information needs to be communicated to the right level of person. For example, the project team needs to know totally different information than the executive committee, stakeholders or the change control board. Knowing how to differentiate levels of information and disseminating it appropriately is important. It’s also important to identify when and how to communicate. We need to identify when people may be overwhelmed by email, or when they prefer mobile texting, or using collaborative software or systems, or social media. Do people need information in realtime? How do they need it best?
Risk and Issues
Another is a sub plan for dealing with risk and issues: knowing how to manage risk, and if risk occurs, how to identify it, mitigate it, and who is the actual point person that makes those important decisions? And as for the issues, the plan identifies how they will be managed and tracked, at what point they are to be escalated, and who the important decision makers are.
A third outcome of planning is a sub plan for the change management process. We all know change will happen. It’s important to know upfront what processes will be used to manage those changes, how changes will come, how they will be assessed, and who the people are who need to decide how to manage those changes.
A fourth sub plan includes decisions around procuring resources and assets for the team. Will you get those in house, or from key vendor partners? What is the process? What are the approval levels that need to be made at what time?
Lastly, sub plans that identify cost management measures and schedules are important to establish. How will you manage and measure cost? The schedule will be baselined, but what happens when the schedule changes, how will you manage that?
Controlling the Process
The project plan, with all its sub plans, is valuable because it actually becomes the team’s game plan that feeds into the executing and controlling phase of the project. The project charter maintains the baseline; it’s the approval for the project, defines what the project is, what the budget is, and serves to keep the project on track. We find that so many projects fail because people aren’t tracking the baseline against the original charter, the original plan.
When we begin actually executing the plan and controlling the process, performance reports become an integral part of measuring progress against baselines. Performance reports show where the team is at in terms of project progress, and if original goals are not being met, force us to look at what needs to be done to get back in line and steps necessary to actually change the project plan, modify the baseline and get the appropriate approvals. If we do that, we can decrease the project failure rate by actually implementing project management best practices.
Issues and risk logs are important for not only tracking purposes to know when they occur, and what issues and risks occurred, but also to know what action was taken, and who actually approved or signed off on the action. The same goes for change logs. As mentioned previously, change will occur. Logging changes that occur, what decisions were made and by whom are key elements of the change logs.
Project progress is knowing how you are doing against the baseline of the project.
In the executing and controlling phase of the project lifecycle, deliverables are now actually being produced. The ultimate deliverable is the actual project, but the performance reports, the project progress, the project logs and deliverables as the project comes to a close all feed into the closing part of the project.
Last but not least, the closing phase. It is very important to get product acceptance from users and stakeholders. Are they in agreement that the project met the intent of the project? Were all the baseline or performance measures met? What is the final word on how you did against the baseline? How will you provide measurements in the project documents and archive for future reference, maintaining the documentation, the history of this project, so if you need to revisit again what happened, and when, that information can be taken to the next phase of a project or maybe even a subsequent or similar project? Similarly, knowing and sharing lessons learned: what did you glean, what can you take forward? As you know, those lessons will feed back into the next project. As with the deliverables diagram, final closing documentation is another picture worth a thousand words – it just may save you another million meetings.
If you found these tips from Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt) of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.
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