Deliverables diagram saves million meetings

In this article I am going to talk about the deliverables diagram of a project.  The facts that I am going to present here will be familiar for most of the readers. This is all about project life-cycle: initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing.

The deliverables diagram will help the whole team to identify the inputs to each phase and what are the expected outputs from each phase and I will highlight the importance of each of these artifacts against the project phases.

ProjectDiagram

Basic idea of creating this as a diagram is to set the vision for the project and it is important that every team member and the stakeholder is aware about this vision. So everyone knows about where we are going how we are going to get there and what is due and when it is due.

Let’s start with the project initiation phase. The main input to this phase is the business opportunity which describes why we are doing this project in the first place.

Many times we are in the hurry to get along with our tasks, and everyone tend to forget why even we are doing the project and what is the main deliverable coming out from this project. So we submit the business opportunity which is coming from our potential clients.

These opportunities can come from different directions and for many reasons, but it defines why we are doing this project. As illustrated in the diagram this is the main input coming into the initiation phase. During the initiation process stakeholders and key team members take this information and they process it. So the output will be the SOW (Statement Of Work) AKA Project Charter or Estimate Response Document. This document identifies high level scope, timeline and the budget.

Then this document is fed into the next phase which is the planning stage. You can also include lessons learned from previous projects are well.  These lessons learned  from past similar projects as well as different projects, will help us to identify the things that we did wrong and how we fixed them which will help us to do better in the new project.  In another words, this will help us to improve the outcomes of the new project. Feeding these information to planning process will produce the project plan and any sub plans required. Let’s have a quick peek into the outputs from the planning process. Deliverables diagram will be a visualization to the entire organization. It will illustrate what’s going to be done and what’s going to be delivered under each phase of the project.

So under the sub plans of the planning phase we will first look at the importance of having a communication plan.  It will avoid team spending unnecessary time on long meetings. Time is critical for us. This is to identify what information to be communicated to whom and when it has to be communicated. Different stakeholders, both internal and external, requires different level of information at different stages. If it is properly planned, it will fuel the smooth delivery of the project. Normally we get hundreds of emails per day. Also we get text messages, and we use social media to communicate. As project managers we also need to identify the proper medium to communicate necessary information to necessary people.

This communication plan also helps the team to be transparent, i.e. rest of the company will know the current status of the project.

At this point we also need to identify potential risks and the risk mitigation plan. By knowing what are the risks that might occur and how are we going to deal with those risks will help us to effectively deal with risks if they actually occur. The risk log and the mitigation plan will include, who are the key decision makers, what are the resources you require for dealing with the risk, who will solve the issue, etc.

Next sub plan will be the change management process. As we all know change is inevitable. So we must have a solid plan for managing the change. We need to identify the sources of changes, the categorizations whether it is critical, moderate or low, the impact of change in terms of cost, quality and time, who are the people to manage the change, etc.

We must also have an upfront plan for procurement. This is about identifying the required resources and assets early and what is the plan for acquiring required resources.  That is we have to identify whether we are going to acquire them in house or are we going to acquire them from external partner.  Also what is the process that we are going to use, what level of approvals you need and when we need these resources must be considered.  It is also important that we identify the cost of resources and assets as well.  By planning this early we could also identify any resource or asset shortages and then we can plan for filling them appropriately.

Next is the Schedule. As we know, we have to baseline the schedule, but what if the schedule would change due to some unavoidable circumstances.  Then how are we going to manage these changes to stay align with the baseline schedule effectively. While creating the project schedule, we must have some sort of a plan to handle the schedule changes.

I have described above, all the plans and sub plans and how important they are. Actually all these plans will become the game plan for the execution phase. So all of them will be fed into the execution and controlling phase together with the SOW to remind all of us the project budget, reason for having the project, the agreements with the clients and the stakeholders and what the project is. Many projects tend to fail because Projects Managers aren’t tracking the baseline against the original SOW. That is why we feed both the SOW and the Game Plan together. From the execution and controlling phase we get performance reports as outputs. Using these performance reports against the baseline we measure the current progress of the project.

While comparing things you may find that things are not aligned with the original plan. If that is the case you must immediately identify what are the appropriate changes you need to fix it, if we have to modify the base line, who is going to approve it, etc. If we can do these we can decrease the project failure rate drastically. At the same time we need to have the risks and issue logs. It is really important not only to tract them but also to log them, so that we all know when they occurred, what are the issues and risks, what action did we take and who actually approved the signed off on the action to be taken. Next important artifact is the change logs. As I mentioned above change is inevitable. So it is very important to log what changes occurred, reason for the change, what decisions were made and by whom, etc.

At this stage we are actually producing the artifacts or deliverables of the project. The ultimate delivery will be the completed project.

So we feed the performance reports, the project progress, the project logs and the deliverables as the input to the closing stage of the project. The closing stage is very important for both client and the vendors, because the vendors must get the acceptance from the client for the delivered project. All the inputs to this stage will help both internal and external stakeholders to understand that the project met all of the agreement and all the baseline measures have been met.

Lastly we must produce the actual project report to review how well we did against the baseline. It is best to archive these documents and maintain them, because there could be situations where we have to revisit them, may be due any change requests or support requests. All these documents will be usable during the warranty periods or providing ongoing support. Also we shouldn’t be forgetting the lessons learned. It is highly recommended that we log all the lessons learned and how we are going to improve in the future, because this will be a feedback to the next similar project.

As we all know a picture is worth of 1000 words and could save many meetings in project management. So create the diagram which include all the mentioned information and display it so that you are transparent to everyone. Sample illustration is attached above.

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