Project deliverables — definition, purpose, types, and tips

A woman in an office goes over a project's deliverables.

You are probably at least a little familiar with project deliverables, but without a thorough understanding, you may struggle to define what they are — and this lack of knowledge impacts whether projects are completed on time, on budget, and with minimal friction.

In this article you’ll learn about project deliverables and how they affect overall project objectives, helping teams improve coordination and optimize efficiency. This post will explain:

What are project deliverables?

Project deliverables are any outcomes or outputs required by the business to achieve a project or business goal. Deliverables can include the final result of an initiative and the individual execution required through various project stages to produce completed work. These deliverables can be internal or external, tangible or intangible, depending on the project scope and its definition of success.

Two terms that are often used interchangeably with project deliverables but are not the same are project objectives and project milestones.

Project objectives are not deliverables. They are broader in scope and represent the overall project goals that define what the project deliverables will be. For example, increasing the number of leads in a marketing pipeline is a project objective, while a deliverable would be an advertising campaign designed to achieve that increase in leads.

Project milestones also differ from deliverables. Milestones are progress markers on the way to achieving a deliverable. For example, if the deliverable is an advertising campaign, milestones would be tasks to implement that campaign, including writing marketing copy, creating digital media, and choosing where or how to place the ads online.

Purpose of project deliverables

Project deliverables make it clear which activities are necessary to keep the project on task, on time, and on budget. They also help your team align, coordinate efforts, and prioritize tasks.

You can also think of deliverables as the things you want to give a stakeholder at the end of a project. They can stand on their own as mini-projects or roll into a larger initiative. Deliverables can also serve a variety of audiences, both internal and external, depending on whether you are submitting them internally to stakeholders in your own company or externally to customers.

Understanding project deliverables can help businesses define objectives on a micro or macro scale, helping to achieve goals that align with budgets, revenues, and growth expectations.

Types of project deliverables

There are two main types of project deliverables: internal and external.

Internal project deliverables

While they might not be customer-facing, internal project deliverables can be critical to keeping a project on track. These deliverables are what usually make the project run smoothly behind the scenes.

For example, an internal deliverable could be wireframes for a new website redesign that need to be approved by the marketing team. No one externally will see these, but they must be completed as part of the larger picture. Other examples of internal deliverables could include time tracking and quality assurance testing.

External project deliverables

On the other hand, external project deliverables are the customer-facing results from a round of completed work. These are intended to be shared outside an organization, whether that includes shareholders or consumers.

Continuing the previous example, an external project deliverable would be the final website that goes live. These can also include a final product completed for sale or a public report that accounts for how time and money have been spent.

Process deliverables vs. product deliverables

Deliverables can further be classified as either process deliverables or product deliverables.

At a high level, process deliverables influence the intermediate procedures used to create an output while product deliverables influence the end product for public consumption.

Process deliverables are items within the development of the final product, the steps you take along the path to completion. They are not the product itself. For example, process deliverables might include a project workflow chart or checklist.

A product deliverable is the final result or outcome of the objectives, all the work involved, and the milestones to track and ensure progress throughout an initiative. Product deliverables are the products themselves, ready to be put into the market for consumers.

Examples of project deliverables

Project deliverables take many forms depending on the team or industry defining them. However, they all define an expectation for what success is. Here are a few examples within different teams.

Creative teams

Creative teams craft written and visual content for both internal and external stakeholders. Example deliverables include online articles, infographics, and videos.

Professional services teams

Financial experts, accountants, IT, and other professionals provide specialized services and project deliverables. For example, accountants can develop internal deliverables like financial reports, while IT specialists can support clients with anything from systems documentation to support services.

Product teams (or product marketing launch)

Product teams mostly provide internal project deliverables that make up product development launches. Managers and designers work together to create presentations and plans outlining product specifications and user experiences.

Marketing teams (or marketing campaign plans)

Marketing teams produce both internal deliverables, such as deadlines and KPIs, and external deliverables like email and text campaigns.

Agency teams (or company event planning)

Agency teams can provide deliverables for planning and communication with customers. These include internal media plans and external deliverables like press releases, social media posts, and other public-facing content.

Sales teams (or sales plan)

Sales teams are responsible for bringing in new and recurring business. Sample sales deliverables include meeting monthly or quarterly quotas, creating revenue targets, and implementing tools to measure success.

Tips for establishing and tracking project deliverables

To help you implement deliverables into your own management processes, here are some carefully curated tips for better establishing and tracking project deliverables. Applying a mix of these can help you define deliverables clearly while distinguishing them from other parts of the process.

Some tips for tracking project deliverables are: tracking takeaways, aligning broader plans, reporting on progress, prioritizing clients, etc.

Frequently asked questions

When are project deliverables agreed upon?

This should be completed during the planning stage when the project objectives are defined. The agreement should be between all stakeholders and project managers to ensure a clear understanding of what will be fulfilled by the wider team.

Can project deliverables change during a project?

Issues are bound to arise during a project, and it’s likely one or more problems could necessitate reconsidering deliverables in light of the objectives. However, new deliverables should be minimized or eliminated to stay on track and accommodate scope creep — when the goals of a project are expanded in real time.

Who oversees project delivery?

This is the responsibility of a dedicated project manager who puts together a project management plan and oversees the fulfillment of objectives, deliverables, and milestones.

What happens to a deliverable after it’s created?

Project managers should clearly communicate deliverables to the appropriate teams, allowing them to ask questions and break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. These should be associated with deadlines and milestones in the larger project plan.

What are the key deliverables of a project?

While key deliverables will vary depending on the industry, company, or project, they are generally the final results a project is designed around with the core goals in mind.

Successfully navigate project deliverables

Understanding project deliverables can help businesses define objectives on a micro or macro scale — helping to achieve goals that align with budgets, revenues, and growth expectations. They also can ensure the completion of tasks that contribute to successful initiatives while reducing friction from misaligned planning and disparate teams.

When you’re ready to get started with your own project deliverables, make sure you clearly define them for the entire team to review and understand. You’ll also want to consider how these deliverables fit the bigger picture by creating project management plans and communicating those objectives with stakeholders, managers, and individual contributors.

The right enterprise planning software can make it easy to define project deliverables, connect them to your workflow, and stay aligned with the overall strategy. Adobe Workfront is a project management solution that helps you easily roll out your vision to the rest of your organization, align your teams, and connect work to the greater goals.

To learn more about Workfront, take a product tour or watch the overview video.