Whether internal or external, successfully meeting client deliverables is a primary goal behind projects. Deliverables may be different for each project depending on industry, nature of the project, project size, company strategy and a host of other variables. That said, there are multiple shared factors that can easily compromise these deliverables and ultimately client satisfaction. Here are just a few.
1. Inaccurately defined deliverables is 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. Have no more than a vague understanding of project and client needs or company direction is usually at the root of 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. Having inaccurately defined deliverables is not optional, and would be analogous to setting a specific financial goal, yet settling on a significantly lower outcome knowing it will have a less desirable impact on overall business objectives. Not only does this miss the originally intended goal, but it also further amplifies the impact through unnecessary project investments.
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2. 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. 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 to.
Keep clear version-controlled documents easily accessible, updated, and use simple language to avoid confusion for individuals at all levels. This can go a long way in ensuring project deliverables are met with the least amount of resistance and frustration from all parties. Making it easy for all applicable team members and stakeholders to seamlessly access the necessary documentation as it increases the likelihood of successfully and accurately meeting deliverables.
3. Deliverables not formally recognized and/or approved can transpire through misunderstandings and/or informal discussion, 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 make the subsequent effort of utilizing more than one round of review with applicable stakeholders to ensure something has not been missed. This is a good way to not only find errors or misinterpretations, but it also permits additional time and mechanisms for project owners to ensure that they are certain about the intended deliverables.
4. Incorrect assumptions have a way of easily setting a project on an erroneous path, making it virtually impossible to achieve required deliverables without many iterations of re-work. 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 companies, resources, efforts, and project managers up for failure. This is an important juncture where identifying the correct assumptions is critical in the "make-it-or-break-it" aspects of project management. Talk with key subject matter experts about not only what the assumptions were predicated upon, but how the assumptions were determined during their thought process.
5. Team members who are not pulling their weight throughout various phases can considerably compromise the scope of the project, and ultimately make it difficult to meet deliverables. When selecting a project team, ensure team members can commit the time, are fully invested in the project, and are capable and willing to carry out the work required of them. Anticipate and build in sufficient buffer to allow for regularly expected absenteeism, vacation, and general delay during handoffs.
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Consider the possibility that backup resources may be required should the need arise. There will be times where all of this has been anticipated and built-in to project plans, yet deliverables are still negatively impacted due to team members that simply choose to not pull their full weight. Factoring in some contingency can greatly reduce the impact to other team members, but must be built into the project at the onset.
6. Proceeding without achieving previous deliverables (dependencies) is problematic for obvious reasons. Deliverables that have dependencies are identified and sequenced for specific and needed reasons, making it disastrous to by-pass without factoring in the impact and including in the change control process. Proceeding without this would be similar to being a newbie to project management and attending an Advanced Project Management boot-camp prior to taking at least one basic foundational PM course or at least having a good grasp of PM. In practice, it's much worse considering companies invest staggering amounts of money and resources only to suffer significant consequences when project deliverables go unrealized. Recognize 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.
7. Personal bias should not factor in, but there are times when it is bound to unfortunately occur. Regardless of your experience and personal beliefs as a PM ultimately the goal is to meet the client's expectations and deliverables. This should not be confused with leveraging your project management expertise and training to execute on meeting with those deliverables. Project management experience or knowledge should be used solely as a means to successfully execute projects for the purpose of meeting deliverables and achieving client satisfaction, not to impose personal biases to influence client goals.
Other factors to consider may also include vendor relationship management whereby limiting agreement terms and arrangements may translate into procurement issues. Additionally, contractor relationship considerations may be another factor as much needed outsourced staff might critically hinder deliverable success if staffing it exceed available resources.