18 December, 2023

Top 40 Project Artifacts Every PM Should Know About

By Mike Clayton


Project Managers need to produce plenty of artifacts as we create and deliver our projects. In this article, let’s look at my top 40 project artifacts.

I doubt that you’ll ever need to use all of them in one project. But the thing is, you may need to use any of them. There is none on this list that I would not expect a competent Project Manager to understand and be ready to deploy, whenever the situation calls for them.

For most of them, I am offering a video or article to explain further – for some, more than one. Where I don’t have anything [yet], you can be sure it’s on my backlog!

And yes, before you ask…

Backlog is on the list.

The List of 40 Project Artifacts Every PM Should Know About

Top 40 Project Artifacts Every PM Should Know About

I’ll be dividing my top 40 list of project artifacts into 10 sections. And yes, you can be pretty sure I am going to cheat. I may well combine more than one actual artifact into one category, so I can give you extra value!

  1. Project Definition
  2. Planning
  3. Resourcing
  4. Project Control
  5. Communications
  6. Commercial and Contractual
  7. Project Delivery
  8. Monitoring and Control
  9. Governance
  10. Project Closure

Project Definition Artifacts

Requirements Traceability Matrix

A Requirements Traceability Matrix is a simple grid linking the product, service, or process requirements of your users, customers, or other stakeholders, to the deliverables that satisfy them. It is most often used in software projects, where you can link each requirement to test cases. But, if you adapt it, the idea has far wider application.

See our video, What is a Requirements Traceability Matrix? And How to Create One.

Backlog

Whether you are doing an agile project (where the concept arose) or a more predictive style of project, the idea of a backlog of tasks that the team needs to tackle is a great way to organize yourself. At its simplest, it’s just a list. But there is more you can do with it to ensure you build consensus with stakeholders and that your pressing priorities are always front of mind.

See our video, What is a Product Backlog and What is a Sprint Backlog?

Roadmap

I love the idea of creating a simple visual overview of a whole project – or program, or rollout… This is a strategic tool that every project should consider using.

See our video, What is a Project Roadmap? How to Make One and How is it Different from a Gantt Chart?

Project Charter

Project Charter is one of those terms that can be used differently in different places. Many project managers use it interchangeably with project definition (see below) or initiation document. In this case, I align with the PMI. I like their definition of a project charter as ‘a document issued by the project initiator or sponsor that formally authorizes the existence of a project, and provides the project manager with the authority to apply organizational resources to project activities.’

So, a project charter serves two purposes. Primarily, it is a governance document that authorizes the deployment of resources. However, it has a secondary role in the political process of promoting the project.

Project Definition statement and Scope statement

Any project needs a project definition statement. This needs to set out what the project is – and is not. Typically, it will include the goal and objectives of the project, along with a scope statement that sets out what is in and out of scope (exclusions). There are many other things we can also include in a project definition statement.

See our videos:

See our articles:

Planning Artifacts

Story Map

A story map is a visualization of the product or process flow that the project needs to create. It is built up from individual user stories and their larger cousins, epics. The tool originates in agile project management but, like many such tools, I think it can be adopted more widely.

See our videos:

Milestone Schedule

What could be simpler than an ordered list of all the key points in your project, with target dates for when you plan for them to happen? Many smaller projects need little or nothing more, in terms of a plan.

See our videos:

WBS, OBS, PBS, RBS, CBS

You can break down many aspects of a project into a structure, with the high-level, big items at the top, decomposed incrementally into smaller and smaller parts. The OG breakdown structure is, of course, the Work Breakdown Structure, WBS. But let’s not ignore the utility of the:

  • Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS)
  • Product Breakdown Structure (PBS)
  • Risk Breakdown Structure (RBS)
  • Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS)

And do feel free to add others that you have used – or wish to invent!

See our videos:

Gantt Chart

Of all the project management artifacts we could list, this one is the poster child for Project Management. If you don’t know what a Gantt Chart is, you can’t call yourself a professional Project Manager. That said, there are plenty of professionals managing projects without Gantt Charts, who have no PM training. It’s important to us, but not critical for every project.

See our videos:

Network Chart (CPA, PERT)

A network chart is a generic representation of a project as a network of activities, connected together to represent the logical flow from one to the next. Two specific formats are common, deriving from:

  1. the Critical Path Method (CPM)
  2. the Project Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)

See our videos:

Quality Plan

Quality matters. So, we need to plan for how, in our project, we will:

  • define it (Quality Standards – QS)
  • design for it (Quality Design – QD)
  • assure that we deliver it (Quality Assurance – QA)
  • check that we have delivered it (Quality Control – QC)

See our video, In Praise of Quality: Why it Should Matter to You

See our article, Project Quality Management: Principles and Practices You Need to Know

Health and Safety (H&S) Plan

As important as quality is keeping your people safe. Where you are doing a project in a safety-critical context, of where there are known potential health risks, a Health and Safety Plan becomes essential. In simpler situations, you can rely on the organization’s existing health and safety plan.

See our video, How to Write a Health & Safety Plan for Your Project

Benefits Realization Plan

We do a project because we want the benefits from it. So, why would you not have a plan that describes how you will realize those benefits. If you have not taken my course on Project Benefits Management, I strongly recommend you take a look at it. Apart from my core Project Management courses, it is, by far, our best-seller.

Project Benefits Management

See our videos:

See our article,

Budget

Your project will spend someone else’s money. So, they will want to know not just what they are going to get (your project definition – see above), but also how much it’s going to cost the, A project budget is both a monitoring and control tool, and a critical part of project governance.

See our article:

See our videos:

See also Business Case, below, where we combine elements of the project definition, risk register, and budget, to create an evaluation of the viability of a project.

Test Plan

When your project has created something, how will you know if it works in the ways you intend? The answer, of course, is to test it. And, to prevent the temptation (or subconscious bias) of testing what works and declaring success, we build test plans at the outset of our project, as part of the design and planning of our project. Test plans are most common in technical projects and integrate well with the Requirements Traceability Matrix, which we looked at above.

See our video, The Software Testing Process: What is User Acceptance Testing – UAT?

Resourcing Artifacts

RACI chart, RAM, LRC

There are many variants of the simple (and powerful) idea of representing your resources (most often, people), the tasks they need to undertake, and the roles they will fulfill, on a chart. We can call it a:

  • RACI Chart (Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Inform)
  • RASCI Chart (RACI plus Supported)
  • LRC (Linear Responsibility Chart)
  • RAM (Responsibility Assignment Matrix)
  • Variant like the many Wikipedia lists under Responsibility Assignment Matrix

Whichever variant works best for your project, I rate this as one of my own very top, go-to tools.

See our videos:

Resource Histogram

How are your resource allocations balanced, according to the time each has committed? And, do any have commitments that exceed the time available? If the balance is poor, what are your options for re-balancing? Resource histograms are a great way to answer these questions.

See our videos:

See our article:

Resource Plan

At its simplest, we can see project management as the coordination of resources to get tasks done, within specified time frames. Yes, I know there is a lot else in the real world, but this should emphasize the importance of a Resource plan. After all, we consider our Work Breakdown Structure (tasks), Milestone chart (time), and Gantt Chart (tasks and time) to be fundamental. But, without resources, nothing will ever get done.

See our video:

See our articles:

Project Control Artifacts

RAID Log (4 for the price of 1)

You’ll need to track all of your risks and issues, dependencies and constraints, and assumptions. The commonly used tool is a RAID log, which covers four out of the five – I prefer DCARI, for a full house!

See our video, What are RAID, CAD, and DCARI?

Risk Analysis

Risks can be the death of a project, so you need to analyze them with care. There are several tools you can use. But, for all but the most subtle or complex projects, you are likely to need only two factors:

  • impact (how good or bad the risk could be – and in what way)
  • likelihood (how likely the risk is to happen)

See our video,

See our article, The Project Manager’s Guide to Simple Risk Analysis

Risk Register

Your risk register is your primary risk management artifact. It is both:

  1. A document of record – and so a core part of your project governance, and
  2. A management tool that allows you to plan, monitor, allocate, and control risk management activities

See our video, What to Put in Your Risk Register (Risk Log)

Communications Artifacts

Stakeholder Register

Your stakeholder register is a flexible tool that allows you to record and track whatever aspects of your stakeholders that you need to keep up with. Just like a risk register (above), you can use anything from a spreadsheet to a sophisticated and specialized database.

See our articles:

Communication Plan

Once you know who your stakeholders are and have analyzed them, it’s time to create a plan for how you are going to communicate with them throughout the project. Clearly, this plan will evolve and grow to reflect emerging issues andn situations.

See our videos:

See our articles:

Stakeholder Analysis

You need to know something about each stakeholder or stakeholder group, before you can plan an effective communications campaign. So, gather and analyze your evidence. There are so many tools and detailed project artifacts you can use, here.

See our videos:

See our article:

Commercial and Contractual Artifacts

ITT, RfP, RfQ….

If you need to procure goods or services, you may want to create a competition to ensure you get the best value. There are a huge range of jargon terms to get to grips with here, like:

  • Invitation to Tender (ITT)
  • Request for Proposal (RfP)
  • Request for Quotation (RfQ)

See our videos:

See our article:

Heads of Agreement

Before entering into a substantive and novel contract, the two parties need to document an outline of the main elements they want to include in their contract. This document summarizes the potential contract. It’s the Heads off Agreement. If the parties can agree on this, then they can justify moving on, to the more lawyer-intensive (and expensive) process of drafting the full contract.

Statement of Work

What work needs to get done? Write it out in a structured statement and you have… a Statement of Work. It typically covers:

  • work to do
  • products to deliver
  • deadlines or milestones to meet
  • and processes or procedures that you must comply with

See our video, What is a Statement of Work (SOW)?

Contract

If you buy, lease, or rent something, or need to secure ongoing services, you’ll need a contract. It is a document that spells out the rights and obligations of the different parties in a way that is legally enforceable. When the parties all sign it, the contract becomes binding. The details of what makes a contract can vary according to jurisdiction, and you should always seek legal advice before signing one. I am not qualified to give that advice (for the avoidance of doubt).

See our video, Should a Project Manager Get Involved in Contract Negotiations?

Project Delivery Artifacts

Kanban Board

Originally, a literal display board in Japanese factories, Kanban has become a go-to approach for heartbeat projects where there is a constant throughput of small to mid-sized projects and tasks. It has even become a favorite among personal productivity aficionados.

See our video, What is Kanban?

Change Request Form

In predictive projects, we still need to shift direction and make changes from time-to-time. So, to make the process manageable and accountable, we use change request forms to document each request, its reasoning, and its implications. This is one part putting control into a potentially chaotic process, and one part governance process that creates accountability and a document trail.

See our videos:

See our article:

Change Log

Keeping track of numerous change requests (above) needs a simple recording tool. This can be anything from a list in a notebook, through a spreadsheet, to a database.

See our videos:

See our article:

Monitoring and Control Artifacts

Dashboard

A dashboard is any display of a range of project data and status information that stays up-to-date by being connected to a process for regular updates. This used to be a manual process for project controllers. Now, it uses project databases as the source of data and can be coded to meet individual requirements.

RAG / Traffic Light Status

Red, Amber, Green for Brits like me, or Red, Yellow, Green for most of the rest of the world. Traffic light status indicators give a quick view of the health status of your project, a part of your project, a risk, or anything else. Usually, Red for danger, Yellow or Amber for caution, and Green for all’s well.

See our video, What is a RAG Report, or Traffic Light Status?

Burndown/Burnup chart

Burn charts – either burn up or burn down, are a way to illustrate the progress of a project. They show the planned profile of delivery of work packages or user stories, by time. And a second line shows the actual progress.

See our video, What are a Burndown Chart, a Burnup Chart, and Velocity?

Lessons Learned Log

Every project has the potential to discover new ways of working and to make mistakes. Each of these is a lesson. So, we document those lessons learned in a simple register or log.

See our video:

See our articles:

Governance Artifacts

Decision Matrix

There are lots of ways of facilitating the process of making a robust and accountable decision. But we should never rely on a tool or artifact to simply make the decision. However, if you take the time to develop the criteria, the weighting, and a scoring method, a simple decision matrix can show you what the data indicate. Then the discussion can focus on the factors that lie outside the data set, and whether they are sufficient for the decision-makers to set aside what the data tell them.

See our articles:

Business Case or Project Proposal

Whether or not a project should proceed is a matter of the balance of cost (and risk) against benefit. The document that articulates this is a business case. An alternative version is the Project Proposal, which presents the same data, but positively advocates for the project to go ahead. A business case offers comparisons of options as a tool to help decision-makers. However, both contain much the same information and analysis tools.

See our videos:

See our article:

Status Report

Your sponsor, board, and stakeholders will all want to know how things are going. And, you’ll also need to create a record of progress as part of your governance obligations to leave a clear audit trail. The solution is a project status report.

See our videos:

See our article:

Exception Report

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. When something substantial happens that demands a response, you will also need to document it. On many projects, you will use an Exception Report, rather than waiting for a status report (above)/.

See our video, What is an Exception Report? And what’s an Exception?

Project Closure Artifacts

Closure Report

Finally, your project is all but closed. You have a few things to do, and one of them is to produce a project closure report. This document can mean different things in different contexts. But, typically, it records how the project went. It may also include lessons learned – although that may also be a separate document.

See our video, Close Your Project

See our article, Project Closure: How to Miss Nothing when You Shut-down Your Project

Bonus Extra (Number 41): Project Closure Memo

When everything is done, the very last artifact is a short formal note, which states that you (the project manager) believe the project is complete and can be closed formally. When your client, sponsor, or boss approves this, that’s it: you’re done!

See our article, Project Closure: How to Miss Nothing when You Shut-down Your Project

What Project Artifacts Did I Miss?

This is just my selection of a top 40 project artifacts. What did I miss out? Share your favorites in the comments, below.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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