Establishing objectives of a project is an activity that takes place during the planning process to determine what the project is supposed to accomplish when ended. Without a clear and comprehensible definition of objectives it is impossible to plan for the end result, that is deliverables.
In the following article we tried to explain what objectives mean and how to distinguish the terms “goal” and “objective” as well as the terms “deliverable” and “objective”. This article is included in the Implementation Guide.
What are Objectives?
When we talk about objectives of some endeavor, we usually mean the business benefits expected by a performing organization for complete realization. The term “project objectives” also covers results to be produced at the successful completion. Below I give a common definition of the term.
Objectives of a Project refer to descriptions of expectations to be satisfied at successful completion of the project or its certain stage or activity, within a certain period of time and at certain cost. Objectives state what the project will accomplish in terms of the business value to be achieved. They serve as a basic tool to underlay all planning and strategic activities as well as to quantify a level of performance.
I must say that sometimes people are confused with the terms “goal” and “objective”. Somebody may think that both terms have the same meaning. But they don’t. While a project goal means a high-level statement describing an expected output, a project objective is a low-level statement specifying specific and tangible results. Goals provide a general description of what to be achieved while objectives give a more detailed explanation of project results.
Objectives have a range of characteristics that determine their feasibility and appropriateness. A good objective for a project is always characterized by the following:
These are the major characteristics of a good objective. If you want your endeavor to be successful you have to establish objectives having the listed characteristics.
Objectives vs. Deliverables
In my management practice I often met people who did not realize why they needed to distinguish both terms. They said something like this, “I set the objective for my project so I know what deliverable I will get. There’s no need to make a difference between the ones”. Perhaps those people were right because I know for sure some of their projects were successful indeed.
However, I believe a good project manager always understands the full theory of effective project management so he or she realizes the difference between an objective and a deliverable. I would like you to follow this concept as well. So here’s how I distinguish the terms.
While a deliverable is a tangible and measurable output, an objective is a description of that output. In other words, a project produces a deliverable that has been defined early by an appropriate objective. For example, you run a marketing campaign so this is your project. One of your deliverables may be a 10% increase in sales of your company. Then the objective linked to this deliverable is to improve sales.
Objectives describe what a project must accomplish (e.g.: install a system) while deliverables determine the end product of the project (a description of products and services to be delivered by the system after successful installation). Objectives always come first. You can’t determine a deliverable without having specified a related objective.