In this article we’ll look at the types of artifacts in project management, typical documents for each type.
There’s also a checklist of project artifacts by phase at the end, which you can use as an aide-memoire for creating your own documentation.
What is an artifact in project management?
An artifact is something you create. In project management, artifacts relate to documents, templates, outputs or a specific deliverable.
Mostly, the term refers to the project documentation you produce that defines and supports the work you are doing. In all cases, artifacts relate to the work of managing the project, not the thing you are creating as the output of the project.
For example: a project management artifact is the project closure document. The project deliverable is a new app.
Artifacts in the PMBOK Guide – Seventh Edition
Artifacts are categorized in the PMBOK® Guide – Seventh edition into 9 different types and that’s what this article is going to look at.
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (also known as the PMBOK® Guide — 7th Edition) is core reading as prep for PMI exams.
It’s also a useful overview of ways of working, and this version includes The Standard for Project Managers too.
But what if you don’t use PMI methods?
Documents are documents. Whether you subscribe to the PMI way of thinking or use another approach based on your background, skills, experience, certification or the expectations of management, I’m pretty sure that you’ll have to create project documents.
Although this list draws on PMI materials, it’s still going to be useful to you even if you use a different approach. And yes, agile project management artifacts get a mention.
What if you manage a program or PMO?
Good news! Program management artifacts are broadly the same as the ones you use on a project.
When I’ve managed a program, the artifacts I’ve created have fitted into the categories below: risk logs, plans, a vision for the program and benefits baseline and so on.
PMO artifacts will also fit into the categories below. For example, you’ll still need a strategy, you’ll have a register of all open and pipeline projects, you’ll have a plan and baselines, plus reports.
The actual documents created will be different because they’ll reflect the level of work you are doing and the overview you need from a PMO or program perspective, but the list of artifacts below will give you a good starting point for working out what you need.
The 9 types of artifacts
There are 9 types of artifacts, and every project management document or thing you create falls into one of these categories (not least because the last one is a giant bucket for everything else, as you’ll see).
Here’s the list:
- Logs and registers
- Hierarchy charts
- Visual data and information
- Agreements and contracts
- Other – a bucket category for anything else.
Let’s look at each of those in more detail. You’ll see that for each category, some of the really obvious stuff is not called out because it’s generic or obviously required for management purposes.
Industry-specific artifacts are not mentioned either, so if you work in a highly regulated field then some of the standard documents you’d expect to produce might be missing.
Also, if the artifact is the result of some other project management method or tactic, it won’t be mentioned here. For example, an estimate is the obvious output of the estimating process, so estimates aren’t mentioned again as a separate project artifact.
The authors of the Seventh Edition are keen for there to be no duplication and for the approach to be simple!
OK, let’s get to it: here’s the list of project management artifacts.
1. Strategy artifacts
The first category is documentation that relates to strategy and project initiation. This is not an exhaustive list of strategy artifacts but it will give you an idea of what falls into this category:
- Business case
- Project vision statement
- Project charter
These documents are developed at the start of project and don’t normally change. Having said that, I’ve worked on projects where they have changed, because a lot depends on how the project evolves, and you know something is always going to be different.
Still, in principle, this category relates to the high level strategy stuff on the project and isn’t something you’d need to update often once it’s done.
Note: you’ll use these artifacts for project management across all the three performance domains .
2. Logs and registers
This category relates to the various project management logs and registers we have as part of the daily management of the process. You can grab the set I use here .
Some examples of the project delivery artifacts that fall into this category that I use to manage my own projects at work include:
- Assumption log
- Actions log
- Decision log
- Risk register
- Issue log
- Change log
- Backlog (see, agile project artifacts are relevant too)
- Stakeholder register
These documents represent a set of continuously evolving documents. They will be updated throughout the project.
Is it a log or a register?
Who cares? As long as you know what you are talking about, you can use either, or both interchangeably.
The third category of project artifact relates to the different types of plans produced. That includes:
- Comms management plan
- Release plan
- Requirements management plan
- Scope management plan
- Iteration plan
- Test plan
- Quality plan
- Logistics plan.
They are developed to help you work out how to run the project and can either be all in one document or separate documents.
Typically, they are written out documents i.e. a bunch of words, but you could have visual plans if it makes sense to use diagrams to show the flow of work. I can see that being particularly relevant for things like a release plan.
4. Hierarchy charts
Next up, we have hierarchy charts. These describe the relationships between various parts of the project.
- Work breakdown structure
- Product breakdown structure
- Organizational breakdown structure
- Risk breakdown structure
- Resource breakdown structure
- Cost breakdown structure.
You might not need all of these and you might have various versions of each of them.
Basically, they show high level info that is decomposed into detailed sections. The upper levels encompass all the information covered by the lower levels.
Typically, these are progressively elaborated as you go through the project, so you can come back to them and edit/update as required.
Also, I’d add to this category that one of the most useful charts I have for my projects is the team org chart to show who is doing what and how they fit together.
We create baselines throughout the project. They represent approved versions of whatever plan they relate to. Here are some examples:
- Budget baseline
- Milestone schedule
- Scope baseline
- Performance measurement baseline.
Baselines will be created and updated as the project progresses and as major changes happen, so they need a time and date stamp.
6. Visual data and information
This is a catch-all category for anything that’s not a written document in the traditional sense. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the types of visual data you might have on your projects:
- Cycle time chart
- Flow chart
- Gantt chart
- Requirements traceability matrix
- Velocity chart
- And the simple whiteboard would fit in here too.
The point of having visual data sources is that they make it easier to understand the information. (Especially for people with short attention spans!)
You’ll typically create them after you complete some kind of data analysis to help you absorb the information – and the best case scenario is that you’ve got the tools to update them automatically instead of every dashboard being a beautiful, but manual creation.
Project management seems to involve a lot of reports, and even with improvements in artificial intelligence in project management, it’s still likely that the bulk of reports are going to need some kind of manual intervention.
Here are some of the typical reports produced on a project:
- Quality report
- Risk report
- Status report
- Formal records for particular stakeholders eg a highlight report for a sponsor or monthly reporting for the PMO.
8. Agreements and contracts
You might not have agreements and contracts on your project because it obviously depends on if you are buying anything. Having said that, you could have internal agreements with other departments: if we had staff on secondment I’d be expected to write formally to the manager releasing their staff member and create a specific agreement for that.
Here are some examples of artifacts that fall into this category:
- MOU (Memorandum of Understanding)
- Fixed price contract
- Cost reimbursable contract
- Time and materials contract
- Indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contract
- Any other type of legally-binding agreement.
Here’s a bunch of artifacts that don’t easily fit into any other category:
- Project requirements and associated documentation
- Team charter (some of the team management models in project management may suggest creating something like this e.g. you could use it during the Tuckman ladder)
- User stories
- Bid documents.
And I’m sure there are others you may have come across in the past that are useful documents for your own projects.
The principles of managing projects are the same, regardless of what artifacts you think are most relevant to your approach. They are documented in the Standard for Project Management.
Project management artifacts by phase
As you’re probably realizing by now, as the docs are created and updated throughout the life cycle, the idea of project management artifacts by phase isn’t really very accurate. You create them when they are needed and refer to and update them as necessary. It’s not like you write them in one phase and forget about them.
However, I know that it’s still helpful sometimes to have a reference checklist, so here is my own version of what phase relates to which artifact, and because my background is in predictive projects, that’s what this relates to.
Project vision statement
Comms management plan
Scope management plan
Work breakdown structure
Product breakdown structure
Organizational breakdown structure
Risk breakdown structure
Milestone schedule baseline
Performance measurement baseline
Requirements and requirements traceability matrix
Flow charts or process maps as needed
MOU, contracts and agreements (but could be earlier in the life cycle depending on the type of vendor)
|Monitoring and Control
Ad hoc stakeholder reports
|Project closure document
What are some examples of an artifact?
Some examples of project management artifacts include: the project charter, business case, dashboards, logs and registers, contracts and agreements and reports. Basically, any documentation or visual data presentation that helps the project team understand what is required and do their jobs effectively.
What is meant by mandatory artifacts?
Mandatory artifacts are those you have to have. Your PMO may define mandatory artifacts: a list of project documents that you must create for each project. However, nothing in project management it really mandatory. Another company (or even another project manager) might do something different to you.
What are the types of artifacts in project management?
There are 9 types of artifact in project management: strategic artifacts, logs and registers, plans, hierarchy charts, baselines, visual data and information, reports, agreements and contracts, and miscellaneous (for anything that doesn’t fit in those categories).
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This article first appeared at Rebel’s Guide to Project Management