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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Project Communications Part 4 – What is an “artifact”?

Project, program, portfolio management
The term "artifact" is often misunderstood in project management

“No permanence is ours; we are a wave that flows to fit whatever form it finds” Hermann Hesse

“The search for something permanent is one of the deepest of the instincts leading men to philosophy.” Bertrand Russell

When you practice Project Management, you come across terms of art that are exceptionally useful but aren’t really emphasized by PMI®. I include Channels of Communication and the Triple Constraints in this list.

“Artifact” is another one of those helpful terms. In the PMBOK® Sixth Edition, the term is not defined in the glossary, but it is referenced in the index under “communication” and “Tailoring the Project Artifacts". On page 558 the PMBOK states “The term artifact in this context includes project management processes, inputs, tools, techniques, outputs EEFs and OPAs. The project manager and the project management team select and adapt the appropriate artifacts for use in their specific projects”.

The broader context of the statement above is that the project team needs to adjust the level of governance to the complexity of the project. A project with a proposed schedule of six months and 10 stakeholders needs a dramatically smaller Communication Management Plan than a project with a schedule of 2 years with 1000 stakeholders.

But what is an artifact?

An artifact is any document that is subject to integrated change control.

When you establish your Project Plan, you work with experts to determine how you are going to manage scope, cost, schedule, communications, risk, etc. This establishes the Project Baseline and ensures a common understanding of how the project will operate, and it is agreed to and signed by key stakeholders early in the project. This provides the project manager with the authority to manage the project and greatly reduces the risk of powerful stakeholders forcing their will on the project outside of the approved processes.

If someone wants to modify any aspect of the agreed to baseline (project governance), a change request must be submitted and approved prior to the change. The documents that are subject to this are artifacts.

Artifacts are different than project documents. My project calendar will change every day as work is completed, but my Project Schedule does not. For the schedule to change, a change request must be submitted and approved. Project documents are prescribed by artifacts but are not in themselves artifacts.

It is important that you understand the content of each component part of the Project Plan as all of them will feed into project communications. The Communications Management Plan will build upon the reporting requirements in the other portions of the plan, and itself will become an artifact when approved.

Next, I’ll discuss Communication Models


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