One of the things we found is a progressive structure works best for our project artifacts. We want to dose outputs at the lowest level possible to encourage reviewers to spend time reviewing critical milestones and minimize the risk that we're putting work in on something that doesn't matter.
You can see the worksheets we developed for this process here. The worksheets are in Appendix E (Self-paced e-learning). Essentially, we want to document the pre-work rationale while capturing both the business goals and the anticipated performance outcomes right up front.
Our process tends to follow this sequence.
We find that leading with A) assumptions of objectives or B) content tends to skip really important steps in the process. Each worksheet and deliverable builds on a previous increment. So if something goes squirrelly or sideways down stream we can transcend up a level and revalidate approvals in an earlier iteration. As design artifacts tend to get more complex as the project forges on, it's pretty important for us to define the early artifacts in a clean and simple structure. These form the basis (and the big questions / problems) for all of the design work that follows.
This approach works for our scales in most cases (which often includes very large solution sets with many stakeholders) but YMMV. We also have a pretty rigorous up front process for defining performance outcomes and solution methods. So this could make a pretty big difference in success or failure of this application. In the end, we're looking to provide solid alignment between expectations of real work application and a reasonable solution that helps us reach that end game with the least resources and most respect for the person at the end of the line.
We will tend to keep each of the deliverables in a separate document (MS Word) and any data (surveys, user testing) or other calculated artifact in MS Excel (which works really well for the purpose of sorting and filtering records in a portable way). We don't have access to Google spreadsheets here or we'd use that for submission of feedback reports.
The first slide graphic above came from a presentation I gave last fall.