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Project Management: Entering the Final Phase

~ By Kenneth Darter

Close up of businessman opening bottle of champagne with 2015 on the cork

The end's in sight. The project you and your team have been tackling is getting ready to wrap up. You're preparing to enter the final phase. But before you put that bottle of celebratory champagne on ice, make sure you're entering the final phase with the right mindset and approach.

The final phase of a project involves finishing the execution and closing down the project. In some ways, this is the most difficult part of a project.

The team needs to hand over the completed work and implement it into the ongoing operations of the organisation. In addition, the project manager needs to engage in closing out the project processes and closing the project schedule. This involves ensuring all tasks are complete and documenting what took place during the project—including lessons learned.

You should plan for and celebrate this final phase so that the project finishes well instead of just winding down and tapering off. How? Ensure you take the following four steps:

Leadership in Place

One item to be clear about when a project approaches the final phase is to determine whether the leadership is in place to take over upon project completion. If the project is to update a system or part of existing operations, then the leadership should already be there. But if the project is creating something new, then the leadership team may need to be hired and trained on operational functions.

In either case, the project manager should work to document the project and the processes. This ensures the leadership can move forward without any stumbling blocks. The agreements to support operations after the project must also be in place.

Ongoing Operational Processes

Throughout the project, consider the ongoing operational processes. Building a great new system for the company to use without taking into account how it will use the system is not going to benefit the organisation in any way.

The team designing and executing the project tasks should be working closely with the business team that aligns to the project team—for the entire project. This way, the project team can use the input and information from the business team to create a truly useful solution.

As components and systems are designed or upgraded, have a resource who can capture what's going on and create or update documentation for the operational processes. These will help the people who will eventually use what the project team produces.

Training the Teams

Whether you're creating a brand new computer system for your client or simply updating manual processes they already use, you'll need to train the people who will use the end result. You should be considering training and change management from the beginning of the project, building it into the schedule.

Ideally, there will be a transition plan that shows how the organisation will move from the original business process to the new and improved business model. To this end, there must be resources and time allowed for training the operational team.

Letting It All Go

The last step of the final phase is letting it all go. At some point, the project must end. The project team will either transition to the operational phase or move on to another project. Regardless of how that transition works, the team needs to be able to let go of the project and move on.

The project manager and operational leads should work to create a solid transition plan, ensuring the correct leadership is in place, and also work to ease the transition. This approach is far preferable to creating an arbitrary line between the project and operational phases.

And when that transition is successful, it's time to celebrate – after all, you and your team have earned it.

What about our readers? How do you tackle the final phase of your projects before cracking open the celebratory champagne? Let me know in the comments!


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