One of the most critical phases in project management is Project Finalisation, and it is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that all activities are completed before closing the project. This stage involves several crucial activities, including checking and confirming that all work is complete, completing the project plan, finalising all documentation, obtaining project sign-off, and reviewing the project. Unfortunately, Project Finalisation is often the most neglected stage in project management. Once the Implementation phase is completed, stakeholders often experience a period of relief, followed by a desire to move on to new and challenging future projects. As a result, responsibility for wrapping up all the loose ends may be passed on to a junior member of the team, or the project may just fade away due to lack of resources or interest.
The failure to complete the Project Finalisation phase can lead to missed opportunities to learn important lessons, the inability to evaluate the success or failure of the project, and the possibility of the organisation blundering into the future. In some cases, finalisation may be due to project failure, but some of the best lessons for future improvements can be gained by evaluating failed projects.
Checklists provide the most significant tools for project finalisation. The principal deliverable from finalisation is the Project Completion report, which should cover performance against the originally approved Scope, Budget, Schedule, and Quality requirements, as well as performance against approved changes to those issues. Project Completion Reports should be a mandatory requirement on completion of each phase of the project, and on project completion. When completed, the reports need to be widely distributed to all stakeholders.
The structure and content of the reports should encompass several elements, including a summary and/or overview, contractual performance, administrative performance, performance against scope, objectives, schedule, budget, and quality, organisational aspects, project management aspects, and lessons learned.
In addition, lessons learnt need to be recorded, highlighting issues associated with risk, human resources management, contract management, communications management, and other key functions.
Project Performance Review is also a crucial part of the finalisation phase, as it helps the project team identify what went right and what went wrong during the project and gives the project manager the necessary information to prepare final feedback and reports to external stakeholders. These stakeholders include the client, consultants, and contractors. It also provides information about the performance of the core project team within the project manager's own organisation.
Structured reviews are generally acknowledged as a vital part of this phase of a project. A suggested strategy for the review is to circulate a list of questions to all project team members and key stakeholders and facilitate a meeting to formally discuss their considered responses. Some sample questions that may be asked during the review include what was the most satisfying thing about the project, what was the most frustrating thing about the project, which processes worked well, which didn't, what would you do differently next time, and did we maintain a good relationship with our stakeholders.
Ultimately, the Project Finalisation phase is essential to the success of a project, and it is crucial that it is carried out with the utmost care and attention to detail.