You and your team start to breathe a sigh of relief as you head down the home stretch on your project. Maybe it’s been six months, maybe it’s been two years. In either case you’re bound to be relieved that it’s just about over and you’re ready to successfully transition everything to the project customer. To that end, you want to make sure that ‘done’ really does mean ‘done.’ There’s nothing more embarrassing than handing the solution off to the customer and their user base only to find that you’ve left something out or forgotten or neglected to successfully complete key tasks on the schedule that were clearly your responsibility to complete.
I have found the following list to be very helpful – and critical – things to consider when making sure the project is actually done and ready for handoff to the customer…
Deliverables. Are all the deliverables complete? Don’t laugh…when a project engagement is long, complex, and comprised of many deliverables, something could be overlooked. Or possibly the actual official signoff/acceptance of a key deliverable was overlooked. Either way, this is your chance to make sure everything is delivered and signed off. You don’t want the customer coming back to you for something after the fact – it can be very embarrassing. Make sure all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. It’s not a bad idea to list out all the deliverables in one email and send it off to your project customer along with dates of when each was completed, delivered, and signed off. It’s just one more way to protect yourself and show that everything is complete.
Issues. Have you ever had that never-ending list of issues you and your team are running through as you try to get a project out the door? It can be a painful experience as you try to get those resolved and signed off. Sometimes you just have to deploy with minor issues still outstanding. The key is to get signoff or agreement from the project customer that the solution is acceptable as is – and if issues remain it’s best to document those and get customer signoff on those as well. You can never have too many customer signoffs….
Invoices. As you near the end of the project, it’s a good time to check with accounting to make sure that all outstanding invoices have been paid or are within their normal payment time periods. Outstanding invoices can be a sign of trouble with the customer. If invoices are left unpaid, now is the time to take it up with the customer. It may be an oversight that can be resolved quickly, but if it’s a bigger issue with the customer you don’t want that lingering past deployment.
Lessons learned. Too often this critical step is overlooked. Take advantage of it if you can – it’s a great way to learn from your customer what they perceived to have gone well on the project and to also learn what caused them concerns. Your take away lessons for future projects will be invaluable. And knowing you can work to avoid the same mistakes in the future – things you may not have even realized were issues with the customer – can definitely increase your confidence level as a project manager.
Final acceptance. Finally, getting that final official project acceptance from the customer in the form of a formal signoff is important. It’s much like getting requirements signed off and agreed to by the customer – it draws a line in the sand and says “at this point we were all in agreement.” I’m not saying issues will arise after deployment, but if they do having this acceptance in place can definitely work to your advantage.
Call for input
The completion of the project is a huge milestone and usually a big sigh of relief goes out from everyone involved. But it can also be a time of high stress and things can be overlooked that may come back to haunt you or prevent some critical final payment or overall project acceptance.
What processes do you go through to ensure everything is done? Do you use a formal checklist? A final meeting with the project customer to run through everything on the project schedule to ensure all is complete? What horror stories can you share? Successes?