Projects can seem to be so much about getting things done and achieving the project aims, that often coming to a satisfactory conclusion and properly closing a project can be overlooked. There is nothing worse than coming to the end of a project and feeling a bit deflated because there was no official hand over. It can seem like you and the client have just drifted apart, and that there was no formal close or handshake to mark the success of your efforts.
Building in a decent follow up and exit strategy is as much a part of the project manager’s role as the initial planning and execution is. By having a structured follow up and close, you will be able to ensure your clients’ needs were satisfactorily met, and that they are in agreement that the project was a success and should close. This can also be a great time to secure some ongoing or additional work for your team, as through the course of your project you may have found further issues to be resolved or actions you would recommend they undertake.
Questions about follow up
To establish a workable follow up procedure, you need to ask yourself:
- How long will it last
- What will it involve
- What resources do I have to correct any errors discovered
- Who will be responsible for working out any bugs found
- Who, on the clients side, will be responsible for working with us
- Who will pay for the resources to make corrections and changes
- When will the official handover and close take place
- What additional services are we able to offer
Depending on the type of organisation you are working for, some of the issues discovered in the follow up phase will be beyond your remit. For example, an IT installation company may project manage the switch over to a new computer system for an organisation, but ongoing and in-depth support many be outside of their remit. In this situation, it is advisable to have other organisations in the background who you can hand over the client to for ongoing support and assistance.
It is important to define, both to yourself and your client, where your involvement ends. Whilst it is crucial to ensure project deliverables were effectively carried out with no issues or bugs, it is not wise to get into other issues that really should be addressed as a separate project.
Activities in the follow up process
Your follow up should include:
- A written report on the deliverables, including budgeting statement and any recommendations that have arisen as a result of your activities
- Handover to either the client themselves or the organisation that will be supporting them from here on, including any relevant documentation or reports
- Consolidation of any outstanding actions, requests or questions
- Offers of support with change management, training or orientation, if this is part of your remit
- Formal agreement between the project leader and the client that the project has finished
- Dissolution of your project team