Saturday 24 April 2021

The completion of the project phase is an occasion


What did you think when you read the title of the article? So we're talking about the same thing. Champagne, bonuses, pizza or just a cup of fragrant coffee with a sponge cake - this is cool, these are those positive emotions that tend to accumulate and store the consciousness of every healthy person. But there is another side of such an event that should not be missed, so as not to deprive yourself of another portion of pleasures at the end of the next phase. This side in the project and program management world is called Phase Gate.

Good project management practitioners advise that after reaching a significant milestone or completing a phase, take a short pause to look around. At this time, the project team must ensure that the previous work was completed successfully and that the project participants are ready to begin the next phase. Sometimes the criteria for such consideration are called entry and exit criteria, and their consideration is called the "gate" of the project phase or even Kill Point. These and similar terms emphasize the need to check the status of the project at a checkpoint and make a decision: continue the project, continue the project in a modified form or completely stop it due to futility.

In practice, a phase gate review and a decision to proceed with the next phase of a project usually takes the form of a meeting involving the project manager, sponsor, and key stakeholders. The agenda of such a meeting may include the following issues:


Retrospective of the project

  1. Approval of the main results of the delivery (products) of the project. You must ensure that all products and services produced by the project that require acceptance or approval are actually accepted or approved. If necessary, such approval can be recorded directly at this meeting. If some results cannot be approved, the project may not be ready for the beginning of the next phase.
  2. Implementation of the budget and schedule. You should consider how the project has so far performed relative to the planned schedule and budget. Understanding the current situation will help to make an informed decision on the proofreading of subsequent plans.
  3. Status of urgent project issues. You must make sure that all significant urgent issues and problems have already been resolved or measures to solve them have been planned and are already being implemented. Otherwise, using the participation of Sponsor, you must try to obtain missing solutions. Project risk status. At this meeting, it is time to monitor the state of risks. You must ensure that all significant risks are reliably managed or adjust planned response activities. In addition, you should look around to see if new risks have emerged by the end of the project phase.


Perspective of the project


Confirmation of grades. 


You should re-evaluate the rest of the work to see if your project has enough previously approved funding to successfully achieve its planned goals. Similarly, it is necessary to consider the timing of the project. If the need arises, Sponsor's participation will help you resolve corrective action issues.

Confirmation of feasibility (business) justification. 


During this period, it is necessary to make sure that the initial feasibility study or business case of the project is still relevant. It is possible that after the first phases are completed, in the event of an increase in cost estimates or the duration of the project, its validity will have to be revised. The need for this may also be caused by changes in the organization itself, in its business or in the environment. As a result, it may even turn out that the continuation of the project will lose further meaning for the organization or the client. That is why, the gate of the project phase provides a good opportunity to save money and time by stopping in a timely manner a project that has lost value for its main participants.


Confirm that resources are available. 


In many projects, the requirements for the necessary resources (for example, profession, qualifications, technical characteristics, etc.) can vary from phase to phase. At this meeting, you have the opportunity to reassure that the resources you need to continue and complete your project are still available.


Confirmation of project sponsorship. 


It is possible that the interest and willingness to assume obligations from the sponsor of your project will fade over time. It is also possible that the sponsor of the project will simply change. Use this meeting to confirm the priority of your project to the sponsor. If the sponsor is not interested in the project, then it is necessary to either terminate the project or look for which of the interested senior management can become its new sponsor.

Obtaining formal consent to continue. 


Such consent comes from the sponsor and means that all work performed so far is accepted and the team can focus on the work to achieve the next milestone. If you have confirmed that everything planned has already been completed and meets expectations, as well as made sure yourself and showed the sponsor that you are ready to continue the project, there should be no difficulties in obtaining formal approval. In other words, the "gates" of the phases will be open for your project, and it will be able to pass them.

If the project does not deviate from the schedule and budget, and even provides the necessary level of quality of results, then, most likely, the meeting to consider the phase gate will go smoothly. At the same time, there are many scenarios in which a meeting can end with tough decisions as to how and under what conditions the project should continue. Some of them are listed below:

The project promises to exceed the approved budget.

 The sponsor and other participants from senior management will have to decide whether to continue the project in its previous form, increasing funding, or reduce the content of the project in order to meet the budget. It is possible that such a decision falls within the competence of the sponsor himself. It is also possible that he will have to apply for a funding decision from a higher management body or the Project Coordination Board. If budget overruns are small and well predicted, then such a decision is likely to be obtained. If we are talking about significant and not fully defined amounts, this may require a revision of the feasibility study of the project. Under certain conditions, the project may not be profitable for the organization or the client. If the expected benefits of the project are not worth the estimated costs, then the project is likely to be terminated, no matter how cruel the decision may seem.

In this case, such a solution may be the most appropriate for business. Money spent at the moment will be treated as lost. The question will be as follows. Would it be better to spend the rest of the funds needed to complete this project on this project, or would they be better spent on the next priority project with a better return on investment (ROI)?

The project promises to exceed the approved deadlines. 


Some projects, while not exceeding the budget, tend to violate approved time limits or simply run more slowly than was seen at the beginning. Often, this situation is also complicated by the fact that the resources involved in the project will not be able to free up in time for the start of the next projects. This is the case where the sequence of projects in an organization is determined not by funding opportunities, but by the availability and accessibility of resources. In such a situation, the consequences for the project may also be similar to those outlined above.

The project is being delayed due to changes in content. 


In many cases, projects exceed the budget and deadlines due to changes in previously agreed content. The impact on the organization will remain the same as if the budget is exceeded due to problems. If your project is delayed due to the receipt of new requests for changes, then another project planned after the completion of your project may be delayed at the start due to the lack of available resources. If a substantial increase in funding is also required, the feasibility study may need to be revised. In all such cases, there is a possibility that your project will be reduced in volume or completely stopped.

Major milestones and the issues considered when they are reached tend to be similar from phase to phase and even from project to project. Therefore, such questions are good candidates for the Project Management Office's checklists. Any such summarizing is a quality assurance effort, as it focuses more on the processes being performed than on reviewing the specific products of the project. All products corresponding to a phase or milestone should have already been reviewed and accepted earlier.


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