In IT project management, the moment right before you cross the goal line can be the most perilous one. The final outcome of the project is of paramount importance to your organization; the time and effort invested into the project will be forgotten if you falter in the final yard. As you approach the end of a project, you must be even more conscientious about the plans in motion.
Identifying Your Success Conditions
Before you head toward that goal line, you need a punch list that governs all the necessary requirements for your project's finish. You need to make sure your project has met all the required conditions for success before you can move forward, and you need to organize everything that still remains on the project to be completed. Identifying your success conditions is not something to take lightly; too often the temptation is to rush to the end of the project so that it can be catalogued as “complete” and work on the next project can begin. Take more time as you near the end of a project than the beginning and you'll avoid having to go back to correct things later on.
The Importance of the Final Push
The most critical part of any project is the finish. From outside, no one knows how much effort and time was put into the project itself; all they know is what deliverable you produce at the end. If you can't finish the project correctly, all of the resources you poured into the project will have been essentially lost. Your team won’t get the credit they deserve, regardless of effort, because the final product isn’t to standard or the bugs outweigh the successes. It can be difficult to recover from the reputation damage of a poorly completed project. Moreover, running damage control is always significantly more costly than simply completing the project right the first time. The last thing you want following the final stretch of an involved project is to have to go back to the drawing board and to revisit each step to uncover where things went awry.
Preparing Yourself for Project Completion
You should have a project punch list in hand once the project is 80% complete– it's that last 20% that will be critical. A punch list is generally too lengthy and involved to be used throughout the duration of a project, but it becomes an essential tool toward the end. A punch list gives you specific, actionable conditions that have to be met before the project is considered to be complete. It consolidates the knowledge of everyone involved in the project, ensuring there is one single set of success conditions everyone involved is looking for. Without a punch list, you could find that while the project has met your conditions for success, it doesn’t meet your customer’s conditions.
Knowing Where to Set the Finish
A punch list not only sets you up to cross the finish line, it also tells you exactly where the finish line is. A punch list doesn't just outline success conditions, it also creates them. A finish line has to be well-defined if you are to ensure your project meets all required standards. Otherwise you could find yourself working at odds with the project's owners, or even your own team.
At the end of your project, you have already expended a significant amount of effort and resources into the final deliverable, but that doesn't mean you can relax. The end of your project requires the most control and clarity. After all, how many races have been lost on the very last lap? By using a punch list and remaining conscientious and vigilant, you can ensure your project ends as successfully as it began.