International Project Management Day




Phase Signoff Process


Quick Summary
This guideline shows a team's process for getting meaningful executive signoffs at the end of key project phases, to approve transition to the next phase and expenditures.


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What this is

A short process guideline developed by a company whose product life-cycle called for team and executive signoffs at the end of project phases and at two other key project checkpoints. It suggests to project managers how they can accomplish the signoffs in a meaningful and efficient way. It also includes up front the one page "proposal" created by project managers there to simplify the phase signoff process to what is documented in the guideline, and an example signoff sheet.


Why it's useful

This company included signoffs at the end of each phase in their lifecycle as a way to help make sure:

  1. The proper work was done in each phase.
  2. The product and related documentation was at the right readiness and quality level before transition to the next phase.
  3. All functional groups were aware of the coming phase transition so they could weigh in on whether the product, documentation, etc. being transferred to them for their work in the next phase was truly ready.
  4. Executives took responsibility for approving the transition to the next phase where more money would likely be spent and perhaps their own functional resources were due to ramp up.

The earlier phase transitions marked important project go/no-go decision points that the company was serious about protecting; they had worked hard to reduce ad hoc project starts and make sure that projects got funded with enough resources and correct priorities, and the early phase transition reviews helped ensure that.

Typically the later phase transitions marked the next step up in effort, with more team members coming on board to get ready for builds or launch, for instance. The transitions also usually marked a point at which expenditures beyond labor would also increase, due to investing in more test equipment, spending for prototype fabrication, etc. Therefore these later transitions were important for a sanity check on readiness to go spend that next level of money.

Why did they need to create a special guideline? In the monthly project manager lunches, an issue with the signoff process was raised by multiple PMs. The effort to get signoffs had increased prohibitively. Executives were busy and on the road with customers a great deal, and scheduling a timely signoff meeting with the needed executives (what their original process called for) became impossible. In addition, the earlier process had called for all the phase deliverables to be made available for review, and the effect was that no one felt they had time for the process. The benefits of it in terms of sanity check, executive awareness of phase transitions (which often meant their own resources were next up on the project in the coming phase), were getting lost. So several PMs recommended a revised signoff process, and this guideline was created to explain it to all 30 project managers and functional managers. The proposal they created to suggest the signoff process change is presented first, followed by the resulting signoff process guideline.


How to use it

  1. Review the proposal and guideline for applicability to your projects. Do you do phase signoffs? If so, consider whether you have any issues with efficiency or effectiveness of the process and what ideas this company's situation might provide for improving your own. If you don't have a signoff process, consider this company's reasons for having one, and whether your projects could benefit from any of their approach.

  2. If you feel you need such a process and guideline, involve active project managers to suggest what the process should be, so that it's a meaningful exercise at the end of each phase, not a paper exercise.

  3. Document your own guideline, and review it with the executives and managers and team members who would be signing off. Adjust it for additional suggestions for effectiveness and efficiency.

  4. Publish it to those who will be involved.

  5. After using it for phase transitions, review results with the team(s) - how well did it work? Adjust if necessary.


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Related Templates
Project Progress Checklists for Sponsors and Managers
Checklists to help Project Managers and Executive Sponsors monitor progress throughout the course of a project. One section walks sponsors through critical project evaluation issues. The other is designed for use by the sponsor and PM during detailed reviews. Guideline for a Simple Signoff Process
The simple process outlined in this document confirms sponsor signoff on project phases or component projects in a program, by using efficient, focused meetings and folding into the existing lines of communication.



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