Any organization that is serious about completing projects to specifications, on time and within budget, makes a project report mandatory. Written by the project manager, this report explains how the project was done and why specific procedures were used. The information in the report is helpful to anyone using the project's product, and it serves as resource material for a project manager embarking on a similar project in the future.
The project manager's diary, notes from the milestone meetings, the original statement of work, the operation Gantt chart, and the task notes held in Gantt chart software become the principle sources for the information in the project report. One copy of this report goes to the project sponsor, and another is filed in the organization's archives.
The most important piece of documentation for future project planning is the project operation Gantt chart and its associated software products. Two versions should be preserved: The baseline Gantt chart that displays details of the original project plan; and the operation Gantt chart that displays the actual time and effort, task by task, used in executing the project. Anyone undertaking a similar project, or a project with similar work packages and tasks, can learn a great deal by looking at these charts.
With the advancement of project software, many software products are available to help manage project planning and execution. Many of these applications make use of a data warehouse or project repository. These applications have the ability to import and export project files and store the information from within their data files. The use of a data warehouse and project repository enables access to all project information and can aide a project manager and the project team in the creation of future projects.
The project manager must see to it that these documents are archived, along with important project elements, such as parts and assembly drawings, data dictionaries, data tables, and the results of technical analysis. An unfortunate tendency exists for project managers and team members to walk away from a completed project without capturing its basic project information and without reflecting upon what they have learned and how this can help others within their organization.
With the end in sight, the project manager should be alert to the possibility that a task team may have become so intrigued with what they are doing that they do not want to stop. It must be made clear to these people and to the accounting department that once the project has delivered on all objectives the project work has ceased, and no additional work may be charged to the project.
Two final responsibilities remain for the project manager: To distribute the project report (or a summary of it) to every team member and to convene the team to discuss "what we learned from the project." This discussion should be documented and amended to the report. All too often, what was learned in a project is lost. The review will help the team members recognize and retain the project's information, which then becomes a resource for future project planners. After the review has ended, it is time to celebrate!