Your team can celebrate: the project on which they’ve been working for weeks is finally complete. You breathe a sigh of relief, clink glasses and ready yourselves for the next challenge ahead.
But not so fast! What about the project review? The closing phase is just as important as the other steps in project management. A proper post-project report could be instrumental in the success of future projects.
Why should you take the project review seriously? How to write one? Follow our step-by-step guide and use our free project review template to make the best out of the closing phase.
Why write a project review?
Though it might be tempting to follow your creative instinct and kickstart a new project as soon as the previous idea has come to life, doing so without writing a thorough project review first is highly discouraged.
This good practice has many benefits. It allows you to:
- Give credibility to the project,
- Know whether your goals have been met,
- Draw insight and gain experience,
- Consider making improvements,
- Keep a record of what was done and how the execution unfolded,
- Enrich your and your company’s knowledge...
👉 The main objective of writing a project review is to build on your experience to ensure future projects go smoothly, are conducted more efficiently, and more.
How to write a project review?
1. Reminder of project objectives
This short part of the project review outlines the main elements and context of the project. Anyone, whether they’re familiar with the project or not, should be able to get the gist of it in a few sentences.
This paragraph could include:
- The main goal of the project,
- Its scope,
- The client,
- The project manager,
- The duration of the project…
As businesses and projects come in various forms, you alone are the most qualified to know what information to include and which elements would be relevant to include. Explaining each one in detail isn’t necessary, as the goal is to give a rough but comprehensive view of the project.
2. Gap analysis
This section should provide a quick way to understand the success or failure of the project regarding different criteria (budget, delays, quality…). In other words, it describes the planned outcomes (as outlined in the project plan) compared to the actual deliverables.
The goal is to assess whether objectives have been:
👉 These measures should also include an analysis to explain why objectives have or haven't been reached. You can see for yourself an example of how it could look like in the table below.
|Duration||135 days||152 days||-12%||Objective not reached.
Writing the code took longer than expected due to a team member falling ill.
Stayed within budget thanks to an accurate estimate based on a similar project conducted a few months ago.
3. Risk management analysis
You’ve probably done a risk analysis during the previous steps of the project, in particular when conducting the feasibility study. In the post-project report, you should:
- Review the anticipated risks to know whether they really happened and were mitigated successfully,
- Assess their impact on the development of the project,
- Add the unforeseen risks that arose during the execution phase.
These risks can be summed up in a table as presented below:
(1 to 5)
(1 to 5)
|Falling behind schedule (on a specific task)|
4. Technical review
The technical review consists of an analysis of the technical choices that have been made. It should determine whether the technical solutions implemented were the best fit to meet the needs expressed in the project charter.
For each decision:
- If it has allowed you to reach the objective, explain why and explore options to establish a best practice,
- If it has had a negative impact down the road, try to understand how and why, and list other options that could have been implemented to achieve the expected results.
💡 In short, keep what worked and try to improve what didn’t. This experience will help you make even better technical decisions in the future.
5. Operational review
Operational decisions should be reviewed just as thoroughly as technical choices. This way, you can finish the project knowing whether your organizational processes are optimal, or if they should be changed to some extent.
Your review should include:
- The organization of the project, with the different roles and responsibilities (you could use the WBS),
- The project management methodologies used for the project (agile, waterfall…),
- The project governance structure and the tools used to pilot the project team,
- Key documents...
6. Client satisfaction
Whether the project is internal or external, measuring the satisfaction of the client is essential to ensure the project deliverables were successful in meeting their needs. It also gives precious feedback that can be used to take action and improve your future projects.
There are many ways to collect this information. You could:
- Invite them to write their general impressions in a few sentences,
- Send out a detailed questionnaire for more comprehensive answers,
- Ask a few open-ended questions…
These questions may include:
- Does the project meet your needs?
- Have results been delivered on time?
- Did the execution of the project run smoothly?
- Was communication with the project team clear enough?
- In what ways could we improve to do better next time?
- Would you consider this project team again for a future project?
7. Lessons learned
This section should be as synthetic as possible and aims at summarizing the lessons learned from the successes and failures of the project.
It brushes up on all the previous sections (risk analysis, technical and operational reviews), but also on the most important elements of the project.
The table below could serve as an example, but feel free to add any other relevant information.
8. Executive summary
The project manager then writes a short conclusion to sum up the main takeaways from the report. This paragraph should be a quick way of knowing:
- Whether the project deliverables were delivered,
- Whether the objectives were met on time, within budget and in compliance with the client needs and quality requirements,
- The main areas of improvement that should be addressed during future projects.
Free project review template
Download our free project review template to help you record the lessons learned from your project. You’ll find all the sections discussed in this guide:
- Reminder of project objectives,
- Gap analysis,
- Risk management analysis,
- Technical review,
- Operational review,
- Client satisfaction,
- Lessons learned,
- Executive summary.
All that’s left to do is customise the post-project review template according to the specifications of your projects.
The project review: a collaborative report
Though filling out the project review template is part of the role of the project manager, it is the result of a team effort. Collecting and summarising the feedback of all people involved with the project, or at least the most important stakeholders, make the report much more enriching and valuable.
You could plan a meeting to spend some time discussing the outcome of the project with all the relevant parties. Everyone would then get a chance to describe success, a failure or a possible improvement for more effective projects.
Do you already have a good habit of writing project reviews? Has the insight gathered from this exercise helped you track progress, save resources and get better in subsequent projects? Feel free to share your experience below!