Have you planned for the end of the year?

Project plan for end of yearAt the time of writing this post, on this coming Friday there are only 53 days to Christmas. However, more importantly it means that there is only 40 business days to Christmas. Pause and take a moment; that means that there is only 40 business days to complete important project activities for the remainder of the year. All good PMO’s and project managers should plan and be prepared, so now is a good point to think about the end of year PMO / project check list.

Important Considerations

You don’t have 40 business days left in respect of many project activities. For example end of year processes, annual account close, holidays, etc. These will need to be completed earlier. So planning what you need to finish is important.

Change Freeze

Most organizations usually impose an end of year change freeze. The reason is that many organizations have to close their accounts by 31st December. The change freeze is to protect the organization from changes that may cause issues in finalizing the accounts.

Action: Ensure you know the date for the change freeze and duration. Assess any deliverables that a due close to the date and review to understand the confidence the date will be met. I there is a risk it will not meet the date but must be implemented, make sure you know what (if any) contingency there is to raise a “freeze buster” (where you get dispensation to implement during the freeze). Have conversations with the stakeholders, change freeze coordinator so that they are aware you may have an exception and why it needs to be implemented. This is important as the first response will be “No”. This is a good challenge to ensure that you really need to implement as opposed to waiting for January.

Holidays

Many change professionals and senior management like to take an extended holiday over the Christmas period. The reason is that much of the project activity tends to stop due to so many people being on holiday. It also tends to be a quiet time due to many of an organizations customers being on holiday. I actually think this is good as it allows the project teams to take an extended break, spend valuable time with family and friends and recharge the batteries. Meaning that teams return in January fresh.

What this means is that many of the people you need to complete actions, provide sign-off, etc will not be in the office. This could mean that items cannot be completed. Think about the risk that a system needs to be implemented before the change freeze but the accountable executive in on holiday until January. You will not be able to get the sign-off to implement. Will the sponsor be happy?

Action: Map out the holidays of key resources, stakeholders, etc. Ensure you know what sign-off’s you will need and ensure that the resource will be in the office (if not get them to delegate authority). Make sure that your team knows what needs to be completed before they leave on holiday. If cover is needed, over the break, make sure there is an agreed schedule (and / or resources have provided contact details and agreed to be on standby).

Admin

There can be certain forms that must be completed and submitted before the end of the year. Make sure that you have completed all your required admin tasks. While some may be trivial compared to the delivery of the project, some organizations can take a hard line on not completing the appropriate paperwork. Don’t let your hard work become tarnished – make the time to complete all your paperwork.

Action: Make sure you are clear what items need to be completed. Start work early to complete the documents, online submissions, etc. The last thing you want is to find that you cannot access an online admin system and / or have the forms you need on December 24th and everyone has left for the break.

Training

Many organizations are now delivering mandatory training online (i.e. intranet based courses). Given the increased regulatory focus in many industries, an organization must ensure that their staff have been trained. In order to ensure compliance, organizations can be very strict on non-completion of training by set. So again, don’t let your hard work go to waste by not completing all the assigned training.

Action: Check your training schedule to see what courses have been allocated and what is outstanding. Again complete early so as to avoid running into technical issues when everyone has left for the holidays.

Summary

Like with everything in the project world, planning is key. Take time to consider the above now so as to avoid running out of time at the end of the year. That way you will be able to deliver all that is expected, go into your holiday happy knowing all critical items have been addressed. Then you will be ready for the challenges next year.