How to Carry Out a Thorough Post-Mortem Project Analysis

Carrying out a thorough post-mortem analysis on every project is an important step in maintaining efficiency. But a handful of strategic approaches can improve the usefulness of a post mortem and really boost your PMO’s performance. If your project management team is feeling overwhelmed, try phasing them in one at a time as you wrap up existing projects.

post mortem project analyst

Conduct the post-mortem immediately after the project finishes. Everything is fresh in the team’s mind and you’re more likely to remember crucial details about how tasks progressed. It also allows you to more quickly close out project documentation and send related materials offsite. In no case should your PMO save up post mortems and churn through them in a batch at year end. Just don’t do it!

Divide and conquer. Post mortems—particularly those that cover large, complex, or long-duration projects—can be tremendously resource intensive. It’s sometimes helpful to break the process into smaller chunks and divide responsibilities among a number of team members. Consider bringing the pieces back together during a handful of PMO-wide meetings, where each sub-group is able to present their portion of the analysis and others have the opportunity to comment, ask questions, etc.

Build time into the project schedule for the post mortem. Too often, busy PMOs dive straight into the next project. This leaves few resources available to conduct a truly useful analysis of the most recent project. Just as planning time is allocated for new projects, so should post-mortem time be set aside so the team can continually improve operations and move towards better efficiency.

Examine rush fees. It’s worth the effort to take a closer look at these costs once the project (and whatever emergency situation necessitated the fees in the first place) are behind you. If rush fees are rare, there probably isn’t a deeper systemic issue that needs to be addressed. But if you see these costs piling up repeatedly, it’s time to step back and investigate what’s triggering them. Your organization could save some serious money by implementing additional project controls or revising processes to help avoid this problem.

Look more closely at cost overruns. Were they the result of market pressures? Material or labor shortages? Scope creep? Determine if your planning process should be modified to better anticipate budget impacts, or if your team is being asked to make do with lean funding levels that simply aren’t realistic. It’s crucial that you work to prevent repeated overruns, and a post mortem analysis is a good opportunity to delve into their causes more deeply.

Fine tune your documentation. Communication distributions lists, checklists, budget templates, resource allocation worksheets, and every other piece of project documentation should be reviewed. Errors or omissions that were encountered can be fixed before they’re repeated. While this task is often included in a project’s ramp-up phase, you may do a more thorough job by focusing on documentation during post-mortem activities when time isn’t as tight.

Review external partners and vendors that participated in the project. Were there performance issues that should be noted for next time? Did contract negotiations go as planned? Documenting problems will help your team move through the vendor proposal and selection process faster during the next project, and may also be helpful in shaving off dollars (or time). If your organization uses a short list of vendors, consider if preferred suppliers should be added or removed.

Search for improvement opportunities. Rather than limiting the wrap-up analysis to ferreting went wrong and why, take the time to pursue areas that are working well but could still benefit from streamlining. It’s another step toward repeatable success.