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Project Termination: The Day the Project Died

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 9/30/2009

It is a fact that most project management professionals are not aware that project termination procedures are critically important for successful as well as failed or prematurely abandoned projects.

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    Every project has to officially end sometime. Project termination need not necessarily mean project failure or premature abandonment. A project may be terminated for a variety of reasons, including successful completion of the endeavor. We'll take a closer look at what some of these reasons are and how to know when to terminate a project.

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    Reasons for Project Termination

    Here are a few reasons why a project gets terminated before the natural closing date:Project Termination: How to Terminate a Project 

    • Project is completed ahead of schedule and handed over to the sponsors/users.
    • Premature abandonment due to technical grounds that impede achievement of core goals.
    • It is suddenly found that another group publishes results in same core area of interest.
    • The principal investigator or an equivant person suddenly quits and the project cannot continue as planned and the project has to terminated, as putting on hold will be counter-productive.
    • Unanticipated loss of human, funding and other valuable resources.
    • A variety of insurmountable problems may force termination of the project.
    • An interim review suggests the project will not help achieve the desired objectives.

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    Person Responsible for Termination Decision

    It is the principal investigator (PI) who is entrusted with the task of conducting periodic reviews of the project and is responsible for closely monitoring the project progress throughout the project life cycle. Thus, the exact closing date for a project has to be decided by the principal investigator after consulting the co-principal investigators and subprogram leader.

    The principal investigator will be aware that for all projects, final technical and financial reports will have to be prepared and presented. It is therefore only to be expected that the the principal investigator will work closely with the subprogram leader to handle necessary project termination work. It is believed that under certain extraordinary circumstances, the subprogram leader may seek a time extension for completing the project, provided no additional funds are demanded.

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    The Project Termination Procedures

    As projects near completion or a decision is taken to prematurely abandon a project, there is a compelling urgency to stop all further funding also transferring the work force for other productive deployment. As a matter of fact, project termination activities must form part of the original project plan and not hurriedly be undertaken as an afterthought.

    It is critical that final reports are properly written without ambiguity and an effective transfer of raw materials to other programs takes place on time. Professionals estimate that sometimes project termination work, involving administrative reporting and final cost summary, may well extend to a couple of months after project completion. Project termination work is important for all projects, including failed projects where there will also be wrap-up activities to make the most of what has already been done in the project.

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    Conclusion

    It is a fact that, particularly in an era of rapid technological advancements, a lot of software projects, though properly started and well managed, are getting terminated before completion because the original assumptions have changed. However, premature termination or midway abandonment of projects can, in many cases, be avoided if risky and ill-conceived projects are not started in the first place.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons