Verifications with the client and project approval documents

project approval

The approval by the client describes the acceptance by the client or the contractor of the result obtained at the end of a project.

It denotes the successful delivery of the product – goods or services – which meets the requirements established at the beginning of the project.

The delivery of the agreed goods or services immediately after production is exactly what the customer expects. A delivery that completes the order according to the requirements agreed at the time of the contract.

Verification and approval as milestones of a project

The approval is therefore a fundamental milestone in the project. The approval means the verification of the product, where the client determines if the contractor has delivered an asset that satisfies the agreed goals or not.

Without the verification, and consequently the approval, a project is not completed correctly. This applies even if it has been completed within the time frame and / or the set budget.

By accepting the deliverables of the project, the client acknowledges that the product or service delivered is complete, which means that it can be used for the intended purpose.

However, verification and final approval are not the only tests that can occur in the project. In the context of project management, several other situations where approval is requested can also occur, such as approving the project plan or adjusting the scope.

In this case, the approval means keeping all the stakeholders updated on the status of the project and then moving on to the next phases of the project.

What are the criteria for verification and acceptance by the client?

Verification criteria are criteria that include performance requirements and essential conditions that must necessarily be met before project deliverables are accepted.

They set specific circumstances under which the client will accept the final output of the project.

They must be measurable criteria through which it is possible to demonstrate that the project has been successfully completed.

The fundamental elements of the verification by the client

The goal of the PM is to ensure that at the end of the project, the client verifies and positively accepts the deliverables produced.

It is obvious that for this to happen, the project manager must immediately work on some elements of verification that will later become fundamental. Let’s see them together

 1. Set the customer’s expectation level

The success or failure of projects depends on whether the final product meets the acceptance criteria of clients.

Having a clearly defined set of verification criteria, the project manager with his team is able to set the client’s expectation level and lay the groundwork for the completed product.

Inaccurate or missing verification and acceptance criteria can lead to low levels of client satisfaction, missed delivery dates and / or development costs being exceeded.

2. Work on the verification criteria to make them relevant, measurable, and tangible

Acceptance criteria are generally used for projects where the customer pays the final results or the completion of the project phases.

For this reason, the project manager should make sure that the acceptance criteria are relevant, measurable, and tangible for each deliverable.

It can happen that the client refuses to sign the results for two legitimate reasons:

  • The project results do not meet the needs,
  • The project manager and the team have no clarity on the needs of the clients.

Working towards a well defined set of verification and acceptance criteria before starting to work on the final results, protects the project manager and the project team, together with the organization in general.

Since the project client is responsible fort he approval of the final product, he is also responsible for approving the verification and acceptance criteria.

If the acceptance criteria are met, there should be no reasons why the client should not approve and accept the final product.

Main challenges and best practices for writing verification criteria

The verification and acceptance criteria seem very easy to write. Nevertheless, their drafting and formalization represents a challenge for many project managers.

Let’s take a closer look at the best practices that help avoid common mistakes when writing project verification criteria.

Document verification criteria before product development 

The verification and acceptance criteria must be documented before the project – ie. the actual development of the output – starts. In this way, the project manager will be able to capture all the needs of the client in advance. The criteria must then be agreed and accepted by both parties and used to plan the process inherent to the project.

Do not make the verification and acceptance criteria too specific

The verification and acceptance criteria should not be too specific and give little or no maneuvering options. In order to avoid this, it is necessary that the verification criteria transmit the intent and goal sought, not exactly the final solution.

Keep the criteria achievable

This point intersects closely with the previous one. The effective verification and acceptance criteria define the reasonable minimum of functionality that the client is inclined to accept. In the event that all the smallest details are described, there is a risk that the project team remains blocked in order to focus on hundreds of small tasks, sometimes not strictly necessary for the success of the project.

Keep the criteria measurable and not too wide

This is exactly the opposite error compared to the previous points. Too broad criteria make the client’s requests vague. They must outline the purpose of the work so that the project manager and the team can plan and estimate their effort correctly.

Avoid technical details

As mentioned, the verification and acceptance criteria must be written in a simple way. This will make them clear and easy for everyone to understand since not everyone could have a technical or specialized background on the subject.

Achieving consensus

It is necessary for the project manager to make sure that he has communicated the verification and acceptance criteria to the interested parties and that he has reached a mutual agreement. The same applies to team members who will have to work directly on producing the output. All stakeholders must confirm that they understand and agree with each formalized criterion.
the project approval

Some examples of verification criteria by the client

The verification and acceptance criteria are conditions that are used to determine whether the work has been completed according to the requirements initially established.

In particular, the acceptance criteria are designed so as not to be ambiguous.

The following are examples of possible verification and acceptance criteria used by the client:

  • Behavior of a system or an instrument that can be tested with use.
  • Specifications of the phases of a process including automated steps and human activities. For example, “When the customer sends an application, an activity is created in the sales system”.
  • Specification for a calculation that can include business rules, algorithms, and formulas.
  • Aspects of a product that make it pleasant to use.
  • Implementation expectations that allow architects, designers, engineers and experts to be flexible in their work.
  • Performance requirements such as “the system will have a page load time of less than 3 seconds when 500 users are online simultaneously”.
  • Definitions of internal controls.
  • Operational requirements such as “the platform will integrate with another”.
  • Quality expectations.
  • Constraints on materials, such as “all ingredients will have an organic certification”.

Why is an approval documentation essential

 The approval documentation is essential for any project in order to keep a record of what has been agreed.

Without this documentation to accompany the life cycle of a project, the project manager , the team, and the client can find themselves having different ideas about the concept, the form of the final results and even the delivery timing.

Even for project managers who hate paperwork, this documentation is a sort of “blessing”, because it serves as a simple reminder of the expectations of both the parties, clients and project team.

Anyone with a question about the different phases of the project can refer to the approval documentation to see what actions need to be taken based on the approved requirements.

The 3 advantages of the acceptance documentation are:

  • Managing the expectations between the client and the project team.
  • Leaving room for additions or modifications while maintaining clear communication.
  • Maintaining maximum responsibility for each phase of the project.

What does the project approval process look like?

Obtaining formal registration is important because it indicates the official end of a project and the completion and acceptance of a deliverable by the client.

When the project is finished and the deliverable has been produced, the project manager is ready to examine it with the customer.

Offering the opportunity to the client for a complete review will give time to consider and accept the result or provide feedback to organize any revisions to the output.

Once the project is deemed satisfactory by all interested parties, the approval form comes into play.

All the main stakeholders will sign their part of this documentation and, once approved in full, the project will officially come to an end with success.

Once a project is officially closed, the team has the freedom to start a new project for that same client or for others.

Once the approval documentation and the project are complete, the project manager may wish to review the project in its entirety with his team in order to identify what went well and what can be improved in the future.

A project manager can also decide to ask the client for feedback, not only regarding the final output, but also regarding the project as a whole, so as to have further evaluation elements.

Conclusions

The criteria for verification and acceptance of an output by the client represent a specific and defined list of conditions that must be met before a project can be considered completed and the final results of the project are accepted by the customer.

Having clearly defined acceptance criteria can help the project team in many ways, including:

  • Establishing customer expectations regarding the final product.
  • Measuring, reaching and demonstrating to the clients that the work is complete.
  • Obtaining formal detachments from the client on the final results in the project.
  • Protecting the project manager, the team, and the organization from problems such as missed payments by customers.

Clearly, definining acceptance evaluation criteria can also help avoid communication problems and political maneuvering on internal projects.

Now, we hope there are no more doubts about why the verification criteria must be included in the contractual agreement with the clients, as well as in the project scope statement and in the requirements documents.

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