Effective Project Close-out

The practice of project close-out finalizes all project activities completed across all phases of the project to formally close the project and transfer the completed or cancelled project as appropriate.

The purpose of project closeout is to assess the project, ensure completion, and derive any lessons learned and best practices to be applied to future projects.

However, in multi-phase projects, the close-out practice may be applied at various stages of the project; upon deliverable completion, upon phase completion, upon iteration completion, at designated times during the project’s life, or at whatever other juncture represents a completed segment of project work.  Applying the close-out practice in this manner closes out only the portion of the project scope and associated activities applicable to that portion of the project.

The practice of project close-out consists of two main activity groups:

Administrative Closure – The administrative closure process defines activities, interactions, and related roles and responsibilities of the project team members and other stakeholders involved in executing the administrative closure procedure for the projects.

Performing the administrative closure process includes integrated activities to collect project records, analyze project success or failure, gather lessons learned, transfer the project products or services to production and/or operations, and archive project information for future use by the organization. Among other activities administrative closure includes:

  • Confirming the project has met all sponsor, customer, and stakeholder requirements
  • Verifying that all deliverables have been delivered and accepted
  • Validating exit criteria have been met

Contract Closure – Contract closure includes activities and interactions needed to settle and close any contract agreements established for the project, as well as those related to supporting the formal administrative closure of the project.

Contract closure involves verification that all work has been completed correctly and satisfactorily, updating of contract records to reflect final results, and archiving information for future use. Among other activities contract closure includes:

  • Confirming the project has addressed the terms and conditions of the contracts
  • Confirming completion of exit criteria for contract closure
  • Formally closing out all contracts associated with the completed project

Project close-out should be anticipated and planned as early as possible in the project lifecycle even though it is often the last major process of a project’s life.

Verify Acceptance of Final Project Deliverables

The first step of the close-out process is the customer’s acceptance of the final deliverables of the project. This is a critical and important step, because it signifies that the customer agrees that the scope of the project and its deliverables are complete and were delivered as agreed upon by all parties. Acceptance is based upon the success criteria defined in the initiating and planning phases of the project. This acceptance should be formal, meaning that physical sign-offs should be obtained by the customer, project sponsor, and the project steering committee, as appropriate.

Conduct Post-Project Assessment and Lessons Learned
In addition to communicating the closure of a project in writing, it is also advisable to have a mechanism for group review & assessment of the project. Lessons learned should draw on both positive experiences– good ideas that improve project efficiency or save money, and negative experiences– lessons learned only after an undesirable outcome has already occurred. Lessons learned sessions are a valuable closure mechanism for team members, regardless of the project’s outcome.

The lessons learned session is typically a meeting that includes:

  • Project team
  • Stakeholder representation including external project oversight, auditors, and/or QA
  • Executive management
  • Maintenance and operations staff
  • Project support staff

Lessons learned and comments regarding project assessment should be documented, presented, and openly discussed with the intent of eliminating the occurrence of avoidable issues on future projects.

Conduct Post-Project Review and Evaluation

A post-project review provides a record of the history of a project. It provides written documentation of the planned and actual budget, the baseline and actual schedule, and documents recommendations for other projects of similar size and scope.

Be certain to identify in the report the project successes, problems on the project, and new ideas that were successful on the project. Make recommendations on how these processes might be adapted for other projects.

Share the project’s success with other organizations. In the same way that problem identifications can lead to improvements, successes must be shared so they can be repeated. Where possible, successes should be translated into procedures that will be followed by future projects.

Recognize and Celebrate Outstanding Project Work

Celebrating the success of completing a project with positive reinforcement can be extremely rewarding for project teams.  When a project is completed successfully, be certain to provide some kind of recognition to the team. If individuals are singled out for significant achievements, do not forget to recognize the entire team as well.

Management may also want to express recognition of a successful team effort by praising the team at a key meeting or a large gathering of staff. People are proud to have senior management’s appreciation openly expressed, and such recognition is a motivation to other projects to be successful.

Complete and Archiving Final Project Records

Historic project data is an important source of information to help improve future projects. All records, both electronic and hard copy should be stored according to record retention guidelines. The technical records will be turned over to the personnel responsible for maintenance and operation of the system or program after it has been deployed. The project archive includes a description of the files being stored, the application used to create the archived materials, the location where they are stored, and a point of contact for further information.

Ensure Transfer of Knowledge

Once all the project information has been accumulated plan for knowledge transfer where appropriate to those who will be responsible for continued operations. Involve the project participants in the hand-off of responsibility.

(By Peter Frans – Principal Consultant)

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