How to Close a Project?

How to Close a Project

Many times, the process of project closing is overlooked. To many, successful project delivery is defined by the completion of deliverables as per the objectives of time and cost. Many practitioners consider the process of Project Closing as overburden, a process that has minimal significance and scope and also believes it is only done to satisfy organizational requirements.

But, many practitioners don’t realize that the Project Closing Process is as impactful and significant as the initiation, planning, executing, and monitoring and controlling processes. The process of Project Closing can be extensively crucial to both the project and organization. How? Well, failing to conduct thorough project closeout could lead to the following possibilities:

  1. Put the organization at a considerable amount of risk

  2. Prevent the organization from realizing the anticipated benefits from the deliverables of the project

  3. It will result in significant losses to the organization

  4. It will undermine the project manager and project management team's credibility

Definition of Project Closing Process

"The processes that are performed to conclude all activities across all project management process groups to formally complete the project, phase, or contractual obligations is called Project Closing Process. Upon completion, this process group verifies that the defined processes are completed within all of the process groups to close the project, as appropriate, and formally establishes that the project or phase is complete".

Project Closing is the combination of the following aspects when applied to a project:

  1. Assuring that all the work has been completed,

  2. Ensuring that the all agreed project management processes have been executed,

  3. Formally recognizing that the project is completed - upon everyone’s approval.

The features mentioned above are regarded as natural aspects that determine the closing of a project.

Following are situations that demonstrate how the already mentioned features might be overlooked across various projects and also outlines the impacts that result when they are ignored.

Importance of Project Closing Process

If a project is not closed correctly, the project management team along with their efforts, time, and credibility may be negatively perceived for matters that are not their fault or responsibility. Hence, just as Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Controlling processes, Project Closing serves an essential purpose for the organization and helps it avoid unfavorable and adverse scenarios.

Below mentioned are examples of scenarios and the impact that they have on the organization when proper project closing is not executed.

Examples of Project Closing Process

Required Outcomes Examples Scenario-based examples Impact
Assuring that all the work has been completed Scenarios where change requests were approved but not implemented/delayed continuously because of resource constraints The IT team finishes the development of an application, and it is tested and accepted by the business and users. But, the user finds out that, the primary 'Guidelines' go missing as they were regarded as a secondary product and having a lesser priority than the application. The users feel dissatisfied with the application and view it as a failure. As a result of incomplete records and information, the users can't fully utilize the application to achieve their goal. Liability to correct the issue is scattered, and the team is engaged in supporting users and are unable to concentrate on new tasks.
Assuring that the all agreed project management processes have been executed In situations where the project manager has a shortage of time and bandwidth, management processes are intentionally overlooked. At the end of the application development project, the project manager is required to close the contract with the vendor, but fails to do it, considering it as a minor administrative matter and as result of this; the project management team concludes that the project is over. Long after the informal closure of the project, the finance team receives invoices about the project. The finance team can’t compare the invoice as they lack proper records and this leads to disputes with the client. In such cases, the reputation of the company gets hampered and will face serious consequences.
Formally recognizing that the project is completed - upon everyone’s approval The stakeholders fail to notice that the project is over and continue to treat the project as an active one. Stakeholders request for changes, modification, additions which would result in scope creep and tying resources unnecessarily to the project. There is no formal end to the project and hence the developers’ time is still allocated to the application development. This will not allow them to work on new projects or task and ultimately the stakeholders continue to view the application development process as a long-term project. Inevitably, the project manager and his team are constantly engaged in post-project activities. Without formal notifications, the support team is incapable of supporting the issue, and the organization is limited and held back in initiating new projects because of less confidence and resources.

A comprehensive project closing process would typically include all of the following procedures:

  1. Ensuring that the project deliverables are entirely accomplished.

  2. Receiving approvals from the client for the work completed.

  3. Reviewing, assessing all organizational governance and project management processes have been applied and executed.

  4. The official closing of all procurements, reviewing that all work on the contract has been completed and that both the parties have completed their contractual obligations toward each other.

  5. Formally recognizing the completion of a project and its transition to operations.

  6. Validating whether the project has achieved all the benefits identified in the business case.

  7. Capturing of lessons learned: What was done well, and should be documented so it can be repeated in the future? What could have been done better? And if so, how can it have been done better?

  8. Disbanding project resources, freeing them to perform other projects and undertake other tasks as required by the organization.

  9. Transitioning project deliverables to the customer organization in a manner that warrants seamless operations and support.

The important steps involved in closing a project are:

Inputs of Project Closing Process

  1. Project Charter:

    Project Charter refers to a statement of objectives in a project. This statement also sets out detailed project goals, roles, and responsibilities identify the primary stakeholders, and the level of authority of a project manager.

  2. Project Management Plan:

    The Project Management Plan documents the project lifecycle and inculcates information on how to close out a project. Remember, every stage has particular deliverables/outcomes which need to be complete and accepted before it can be considered closed. Sometimes, additional criteria’s also need to be met before adjudging a phase closed.

  3. Project Document Updates:

    If the project has an iterative lifecycle, the project manager can collect information for the next iteration during the closure of the Project. The Project Manager can also go through the assumption and risk logs and close out any out-of-date items, and update the remaining details. On the other hand, some project managers collect new requirements, changes, assumptions, and risks when they formally initiate the new phase.

    1. Assumption log - The assumption log records all the expectations and hindrances that guide the technical specifications, estimates, schedule, risks, etc.

    2. The basis of estimates - The process basis of estimates is used to evaluate how the estimation concerned with the projects duration, cost, resources, and cost control is compared to the actual results.

    3. Changelog - The changelog contains the details and status of all the change requests carried out throughout the project or phase.

    4. Issue log - The issue log is used to check whether there exist any current issues related to the project or the previous problems are taken care of completely.

    5. Lessons learned register - All and whatsoever lessons learned during the project lifecycle will be finalized before being entered into the lessons learned register.

    6. Milestone list - The milestone list encompasses the final dates on which the project milestones have been accomplished or completed.

    7. Project communications - Project communications include any communications that have been carried out throughout the project lifecycle between the project manager, his/her teams, and the stakeholders.

    8. Quality control measurements - The quality control measurements process documents the results of Control Quality activities and establish compliance with the quality requirements necessary for the project.

    9. Quality reports - The details presented in the quality report may consist of all quality assurance issues managed or escalated by the project team, recommendations for improvement of the project, and the summary of findings from the Control Quality process.

    10. Requirements documentation - The process of requirements documentation is used to demonstrate compliance with the project scope.

    11. Risk register - The risk register provides information on the risks that have occurred throughout the project's lifecycle.

    12. Risk report - The risk report is a process that provides information on the current risk status and is used to check that there are no clear risks at the time of completion of the project.

  4. Accepted Deliverables:

    At the end of the project, the project manager should have all accepted deliverables, the approvals for each deliverable, and the final approval and acceptance for the final product to consider the closure of a project.

  5. Business Documents:

    Business documents include but are not limited to:

    1. Business case - The business case documents/ records the business need/requirements and the cost-benefit analysis that justify/comply with the project. The business case is used to determine if the expected outcomes from the economic feasibility study used to justify the project occurred.

    2. Benefits management plan - The benefits management plan outlines the target benefits of the project. The benefits management plan is used to measure whether the interests of the project were achieved as planned.

  6. Procurement Documents:

    To close the contract or project, all procurement documentation are collected, indexed, and filed. Information on the project schedule, scope, quality, and cost performance along with all contract change documentation, payment records, and inspection results are registered. Previous plans, documents, manuals, troubleshooting, and other technical documentation should also be considered as part of the procurement documents when closing a project. The information gathered through the procurement documents can be used for lessons learned process and as a basis for evaluating contractors for future contracts.

  7. Organizational Process Assets:

    1. Performance reviews: A discussion that involves the project management team and the project sponsor to evaluate the performance metrics of each phase and in total the overall project. They also look at the risks that occurred during the project phase, and the status of the issues along with the performance of the corrective actions that were taken.

    2. Project management plan updates: At the end of a particular phase, the project manager has to make sure that all the elements of the project management plan are accurate and updated. Latest versions of the project management plan can be updated as and when available.

    3. Project document updates: If the project has an iterative lifecycle, the project manager can collect information for the next iteration during the closure of the Project. The Project Manager can also go through the assumption and risk logs and close out any out-of-date items, and update the remaining items. On the other hand, some project managers collect new requirements, changes, assumptions, and risks when they formally initiate the new phase.

    4. Lessons learned: It's a good practice on the part of the project manager to collect information from the lessons learned as they go through the lifecycle of the project. To ensure that the mistakes are not repetitive in the projects undertaken in future, the project manager, at the end of each phase has to formalize and integrate all the information from the lessons learned.

Project Closing Process - Tools and Techniques

  1. Expert Judgment:

    Expert judgment is necessary and applied whenever the project manager is performing administrative closure activities. The expert judgment will ensure that the project or phase closure is implemented to meet the appropriate standards.

  2. Data Analysis:

    The techniques that can be used in project closeout include:

    1. Regression analysis: The method which is used to find out the overall performance of the project at the end of the project closure process

    2. Trend analysis: Maintaining a record of all the latest trends that took place during the project execution and their impact on the project. This will help analyze the upcoming trends that are to be implemented in the future projects.

    3. Document analysis - The process will help in assessing the available documents to identify the lessons learned and share valuable knowledge for the development of future projects and organizational assets improvement.

    4. Variance analysis - The process of variance analysis can be used to improve the metrics of the organization by comparing what was initially planned and the project's final output.

  3. Meetings:

    Meetings that take place during the closeout phase will include discussions among stakeholders and other individuals who are associated with the project about the performance and the deliverables that were achieved during the lifecycle of the project.

Project Closing Process - Outputs

  1. Project Document Updates:

    As the project approaches the completion stage, all project documents will be updated and marked as final versions. The lessons learned register is the most important aspect which is finalized to include final details of project closure. The lesson learned register contains information about benefits management, the accuracy of the business case, project and development lifecycle, issue and risk management, stakeholder engagement, and other project management processes.

  2. Final Product, Service, or Result Transition:

    This output refers to the transition of the final product, service, or result that the project was authorized to produce according to the project management plan.

  3. Final Report:

    The final report provides a detailed version of the project performance. It can include information such as:

    1. Summary level description of the project.

    2. Scope objectives, the benchmark used to evaluate the scope, and evidence that the completion criteria were accomplished.

    3. Quality objectives, the tool used to evaluate the project and product quality, the verification and actual milestone delivery dates, and reasons for variances.

    4. Cost objectives, including the acceptable cost range, actual costs, and reasons for any variances.

    5. Summary of the validation information for the final product, service, or result.

    6. Schedule objectives include and concentrate whether as to the project objectives were achieved or not, and if any case the targets were not met, the project manager has to mention the degree to which the project goals are achieved and give an estimate as to how they are planning on accomplishing them in the future.

    7. The business needs of the project must at all costs meet the objectives mentioned in the business plan in the form of final product, services, or results achieved. If situations arise where the business needs are not met at the completion of the project, the project manager has to provide an estimate as to when and how the business needs will be accomplished in the future.

    8. The final report should also indicate and provide a detailed summary of any risks or issues encountered on the project and how they were addressed by the project manager and his/her team.

  4. Organizational Process Assets Updates:

    The Organizational Process Assets process during the closure stage will allow the project manager to keep all the project files related to the undertaken project updated. The process also allows, collecting historical information for future reference. The project manager is also required to formally check the project closure documents closely and end the project on an official note. Organizational process assets that are updated include Project documents, Operational and support documents, Project or phase closure documents, and Lessons learned repository.

The last process group in the Project Management is Closing process Group. Regardless of the project achieving the mentioned deliverables or not, a proper closing is necessary. When an appropriate closing is carried out, it will help in completing the formal procedures and enable a smooth transition into the next project or task.

 

Know more about project management best practices through Invensis Learning’s Project Management certification training on PMP, CAPM, PRINCE2, Project Management Fundamentals, P3O, and MSP. We are a trusted training partner for Fortune 500 companies and Government institutions globally. For on-site group training, please e-mail us at corporate@invensislearning.com.

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