Why close projects?
Closing a project completes the delivery phase of a project, signifying readiness for the project to start to realise any intended benefits. It is a formal recognition between the Project Board, project customer(s) and the project that it has finished and project resources can be released.
Closing a project is a check that all action items and remaining risks have been documented and agreed and that the project has been assessed and performance measured. If the project is ended before the life cycle is completed the Project Manager will document what has been achieved and recommend a way forward.
Why isn't closure happening?
So why do we hear of so many projects that never properly close down and of so many others that never realise benefits?
I tend to think it is because project teams misunderstand the real value of this final delivery stage. There is business pressure to jump onto the next thing and project teams (who are often seconded or contracted) have pressure to finish their committments and resulting resource cost. Even if lessons learned are captured, businesses tend to place them in a poorly structured knowledge repository so their enduring use is negated.
Every project must come to a definitive and orderly close. Having a well structured close helps to ensure that any sign off has taken place, the project has been assessed for lessons learned and that all necessary infrastructure is in place to effectively tracks benefits outlined in the business case.
It is always worth asking yourself:
- Are the operational managers (or equivalent) ready for the products into business as usual?
- Have all the products or deliverables of the project been delivered (as outlined in project initiation)?
- Has any required project closure documentation been completed?
- Have you ensured (formal) customer acceptance?
- Have any follow on actions been identified, agreed and handed over?
- Has the Project Board approved the closure (expected in advance)?
- Have the Lessons Learned been published for new projects to review?
- Have all risks and issues been closed or captured?
- Have the benefit owners been informed of the proposed closure?
- Has what has been achieved been documented (including the recommended way forward)?
Whose role is it anyway?
Typically the Project Manager is responsible for the completion and production of any required project closure documentation, alongside aspects such as the lessons learned report. Where necessary the Project Manager will also notify others of closure.
The Project Board is responsible for agreeing the Project Closure.
The Customer is responsible for the acceptance of the products, evidenced by acceptance criteria having been met, and any other associated documentation.
The Project Sponsor should be communicating with the benefit owners hat the project is about to close and that they are happy that the acceptance and quality criteria will allow them to achieve their agreed benefits.
Even just bearing in mind the above, you can see how many really important things need to happen at the end of a project. A project is a temporary endeavor, so it has a beginning and also an end. Make sure that in your projects you don't neglect this final and important stage of the project lifecycle.
How we can help
Project and Programme Management are two of our core competencies. We focus on what our clients want to achieve and we ensure the business benefits are delivered – it’s not just about checking milestones, it’s about real results and real value.
But we don’t only deliver project and programme management services ourselves. We can review your project management approach to ensure it meets your corporate objectives, creates value for your business, and has the appropriate tools, governance and performance indicators to guarantee success.