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5 Simple Steps to Close a Project Successfully

- Dr. Meghashri Dalvi

Project teams tend to focus on delivering projects successfully, but don't pay a similar attention to the process of closing projects. In reality, the Project Closing Process Group is equally (and sometimes critically) important as the rest of the groups – Initiation, Planning, Executing, and Monitoring and Controlling Process Groups.

When a project is not closed properly, it can lead to incomplete scope, delayed payments, resource waste, as well as legal consequences. It may also impact the future contracts and delivery-driven sales.

The Project Closing Process Group has two processes – Close Procurement and Close Project or Phase. Let's look into both of them in detail.

For any vertical, whether you are a buyer or seller, Close Procurement always takes place before Close Project or Phase.

• Close Procurement: Also known as the Contract Closure, it is the process of completing each procurement contract. Procurement is said to be closed when the contract reaches its deadline and it ends, or when the contract is terminated without completing the work.

If the project has multiple procurement contracts, the Close Procurement process is performed every time a contract closes. If the project has a single contract, this process is performed only once. If the project has no contract at all, this process is not performed.

For each Close Procurement process, all the open claims, payments, and all the formalities must be completed with your suppliers or partners. The records must be updated and archived as well.

• Close Project or Phase: Also known as the Administrative Closure, it is the process of finalizing all activities across all of the Project Management Process Groups, delivering and verifying to formally complete the project or phase.

Note that this process is performed only once, at the end of the project or a specific phase. Before performing this process, all the required Close Procurement processes must be completed.

A project may or may not have the Close Procurement process, but it must have the Close Project or Phase process. The key difference between them is that for each Close Procurement, you close with your contractors or subcontractors; while for Close Project or Phase, your client accepts the deliverables and closes with you.

Five Simple Steps

If your team understands and follows these five simple steps with appropriate focus, closing a project will be a breeze.

  1. Develop Closing Procedures in advance to help you get a smooth and fast closure. (Focus: Processes)

Make all the team members aware of the procedures, and train them to perform the procedures effectively.

  1. Complete all Close Procurement processes at the appropriate times. These may be spread over the duration of the project and hence need regular checks. (Focus: Processes)

Ensure that the team members are performing the processes timely and efficiently. Pay special attention to recording the processes with the required authorization and archiving them.Simple

  1. Verify scope and confirm completion. Take formal acceptance of the project and all deliverables from your client. (Focus: Deliverables)

Usually the formal acceptance is a document signed off by the sponsor from the client side.  The formal acceptance must include the final performance metrics of the project, including quality, cost and schedule among others.

  1. Finalize and archive all documents. Update Lessons Learned document with inputs from all the stakeholders. (Focus: Documents)

Documentation is often a neglected area of project management, though always referred first in case of disputes. The key is recognizing that recording is as important as performing any activity or process.

Lessons Learned documentation is a valuable organizational process asset, and must be made available to all the relevant resources so that they benefit from it, without re-inventing the wheel. 

  1. Hand off the final product (project or phase), and release all the resources. (Focus: Resources)

The hand off must include the required documentation of product usage, maintenance, and troubleshooting information. A predetermined period may be required for training, assistance, and knowledge transfer.

Release all the resources, internal or external, back to functional managers or to other managers as required.  

Well, once you have delivered a project and also successfully closed it, there will be only one activity left – celebrate your success! 

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