Time flies when you are having fun! You made it, congratulations. The project is ready to be closed, or…is it?
Completing a project successfully is not just about delivering the agreed products, don’t leave just yet; it's also essential to close out the project effectively. Project closure, or closeout, is the final phase of the project life cycle and involves several critical activities to formally conclude the project and transition it to the next phase, when benefits start to realize.
Why does it matter?
- Formalizing project completion: closing out a project ensures that all deliverables have been achieved and that the project can be officially declared complete. This formal moment provides clarity and closure for both the project team and stakeholders, ensuring that everyone can now relax and move on to new initiatives.
- Evaluating project success: this is the time to assess if the project has been successful in meeting its original objectives, by conducting a Key Performance Indicators (KPI) review. This usually covers a comparison between the baseline/target and actuals for the project timescales, budget, and adoption rate. This evaluation also provides valuable insights into what worked well and can be replicated in future projects, including better estimates.
- Documenting lessons learned: or should we say learning lessons, rather than just documenting?! Lessons should be gathered throughout the project, but this is the final opportunity to collate them all and ensure proper mechanisms for distribution, that is, knowledge transfer. Lessons learned can shape best practices, improve processes, and prevent the repetition of past mistakes, thus, shouldn’t be ignored.
- Handover to Operations: often the result of the project (think of a new system or process, for instance), will need to be handed over to the Business or Operations. To ensure a stress-free handover, a (technical) handover document should be produced covering the available support structures in place to allow for smooth transition with minimal disruption and without outstanding issues.
- Archiving project artifacts: all the admin, the paperwork, will need to be closed and archived. This includes artifacts such as project plans, reports, documentation, financial and contractual records, etc. They form the basis for an audit on the project, if required, and can offer valuable insights for future initiatives.
What does it include?
- Project closure checklist: this checklist is your to-do list on what needs to be completed during the project closure phase. It serves as a guide to ensure that all necessary actions are taken before officially closing out the project. The checklist helps project managers (particularly if new to the role) to systematically review and address various aspects of the project, ensuring that nothing is overlooked.
- Project deliverables acceptance: as this stage marks the end of the project, you’ll need to ensure that you delivered what you were supposed to. How? With a document used to track and record the acceptance of project deliverables by stakeholders or clients – the deliverables acceptance log. It serves as a formal record that confirms the satisfactory completion and acceptance of the project deliverables according to agreed criteria or specifications.
- Technical Handover Document: for projects involving a handover to operations, documentation detailing the transition process, operational procedures, and support mechanisms should be prepared. This documentation ensures a smooth transfer of responsibility and enables the Operations team to effectively manage and maintain the project outputs after the project team leaves the building.
- Post-mortem meeting presentation: the name may sound a bit scary but…fear not! This meeting, also known as a project retrospective, is a structured meeting aimed at the project team and held after the completion of the project to assess its overall performance and identify lessons learned. It provides an opportunity for the project team to reflect on what went well, what didn't go as planned, and how future projects can be improved, and it serves as the basis for the Project Closure Report and meeting with the Board.
- Lessons learned report: the lessons learned report captures insights, best practices, and recommendations identified during the project. It outlines what went well, what could have been improved, and suggestions for future projects. This report is based on the lessons learned log – in fact, it can be a summary of it – and it ensures that valuable knowledge is retained and utilized for continuous improvement.
- Project closure report: the project closure report summarizes the project's performance, highlights key achievements, and documents any outstanding issues or risks. It provides a comprehensive overview of the project's outcomes and acts as an official record of project completion.
- Project closure meeting presentation: supported by the Project Closure Report, this is a formal gathering held at the end of the project to review it and mark it as complete. It brings together the Project Board, key stakeholders, project team members, and other relevant parties to assess the project's overall performance, discuss lessons learned, and officially close the project. And celebrate success, of course!