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Project Lifecycle| Close

What is it… The close stage is the final yet just as critical stage of the project. The purpose is to recognise that the activities/deliverables which the project set-out to deliver have completed and to formally approve the project closure.

Projects can close prematurely or as a planned closure (albeit potentially later than originally foreseen). A premature closure is not always a negative action to take. And indeed on some projects that is absolutely the best thing all round to do. We will look at this in more detail in step 1 below.

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Anecdote

As odd as it may sound we have witnessed many projects and programmes which are simply abandoned towards the end. A new priority comes up and the focus shifts and in doing so leaves a project which was close to completion fraught with issues and a tension between the project team and recipients of the change.  If you find yourself in this situation attempt to influence stakeholders on the merits of effectively closing a project down.

What are the key steps… 

Step 1Prepare Closure –There are steps which need to be taken before projects can progress to closure and as mentioned above there are potentially 2 types of project closure. Let’s look at each of these in turn:

Planned Closure: If you have reached this stage – then congratulations, your on your way to a successfully completed project! Before a project manager can recommend the project to close they must first ensure the deliverables have been achieved. Actions to follow for planned closure:

  1. Update the project plans with all the actuals
  2. Review all approvals for deliverables and check they adhere to the quality standards
  3. Confirm the deliverables match the requirements set out by the project
  4. Seek approval to formally close
  5. Communicate the position

At this stage there should be ‘no surpirses’ this is really a last check to confirm the overall position. 

Premature Closure: As mentioned above a project may need to be prematurely closed. This could be instigated by the project steering committee due to the business case no longer stacking up, or a change in strategic direction for the business amongst other things. In effect, this could be called into action at any stage of the project lifecycle. How you respond at this point will in part be determined by the type of project you are working within. The following are the set of suggested actions on premature closure:

  1. First and foremost salvage anything of value. Even in projects which are not progressing, positive outputs are often developed. These should be kept
  2. Any gaps that the closure then presents should be escalated and communicated to senior stakeholders for resolution
  3. Communicate to stakeholders with the agreed messaging
  4. Update the following project collateral:
    1. The RAID log
    2. Project plan with actuals
    3. Update lesson learned
  5. Understand the overall status of deliverables:
    1. What has been delivered and handed over already – what will this mean from a benefits perspective in isolation? Understand if any of these deliverables need to be recovered
    2. Which items are in-flight and which of these can be immediately terminated and what the respective plan is for any of those that can’t
    3. Which deliverables could be utilised by another project
  6. Give notice to release the resources and funding
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Tip!

Though premature closure can come as a blow for a project you have invested time and energy in – they can be closed for good reasons and in some cases is the better choice. What you need to ensure at this stage is that you optimise the outputs of what have been delivered and follow a rigourous approach. Take the time above to follow the steps as you never know when you will work the same colleagues again or require information that was produced from that project.

Step 2 – Handover – The projects deliverables or on-going responsibilities now need to be handed over to the customer/operations. This could be the entirety of the projects outputs or the final parts if deliverables were handed over earlier within the projects life. This needs to be a formal act and ensure all relevant documentation is updated to record this.

As per above if the project ends prematurely then the rationale to handover and what to handover may have changed so seek the clarity from the Steering Committee.

On handing over the project update the benefits realisation plan and pay particular attention to any anticipated negative effects of the projects delivery. Be sure that this plan includes any responsibilities which now transition from the project team (i.e. can be confirmed during project go-live) into the operational team for handover.

You will also want to consider any further recommendations, either follow up projects or for the business as usual world to follow up on, this is best considered as a project team.

 

Step 3 – Evaluate – At this point the project has been handed over and no further implementation activities are taking place. This is a good time to have a final reflection on the project. Be sure to note the lessons learned so future projects can take guidance as your project would have done in previous stages. The following items are areas you should evaluate:

  1. Review the original intent and baselines against actuals
  2. Review approved changes
  3. Prepare end of project report:
    1. Summary of project performance
    2. Assessment of results against the business case, targets and tolerances
    3. A review of the team
    4. If prematurely closed then noting the reasons for the closure
  4. And finally the lessons learned – this is an opportunity to really take a non-attached view. What we mean by this is be objective, ask for encourage real honesty with the feedback.

This evaluation should form the the end of project report.  

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Tip!

Set the next project or set of projects up for success by ensuring:

  1. Lessons Learned are updated – so you can pass on all of your learnings (and failings so they can be avoided)
  2. Resources are cleanly exited – so there is no hangover when they join new projects and importantly have the capacity to fully devote themselves to the new projects
  3. Celebrate success! Hearing that projects are delivering within your organisation will breed a desire for more projects and open up otherwise hesitant stakeholders

Key Deliverables of the Close Stage

  1. Deliverables handed over
  2. Benefits realisation plan updated
  3. Close Stage report
  4. Formal closure of the project
  5. Celebrate success
  6. Resources released

Project Lifecycle Close Stage FAQ’S

What are the advantages in ensuring a clean end to a project?

A clean end to a project is essential. After all projects have a defined start and finish which supports the transformation that the project delivers:

  1. Defined ends are more successful, they avoid:
    1. A slow (and sometimes) painful drift for all those concerned
    2. Closure to ensure the deliverables have been delivered
    3. There is no requirement to continue so doesn’t waste unnecessary effort
    4. Linked to the above release the project resources, financial and people
  2. Any undelivered items can be known and assessed for future completion
  3. Official transfer of ownership of the deliverables
  4. Opportunity to celebrate success and spread positivity for future project environments
Why should we undertake a post project evaluation?

The main rationale for undertaking a post project evaluation is simple – to allow others to learn from your project. What went well, what didn’t go well, what you would do again next time and what you wouldn’t do next time.

In comparison to the length of time of the project the evaluation is minimal and that time invested may just save another project in hours, resources or pain.

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