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The five golden rules of effective project closure


Peter StotenAfter considerable investment in time, money and resources it is no wonder that organisations are enthusiastic about handing a project over to operations and getting back to business as usual.

So what are the key things to ensure take place prior to closing a project?

  1.  No doubt the project will have roller-coasted through both good and difficult times, so the project will have learned significantly by the end.   Such experience is gold dust for similar future projects.  Therefore the project manager should ensure the lessons learned are logged and reviewed then fed into the new project start up process.   Lessons learned should be meaningful and focus on the lessons that were identified and action was taken, not simply ‘we learned that for a similar project we would not outsource to the cheapest supplier’.
  2.  It is all too easy to suggest that realising benefits has to be done before closing the project, however the reality is that those benefits are not going to be realised until way past implementation has completed. Therefore the business has to ask itself if it is viable to keep the project running after delivery. A well run project should not require this but should ensure that a benefits realisation plan was agreed during the project lifecycle and signed off as part of closure, stating out, amongst other things, who is responsible for checking and at what point will they do this and update the business owner.
  3. Similarly, it may not be sensible to prevent project closure from being held up due to certain deliverables being delayed, provided they are not critical to the success of the project. Where such is the case, these exceptions need to be recorded as follow on actions,i.e. identified, an owner agreed & signed up, as well as a date to deliver against these. 
  4. Update project documentation.  After all that hard work it would be a shame to have loose ends such as an out-dated business case, risk log etc. For one thing the project may well be audited and so a completed file (including sign offs) is absolutely necessary.  What’s more, the updated documentation will confirm the financial position of the project allowing any unspent funds to go back into Finance.
  5. Lastly but by no means least, the project manager must ensure that the impending closure is communicated to all relevant stakeholders. Whilst obvious this is often overlooked and is potentially a missed opportunity if not done effectively to appraise those involved, as well as the success of the project.  Furthermore a more cunning project manager may have been fortunate to secure some budget for celebrations – why not, you deserve it!