How do you know when a project has been completed and come to an end? Without a process in place to ensure an orderly close to a large and complicated project, tasks can continue to drag on. Loose ends and unwritten reports can cause issues, and team members are pulled this way and that on old and new project tasks.
The closing phase of project management is an integral part of any project lifecycle. Here is what you need to do at the end of a project to help ensure your next undertaking comes to a successful conclusion.
What is Project Closure?
Project closure is the closing phase of project management. By closing a project using project management methodologies and processes, it brings it to a definitive end, instead of dragging on for weeks or months.
Project Management Professionals (PMPs) are trained and certified project managers that have learned the 5 project management phases to help them guide projects and manage project teams. These phases dictated the project lifecycle, starting with the project initiation, project planning, project execution, project control, and finally, the project close.
Projects will always have a start date and end date, as they are temporary tasks that must come to an end. When the end of the project is reached, an orderly shutdown is used to summarize the findings of the project and bring everything to a controlled conclusion. To do this, PMPs follow a set process to ensure all documents, resources, project management team members, and final products are accounted for, reported on, and archived for future reference.
Why is the Project Closure Process Important?
Without the closing phase of the project management processes, projects can continue costing the company money and resources unnecessarily. It is essential to the company and the project team that every project started, is brought to an orderly close, even when the project is not a success.
An orderly project closing is important as it:
- Summarizes findings for the company
- Brings a definitive end to project spending and resource allocation
- Gathers all relevant information in one place
- Archives information for future reference and learning
- Creates metrics for future planning and forecasting
What’s Included in the Project Management Closing Phase?
To become a project management professional, managers must understand what is needed of them during the project closure process. PMP practice guides can also help business owners and managers ensure their project and take closeouts are just as successful.
There are typically 6 stages in the project closeout phase that should be followed to successfully close a project. Therefore, the project management closing process should cover all of these steps.
According to the 9 project management knowledge areas, there are certain inputs, or documentation, that a project manager must account for during this specific phase, including:
- Project success criteria
- All project documents, including project charter, project management plan, scope statement, schedules, budgets and change requests
- Project team contracts and other relevant agreements
Criteria refer to the project outlines or objectives created in the first and second phases of the project lifecycle- project initiation and planning. These documents outline what the end deliverables are and the resources needed to get there. Gathering all project inputs and relevant data will help with the next steps in the project closure phase of project management.
Measure stakeholder satisfaction
A completed company project must try to ensure the satisfaction of the equity holders- whether that’s the company owner or shareholders. If the company possesses stakeholders or shareholders, then the project will have affected them too, as they have equity in the company.
Therefore, project managers must gauge the reaction of the stakeholders and determine how satisfied they are with the project outcome, deliverables, lessons learned, and results to determine if the objectives were met. Record any feedback that stakeholders may have and include the information in the closing project documents, such as the project closeout report.
Create project closeout report
Like the accounting cycle, the project lifecycle ends with the creation of reports. At the end of the reporting period, there are financial statements and reports that sum up the year’s activity and current standings. A project closeout report does much the same thing for a project- summarizing findings and processes, and the overall state of the company in terms of the project completed.
For a successful report, you will need to include the following:
- Overall project performance
- Actual project scheduling
- Actual project costing and budget
- Any change requests and scope or process changes made throughout
- All resources used to achieve deliverables
- Identify storage and archival needs of data
- Record all project reviews and feedback
- Determine any open issues
This project closeout report also answers the question of whether or not the project achieved the original criteria or objectives first set out in the beginning phase of the project lifecycle. Using the project management inputs collected in the first step, this resulting report is considered an output of the closing project phase.
Release documents and archive data
With the project closeout report complete, now is the time the project manager releases any documents that were being held internally within the company. If the project used any sensitive data, then there may have been classified reports/information that can now be released internally or externally.
All documents must also be archived within the company’s main database to ensure the preservation of information. Archived documents and reports also make it easier for future reference and project forecasting needs.
Conduct project review
With all project inputs and documents collected and the closeout report completed, now is the time to review all processes, lessons learned, procedures, and resources used in the project. The final results should be thoroughly reviewed by the project manager and team members to ensure that all objectives were reached and all resources were optimally used.
A performance review of the project and its members should also take place at this time. The project team can go over the performance metrics of the project, any issues that have arisen throughout, and the corrective actions are taken to fix those issues now or for future projects. Analyzing the project critically for any improvements is a necessary step in the closeout phase as it generates insight into the business for future projects and endeavours.
Celebrate hard work
With the project’s conclusions, and the reports and reviews complete, the final step in a successful project closeout, is acknowledging and appreciating the project team members that made it all happen. Arguably one of the most overlooked steps in the project closing process, showing appreciation to employees should be just as essential as creating the closeout report.
Taking the time to thank all project members for their hard work can help boost employee morale and output for future projects. When employees feel valued, they take pride in their work and will continue to produce quality work in the future. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to mark the project closing with a small celebration or show of appreciation to all involved.
Project Closure Checklist
Download this handy closure phase checklist to ensure you and your organization have covered everything in this essential step in the project management process.
Software That Can Improve the Closure Process
To help with any project undertaking, try using time tracking and scheduling software throughout the project’s lifecycle. With easy-to-use employee and task tracking from QuickBooks Time, you can keep an expert eye on all aspects of the project to ensure all objectives are met along the way. Once the project is complete, the collected time data is a perfect addition to the project closeout report.
See where you can better make use of your time and human resources before undertaking the next project closure process when you sign up for a free trial of QuickBooks Time today. For enhanced project tracking and reporting, consider trying QuickBooks Time Elite to gain tracking progress to plan, tracking against tasks and estimated hours versus actual hours for greater business insights.