Planning Project Closure
All projects must come to an end, one way or another. While some projects may come to an untimely end through cancellation, most projects reach their planned conclusion. Projects are designed to produce a specific unique outcome, and when that outcome is delivered, the project should end. This "end" can be a process in and of itself, normally referred to as project closure.
Depending on the nature and complexity of the project, closure can consist of any or all of the following elements:
#1 Final testing of project deliverables as needed.
#2 Formal acceptance of project deliverables based on pre-defined acceptance criteria.
#3 Formal production turnover. (the transfer of project deliverables to operational status).
#4 Review and analysis of non-critical "open issues".
#5 End-user training (covering deliverables usage and maintenance as needed).
#6 Operational and administrative training (for production/operations staff).
#7 Deliverables documentation (end-user and operational).
#8 Resource re-allocation or release.
#9 Post project performance reviews (lessons learned analysis).
#10 Vendor, project team and staff performance reviews.
#11 Release of final payments to vendors or contractors.
#12 Formal closure event planning, to include staff recognition.
Have acceptance criteria been met?
Acceptance criteria should define the form and function of specific project deliverables, establishing end-user expectations and requirements, and forming the basis by which project deliverables are accepted or rejected. Once acceptance criteria are defined, they form a "contract" under which the project is performed, setting expectations and creating consensus. As such, acceptance criteria should not be changed once a project is underway unless a formal change process is applied. Without acceptance criteria, true project closure cannot be obtained, as there may be no specific measurement for completion.
What type of closure events/activities will be required?
As any project is defined and structured, you will need to identify the point at which project closure activities can begin. Typically, project closure activities should begin when project deliverables are near completion. Overall, the goal is to ensure that valuable time is not wasted. Once a project nears completion, transition should begin immediately in order to maintain momentum and to ensure that sufficient resources are available to move on to the next project.
What are the operational transition needs?
Depending on the type of project at hand, transition needs will vary. As you plan closure activities, you should consider specific transition/turnover requirements. Typically, transition/turnover activities relate to the status of project deliverables. When a deliverable is under development, the project team is in control. Once a deliverable is ready for production, ownership must be transitioned to end-users and operations staff so that the deliverable can be used and maintained. Turnover planning mau involve end-user training, operations training and the preparation of procedural and technical documentation.
Who will be involved in closure related events and activities?
As project closure is planned, resource requirements, including roles and responsibilities must be considered. As you go through the closure planning process, think through the following questions:
a) What types of resources will be required for project closure activities (considering activity requirements, tasks, skills and responsibilities)?
b) Who will be involved in the closure process (including management and end-users)?
c) As the project draws to a close, how will project team members be reassigned to other projects?
d) Who will be involved in the post project review process (to analyze project results & performance)?
What are the closure communication requirements?
Communication is essential to smooth project closure and transition. In order to ensure that all parties are informed and in synch with closure activities, you will need to take appropriate steps to keep information flowing as needed, and on a timely basis.