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. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. Final testing of project deliverables as needed. Formal acceptance of project deliverables based on pre-defined acceptance criteria. Formal production turnover. (the transfer of project deliverables to operational status). Review and analysis of non-critical "open issues". End-user training (covering deliverables usage and maintenance as needed). Operational and administrative training (for production/operations staff). Deliverables documentation (end-user and operational). Resource re-allocation or release (to transfer project staff to other projects, back to operations, or to release outsourced resources). Post project performance reviews (lessons learned analysis). Project team and staff performance reviews. Vendor performance reviews. Release of final payments to vendors or contractors. Formal closure event planning, to include staff recognition and to mark outstanding project achievement.

Planning for Closure: To a large extent, project closure planning takes place before the project begins. To properly plan any project, you have to envision the end-game …. how and when will your project end? As such, the following closure issues should be addressed as you initially define and structure your project…. Acceptance Criteria: 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. As acceptance criteria are planned, the following questions should be considered..... • • • • How will acceptance criteria be identified? How will acceptance criteria be finalized? Who must be involved in acceptance criteria definition and final approval? How can acceptance criteria be controlled to ensure consistency and to avoid unnecessary changes?

Closure Kick-off (timing of closure activities): 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. Transition (Turnover) 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 can involve end-user training, operations training and the preparation of procedural and technical documentation.... • • • • What types of turnover activities will be required? How much time should be allocated to turnover? How and when will formal turnover take place? Who must approve and accept turnover?

Resources, Roles and Responsibilities: 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….. • • • • What types of resources will be required for project closure activities (considering activity requirements, tasks, skills and responsibilities)? Who will be involved in the closure process (including management and end-users)? As the project draws to a close, how will project team members be reassigned to other projects? Who will be involved in the post project review process (to analyze project results and performance)?

Communication: 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. As you plan "closure communication" you should consider the following questions.... • • • • Will you have closure planning meetings (how many and how often)? What types of documentation will be required to ensure effective project closure? How will you best communicate the closure activity schedule, considering meeting requirements, training sessions, and staff transition information? How will formal project closure be acknowledged and recognized?

As you can see, closure activities will vary according to project needs and circumstances, but the overall goal is constant – to ensure that your project ends with success. To that end, project closure should be recognized as a formal project process, and should be included as an independent phase in any project plan, no matter how limited actual closure activities may be. Entering the Closure Phase: 1. 2. 3. Recognize that the closure kick-off point has arrived and activate your closure plan. Schedule formal closure activities. Communicate the schedule to all interested parties. Identify and document all remaining open issues, if any, and determine which issues must be closed in order to obtain formal project acceptance. If needed, you can form a post-project clean-up team to handle minor issues that do not prevent deliverables acceptance. Complete all required closure activities as needed, including production turnover, training, staff re-allocation, and documentation. Obtain formal project acceptance from customers and management.

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Celebrate project completion with staff and end-users. Complete staff performance reviews. Complete the post project review process and document the results.

Conclusions: Once the post project review is completed, your project will likely come to an official end. Certain minor issues may linger, and the project review process may raise new issues that must be addressed in the future. These ongoing issues can be dealt with by the project manager, or by a post-project clean-up team, if needed. But, from an organizational perspective, formal closure activities will bring the project to an end, freeing staff and financial resources for the next project likely waiting in the wings. In the busy IT project environment, projects occur at a fast and furious pace, and, at times, it may seem as if one project just flows into the next. But it is important to take the time to acknowledge actual project completion. Project closure is a sign of success and achievement, and should be treated as such. In this way, you can ensure that all your projects go out with a bang, and not a whimper.

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