13 Steps to Effectively Close a Project

Editorial Team

project closing

Closing a project is an integral part of the project management process.

For this reason, it’s important that you plan for your project closure in advance. In doing so, you can ensure that your project is closed effectively.

To plan for your project closure, be aware of the following thirteen steps. A full understanding of these steps will allow you to streamline your project closure for better and more effective results.

Remember: Don’t put project closure planning off until the end. Be sure to align your overall project management strategy with the following thirteen steps to effectively close a project.

Successful projects rest on the ability of the project manager to ensure that all deliverables are met.

1. Review Contracts and Ensure All Deliverables Have Been Met

This should be routinely checked for throughout the project management process. During this stage, the project manager will review contracts to ensure that the final project meets requirements as agreed to with the buyer.

It’s important to note that the project closure portion of the process should not be the first time the project manager checks deliverables. Without persistent checking throughout the process, it’s possible that final project will not meet customer demands.

By planning ahead and scheduling routine deliverable checks throughout the process, the project manager can meet all requirements. This makes the final check during project closure easier and more effective.

Ensuring that all deliverables are met is key to client satisfaction. If a proactive approach isn’t taken, clients will discover issues on their own—leaving you in a bad spot.

With routine checking of contracts and deliverables, project managers can ensure the success of the project for all parties involved.

2. Obtain Approval from Project Sponsor and Customer

After conducting a thorough review of the contract and all deliverables, project managers need to obtain approval.

This approval comes from both the project sponsor and the customer.

Approval requires free and open communication between all parties throughout the entire process. Without transparency, ensuring deliverables and receiving approval becomes unnecessarily difficult.

There are several aspects project managers should keep in mind when seeking final approval. While it’s important that all deliverables are met, the issue is inherently more complicated.

It’s imperative that project managers not wait until the project closure stage to seek a common understanding of the project’s deliverables.

It is the duty of the project manager to interpret the deliverables in a way satisfactory to all parties. This interpretation should also be clearly communicated to everyone involved in the initial planning phase before work is ever done on the project.

Without taking these necessary steps, miscommunication is likely. This can damage one’s odds for final project approval—even if everyone assumed operations were running smoothly.

Additionally, don’t assume that you are seeking approval for just deliverables. You must also account for the possibility that you will have to once-again negotiate costs with clients. Because of circumstances during the project management processes, it’s possible that both parties have different estimates of final costs.

In this regard, better communication throughout the process can once again prove beneficial. If a client requests a change to the project, the project manager should be clear in regard to any extra costs that will be incurred. Before proceeding with the project, all parties should be on the same page to ensure better relations and more effective project closure.

3. Financial Closure

Financial closure is key to the project closure process. It is at this stage that all financial transactions and outstanding balances are identified and resolved.

This multi-phase process wraps up all loose financial ends so that a final cost for the project can be established. It’s important at this stage that the persons responsible for financial closure do so in a way that satisfies both contractual and legal regulations.

This useful information can then be used by the team to compare actual financial costs vs the expected budget.

In this regard, financial closure offers both real-time and future benefits.

4. Issue Management Closure

Issue management refers to the practice of identifying and resolving potential problems during the project management process.

These problems typically affect budget and time constraints.

During the project closure process, these issues are resolved. If there are additional disputes at this stage, the remainder of the project is typically closed, with final closure pending the resolution of all issues.

Issue management remains effective by carefully observing and documenting data during the execution phase of the project management process. This data is thoroughly reviewed, with any outstanding issues resolved before closure.

5. Risk Management Closure

Risk management closure is another integral step in the project closure process.

In a sense, this closure process is often more of a risk transfer.

During the risk management process, risks should be carefully noted and explored by the project management team. Any risks that are not resolved at the time of project closure—or any risks that develop once the project is complete—need to be carefully documented and explained to all stakeholders who will assume the risk.

If you’re developing a bit of computer software, for instance, the transfer of the project to the stakeholder creates new risks.

For example, operational and security issues that were not present during development may arise when the new software comes into mainstream use.

While it’s not the project management team’s duty to resolve all potential issues, proper risk management strategies will allow for these possibilities. In other words, these new risks shouldn’t be surprising to the project development team, nor should stakeholders receive unexpected risks.

With proper risk management closure, these potential risks can be effectively addressed by the appropriate parties.

This transfer typically comes in the form of a risk management meeting, in which members of the project management team meet directly with stakeholders to explain the situation. It’s best during these meetings that stakeholders are also informed on how to best address these risks.

Finally, the project management team should use information collected during the risk management process to better plan for future project risks.

6. Lessons Learned

Next, the project manager should conduct one of the most valuable steps of the project closure process.

It’s at this phase that he will sit down with certain stakeholders and team members to conduct interviews that provide honest feedback of the process.

Honesty is key in these interviews, so all parties should be encouraged to speak freely and without restraint.

In short, the project manager will be looking to answer the following three questions during this phase:

  1. What Went Right
  2. What Went Wrong
  3. What Needs to Be Improved

By understanding these three important concepts, the project manager and members of his team can better prepare for future projects.

Data gathered during this stage is invaluable, so it’s crucial that the interviews are properly conducted.

7. Analyze Data

Data analysis also proves to be one of the most important steps of the project closure process.

There are three main steps to the data analysis portion of this process They include:

  1. Document Analysis
  2. Trend Analysis
  3. Variance Analysis

Information gathered here can advance the conclusions drawn from the “lessons learned” stage of the project closure process.

Document analysis consists of the review of the utility of project documents to ensure deliverables and meet client demands.

Trend analysis is aimed at identifying trends with a solid mathematical approach. Proper trend analysis can use gathered data to predict future outcomes—making it incredibly useful to the project management team.

Additionally, by establishing trends, this analysis can allow the project management team to conduct a variance analysis.

It’s here that the team can monitor real results versus expectations and track data variances.

This information can all be used by the project management team looking forward, as they attempt to hone their process and provide better service and results to clients.

8. Transition to Operation and Support Maintenance

The transition of information and product from the project management team to operation and support maintenance is critical to the success of the product.

This multi-faceted transfer allows for stakeholders to effectively use their product without any hang-ups.

Because the project management team will not handle operation and support issues with stakeholders after closure, it’s important that the operation and support maintenance team is fully equipped with the knowledge and training they need in order to provide effective assistance.

This includes:

  1. Knowledge Transfer
  2. Training
  3. SOP

It’s important that all knowledge regarding the operations of the final project be told to the support team ahead of time.

Proper knowledge transfer and training should be scheduled ahead of time so that the operation and support maintenance team has adequate time to master the information.

Additionally, a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) document should be created and passed to the maintenance team.

9. Project Closure Report

The Project Closure Report allows for the official closure of the project.

It is here that senior management officials can examine the success of the project as a whole, as well as the various milestones that were scheduled throughout the process.

In order to do this, management reviews several aspects of the project including:

  1. Description of Project
  2. Project Objective
  3. Project Outcome
  4. Project Performance
  5. Lessons Learned
  6. Outstanding Tasks and Issues
  7. Post Project

In order for the Project Closure Report to be useful, data must be thoroughly tracked and documented throughout the project management process.

Additionally, initial expectations must be recorded so that final data can be compared against them.

In this way, following a review of the project’s description, objective, outcome, and performance, management can have a better understanding of its success. This information is combined with lessons learned and taken into consideration with any outstanding tasks and issues to better learn and prepare for future projects.

This information is used as part of a post-project review to evaluate overall success and to ensure better practices in the future.

10. Communicate

Once the project has been closed, this information must be communicated to all involved.

This requires informing vendors, suppliers, project stakeholders, and those who work in finance and procurement, among other things, that the project is closed.

This communication effectively closes the project for all parties and allows for the team and all involved to focus on post-project or new responsibilities.

11. Archive Project Document

Once the project is complete, project documents must be archived. Team members should review all documents a final time and check their accuracy before filing them away.

This information must be kept on file for future use—either for review or for use in the light of new complications.

This documentation includes the project charter, closure report, and any other official documentation created throughout the process.

12. Release Resource

It’s best practice to prepare for resource release well ahead of time. This will allow for team members to better focus on their work at hand and simplify the closure process.

The goal of this process is to ensure that the final product is released with little disruptions to the work environment—both the environment of the project management team and that of the client company.

This is a multi-step process that allows for the planning and eventual deployment of the final product.

13. Reward Project Team

The final step in the project closure process is likely the best one of all.

It’s time to reward the hardworking team members who ensured the successful completion of the project. In doing so, the team’s rapport will grow, as will the confidence of individual team members. This positively affects future projects.

Money isn’t the only method to reward the project team. Added encouragement and creative flexibility can often be a more powerful way to thank your team for a job well done.

It can also have greater positive impact for you, as your employees will be more motivated to work in the future—and their creative liberties could add great innovation to your next project.