In this new series from Replicon, we cover every step in project management from A to Z. In our fourth segment, we discuss the final step: closing a project.
You’ve built the deliverables, hit all milestones, and ensured the product meets your organization’s quality standards across the board – but you’re not done yet. While it may seem as though everything was taken care of at the end of the execution phase, formally closing out a project involves several procedural yet essential steps in concluding the project management process; there are still some important loose ends to tie up yet.
Secure Approvals And Transfer Deliverables
Now is the time to finalize your project deliverables, and ensure that all stakeholders and clients sign off on the final product. This eliminates any potential concerns or debate moving forward by identifying any subsequent changes as change requests outside the original budget or timeline. This is especially valuable when reviewing scope, and in helping to avoid the dreaded scope creep. With that confirmed, you can safely hand-off all officially completed deliverables to the customer.
Settle All Finances And Invoices
When it comes to payment, keep it prompt. Maintaining positive client relationships is much easier when you proactively communicate on costs to ensure all your WIP and unbilled hours have been accounted for. Now is the time to finalize any additional payments, discounting, and unpaid invoices to close out the customer’s revenue stream and make sure you get paid for all the moving parts.
Release And Reallocate Resources
With the project finally delivered, you can now formally release your resources, including vendors, team members, and contractors to free up their schedules for other work. Keep in mind that paying off contractors quickly will work in your favor by accounting for actual project costs, metrics, and margins sooner rather than later. Simplify the process by utilizing a solid project & resource management software that tracks resource availability and allows for easy removal from the now completed project. Doing so helps to confirm accurate payment amounts and serves as a final check for any remaining obligations.
That said, it’s not too early to start thinking about where else your resources might be needed. Chances are good that other projects in your organization are ongoing or in the planning stages, and could benefit from some help. Consider each of your team members’ specific skills and when and where it might make sense to transition them afterwards.
Conduct A Post-mortem Session
A post-mortem (also referred to as a retrospective or review) is a helpful post-project team briefing that identifies and documents lessons learned throughout the project’s lifecycle. Together, you can review successes, failures, oversights, challenges, and more to identify possible areas of improvement. Gather feedback from stakeholders and team members for a thorough record of what worked and what didn’t – the purpose here is not to assign blame, but to continuously strengthen workflows, cost-effectiveness, quality, and more for subsequent projects. Referencing the gathered data in reports and analytics from the project will be helpful in this discussion. Some of the questions you might ask:
- Did we stay on budget?
- How well did we communicate and collaborate?
- Were available skill sets and resource allocations sufficient for each phase?
- Was the client satisfied with the final product?
- What worked well, and what could we improve moving forward?
Archive Project Documentation
The work may be completed, but don’t ditch those documents! They can be used for valuable insight and implementation on projects in the future, as well as providing security for any potential inquiries. Gather all the documentation your project generated from start to finish – such as business requirements, plans, financial documents, contracts, agreements, and other materials – and arrange for them to be stored or indexed for safekeeping in your system. Always ensure a thorough record is kept. Consider a cloud-based project platform for easy document collection and management.
Plan Your Next Steps
Now that you have a little breathing room, consider checking in with your current clients to see what other projects might be in the pipeline. If your latest project experience struggled to meet any requirements, look into arranging training or other services to keep your project resources in tip-top shape. You may need to make some fast hiring or contracting decisions if you find yourself lacking an urgently needed skill set.
Last, but certainly not least – congratulations! This was a huge accomplishment for everyone involved, and all of you deserve some time to relax and give each other a pat on the back. Happy people make great teams, and great teams do great work, so don’t get started on the next big thing until you’ve taken some time to appreciate the fruits of your labor. Kick back, relax, and enjoy.