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Why Project Closure Is Important
The basic process groups for the management of projects are initiating, planning, execution, monitoring and control, and closing. All these process groups have been developed through including the best practices found globally. The project closure process is the last of the process groups, and is considered important for the project's success. All projects have a definite start and a specific end. A project closure process indicates the formal closing of a project, and lists the key activities required to be undertaken at this stage of a project. Commencement of the project closure process prevents the occurrence of additional expenditures by the project. However, the buyer may be required to incur essential buyer's closing costs, like inspection by experts, legal documentation, etc. A closing costs calculator is available to accurately determine the buyer's closing costs. The project closure phase can use a lessons learned template, and a project closure report form to facilitate the project closing. The project closure process is repeated for all phases, if a project is completed in phases.
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Smooth Project Closure Process
It is essential that the project closure process is conducted smoothly to ensure customer satisfaction that is an important asset for efficient project management. Project delays increase the cost to the organization and should be avoided. Pictures of the closing ceremony may be arranged to establish long lasting customer relations. Some of the important tips for a smooth project closure process are mentioned below:
Precise Definition Project Scope
It is essential that the project scope should be defined accurately by obtaining maximum information of the stakeholder needs and expectations. Numerous methods are used for this purpose, including brainstorming techniques, Joint Application Development or commonly called JAD sessions. JAD facilitation is performed by a coordinator who should have obtained JAD training, and be able to do JAD planning. Answering interview questions by the stakeholders will facilitate the development of a precise scope definition that will be useful for the conduct of a smooth project closure process. Use of a project charter template may be useful for a precise definition of project objectives, high level schedule and budget, project milestones, and other characteristics. Project managers should be trained on how to write goals and objectives of the projects, since these are important for project closure.
Acceptance criteria for the deliverables should be precisely defined during the planning of the project, and be prepared in close coordination with the customer. Vague acceptance criteria are likely to cause difficulties at the project closure. Therefore, it should be in accordance with the user needs and expectations, and will form the basis for acceptance of the deliverables. The acceptance criteria are a contract between the project management and the customer for the project performance, and should not be changed unless decided by an integrated change control board.
Continue to Page 2 for more tips on ensuring a smooth project closure process.
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There are numerous steps that can be taken to ensure a smooth project closure process. The importance of this process should be realized by the project management team in order to develop suitable strategies. Normally, the project team may relax after the execution phase, and thus the project may not be fully prepared for this important process.
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Smooth Project Closure Process
Develop Closure Strategy from the Start
The planning for a smooth project transition at closure should be completed during the planning process, and be included in the project management plan. These plans should be a baseline for the project closure. Project completion is only achieved when all the deliverables defined in the project management plan have been handed over to the customer.
Creation and maintenance of effective and frequent interaction during the project life cycle can assist to ensure a smooth project closure process. The status of the project, including its expected completion, and other issues related to the project should be communicated on a regular basis. Such interaction will prevent surprises at the project closure process. A vital element for successful closing is the establishment and maintenance of open communication lines with the correct stakeholders. Communications are started in the initial stages of project initiation, when the project charters are being developed. Software is available to track the project status for communicating to the stakeholders, including Primavera project management software.
The customer should be involved in the project activities throughout the project life cycle. However, interaction during the project closure process should be more frequent, like training, documentation, inspection, and release of the deliverables. Such dealings will facilitate a smooth closure.
Propose Continual Assistance
The customer is normally concerned about the functional capability of the project, and their detailed inspections do not eliminate these apprehensions totally. By offering ongoing support, confidence of the end users is increased, and delays at the project closure are avoided.
Suitable testing should be arranged during the execution phase of the project so that errors are not noticed at the project closure. Testing may involve inspections and use of test equipment. In a software project, testing is important all through the build. However, it is most vital during the closing process. Regular testing addresses the errors from early stages, and ensures timely delivery at project closure.
Customer Incentive To Finish
Incentive should be provided to the customer to complete the project closure at the earliest, as is the desire of the project team. Establishment of mutually agreed deadlines for this purpose may assist completion in accordance with schedule. A closing ceremony may be scheduled, and the customer will be inclined to finish accordingly.
Continue to Page 3 for concluding tips to ensure a smooth project closure process.
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The project closure process occurs when the deliverables have been completed and are in the process of being signed-off by the customer. This is the moment when the customer may be apprehensive, since after deliverables have been signed-off, they will be responsible for all the subsequent problems. The project manager should mitigate this fear, and guarantee their continuous assistance after the sign-off. Such an assurance may reduce the customer concerns.
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Smooth Project Closure Process
Recognize Customer Unwillingness
Despite the completion of a project that is of top quality, the customer will have apprehensions regarding the functionality of the project after being taken over, when the project team may not be available for assistance. In such a situation, maintaining a close interaction with the customer, and answering interview questions will enhance his confidence. The customer may believe that his team may not possess adequate knowledge regarding the project, and may confront difficulties, after being responsible for its operation. Use skills like conflict resolution, and problem solving that can manage their concerns.
List For Sign-Off
Preparation of a sign-off list that will contain actions to be executed during the project closure process will assist in the project closing. Availability of this list will expedite the closure process, and facilitate a smooth closure. Convey the condition of the listed items regularly to the customer, and obtain sign-off for each item as it is completed. The project is considered to be completed when the final item is signed-off.
All efforts by the project management team during the project life cycle are directed towards the efficient and smooth project closure process, when the deliverables are signed-off by the customer. Involvement of the customer throughout the project life cycle will prevent project delays at the closing. A precise definition of the project scope and the acceptance criteria during the planning process may be facilitated by holding Joint Application Development (JAD) sessions, and answering interview questions during interaction with the stakeholders. JAD facilitation may be possible by proper JAD training and JAD planning. It must be realized that project delays and overruns cost the organization, and a smooth project closure process will be cost effective for the business. Use of a lessons learned template may be valuable to recognize the potential difficulties during the project closure process, and development of suitable strategies for a smooth closing. It is important that the project managers fully realize the importance of project closure process, and make suitable action plans for this purpose. Delays that occur during the project closing are often due to lack of planning and inadequate effort that is directed for this important project process group.