There are many activities to formally closing a project that include reviewing procurement contracts and records, verification that all deliverables have been completed, producing final status reports, conducting audits, conducting lessons learned, obtaining stakeholder signoff, and finalizing the project budget.
All of those activities are essential and are described in other nodes. There are a few additions to the project plan and project closure that should also be carefully considered. Attention to these items is necessary to provide more complete closure and to respect people on the team and people that might receive and provide support for project deliverables.
Ongoing Operations and Maintenance Plan
An ongoing operations and maintenance plan provides for the life of a deliverable beyond the life cycle of a project. Examples include technical support after a consumer electronics product is released, the manufacture of replacement parts for a car model even after the model year, or a Q&A service to help a client put a consultant’s plan into action. If there is a point at which the project team hands all such responsibility to the customer, that transition should be clearly communicated.
If the organization expects to have similar projects in the future, the operations and maintenance plan should include a way to gather information from customer interactions. A post-release issues log can help the team improve future versions of the product.
Release of Resources
Resources involved in a project may include supplies, equipment, real estate, and personnel. Closing a project allows all these resources to become available for new projects. Releasing a resource may be as simple as saying, “You’re working on this today.” Conversely, it may involve time-consuming transfers and legal documentation. Because the process of releasing can take so long, project managers should take steps to begin it as soon as possible after the closure of a project. In fact, many seasoned project managers who oversee multiple projects at one time begin the process of releasing resources before the actual closure of a project to eliminate lag time.
An unreleased resource often wastes both time and money. For example, if an office pays rent by the workstation, and one cubicle is full of unfiled paperwork from a closed project, the office loses money every month the cubicle is not occupied by a profit-generating employee. The office may incur further losses in productivity when people need to access the project’s documentation and have to hunt through boxes of paper instead of using an efficient document retrieval system.
What are contract closure techniques and processes?
Contract closure is conducted as part of the overall project closure process, one of two core components of this phase (the other being administrative closure). The objective of contract closure is to validate that the vendor has successfully met all contract deliverables and both parties are satisfied with the outcome of the engagement. Contract administration, and especially closure, is important not only from a project perspective but also primarily from a legal perspective. The flawed administration and closure of a project can cause enormous legal and financial liability to the organization, whereas a flawed administrative closure is rarely as significant.
The primary tool used in contract closure is the procurement audit. The procurement audit is normally conducted by contract finance resources outside the project team focusing their evaluation on two aspects:
- Was the procurement process for this effort executed in accordance with established policies, procedures, and legal requirements?
- Did the vendor and organization meet the terms of the contract?
The secondary tool used in contract closure is the records management system. The records management system is a group of processes, procedures, and physical documentation and storage tools for managing and controlling the procurement process. The procurement team provides direct support to the project team by offering templates and strategies to the project team in the contract life cycle. Additionally, the records management system normally contains a manual or automated index to a variety of previous or current contracts executed by the company, making this an invaluable reference source on vendor performance and results.
Closing a successful project offers an opportunity to recognize the team and individual team members for jobs well done. Celebrating this success can boost morale and collaboration, laying the groundwork for future successes. Celebrating success does not have to be expensive but should be done in some way to show appreciation from management for the project team efforts. If you have to make a choice, it is better to recognize the whole team rather than a few outstanding contributors.
Ideally, the project manager would treat developing an operations and maintenance plan, releasing project resources in an orderly fashion, and recognizing the efforts of team members in the same fashion as the other planned closure activities. Attention to these details adds value to the project and also supports future projects. Occasionally activities are overlooked in the haste to close out a project on schedule and attempting to begin the next project quickly. However, overlooking people-centric closure activities reflects badly on the project manager and makes it more difficult for a project manager to obtain resources from resource managers in the future.