The formal acceptance of the project by the customer usually is accompanied by a post-project review, which is conducted to ensure that all the activities outlined in the project management plan and the project documents are satisfactory. Resources are released from the project team and supplied to the stakeholders, who now can use the deliverables for their original purposes.
After a project has closed, it is also wise for project managers to capture any valuable lessons learned through useful documentation that will improve the execution of future projects.
Final Sign-Off and Delivery
When a project is completed, one key step is to obtain an official approval or sign-off from all key stakeholders to signal the close of a project. Far from being a mere formality, the sign-off establishes accountability and limits certain liabilities.
When project managers, team leaders, and other stakeholders sign off on a project, they are indicating that the work has met their standards and the organization’s standards. Individuals who have reservations about signing off should document these reservations and make sure stakeholders are aware of them. These concerns should have been raised much earlier in the project life cycle, but if they still exist at the project’s close, it is important to document them (the closing processes are a time for documentation, not a time to be raising concerns for the first time).
For example, a safety engineer on a project to construct a number of ski lifts who was hurried through testing should raise her fears about the product’s reliability during the planning and executing process groups, but if the engineer’s concerns still exist at the project’s close, she should capture them in the closing documentation. Doing so may cause a minor inconvenience, but it can prevent much larger problems from occurring in the future. If a problem does occur, accountability can be properly assigned—not usually to the people who raised the issues, but to the people who ignored them.
Project Sponsor’s Sign-Off
The project sponsor’s sign-off indicates satisfaction with the deliverable and intent to pay any remaining portions of the project payment schedule as described in the initiating documents. Hidden problems with the deliverable may void this agreement or limit the amount the customer must pay. Project teams may wish to limit their exposure to this risk. For example, work may be guaranteed for 60 days, after which the team is no longer liable for problems. Or the sign-off document may include a specific limitation of liability. Similarly, if the customer violates the payment terms, the project team has proof of the agreement and can take legal action to recover the payment.
A formal delivery and sign-off ensures that the stakeholder has approved of the deliverables, all work on deliverables is complete, and all contracts are closed. Some stakeholders may feel that this is unnecessary, but a formal acceptance protects the project team from stakeholders adding scope or making last minute changes which would increase the costs of the project. This also means that the project team can officially begin work on other projects and other opportunities. The stakeholder now has the opportunity to fully own and use the deliverables.