Close-Out 1Credit: Cory Stophlet, Mar 2015

The Close-Out Phase of a project represents all the activities, events, tasks and completed documentation needed to verify that the project is truly complete. What does “done” look like? Keep this question in mind as you build your close-out products and activities. The close-out verifies completion and delivery of the product and all its pieces and parts. You can have multiple Close-Out phases. Remember that a project may have multiple phases, not that different than multiple projects whereas the product and results of one phase serves as the initiation of the next and so on until the final overall results are achieved.

Close-Out 2Credit: Cory Stophlet, Mar 2015

The Project Management Institute. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) doctrinal answer to what the project closing is or consists of is . . .

"those processes performed to conclude all activities across all project management process groups to formally complete the project phase or contractual obligations." page 49. 2013  – Fifth Edition.[1]

Project Close-Out Handbook

Key Element

Verify the Scope: Convert the scope requirements into objective terms (not subjective).

Think Checklist, it's either there or not there; yes - no; true - false. List all the required scope elements. Use the original project charter, scope documents, Product and Project Breakdown Structures, and Work Breakdown Structure, as well as all change control documents. 

Since projects can involve multiple phases with their own initiation, planning, execution and control, they also have their own closeout. For instance as we discussed in the earlier lessons a project can have a design phase that has its own outcome in the form of a product or service. The design phase outcome becomes the baseline for the follow-on "prototype phase" of the overall project.

Close-Out 4Credit: Cory Stophlet, Mar 2015

In a multiphase project, each phase will include (at least) the five major process groups (Initiation, Planning, Execution, Close-out, and Close-out). The close-out defines what constitutes the end of the phase and how we know that we've reached the end of the phases. The close-out activities provide the final verification that the scope for that phase has been achieved. 

A project close-out may take several steps and involve several days, finishing up with a close-out meeting or related closeout activities. For example, if we were building a software package, and we believe that we've completed all requirements for that software, a scope verification checklist of all the scope items must be developed and completed. This is a joint effort between the project manager/team and the client/customer. Other activities include verifying actual funds expended, the project schedule completion results, performance measures; verify any scope changes resulting from the change control process.

Close-Out Contingency Plan

Additionally, have a contingency plan in place just in case, at the end of the project or phase of a project, the customer client or sponsor decides that what they've received is not what they were hoping for; in spite of the fact that you gave them all the scope requirements. It happens.  Be prepared to identify new requirements and create a new project plan that incorporates all those "new" requirements along with the additional cost, resources and time burdens. It is sometimes necessary to build a small scale project to accommodate new requirements. This follows the old saying "plan for the worst and hope for the best, so if the worst happens you’re ready and if the best happens, you’re done."

Close-Out 5Credit: Cory Stophlet, Mar 2015

We covered this in previous discussions. A project to create a new product can have multiple phases. In each of the phases below a product results thus making each a project; even if each is a sub-product of a greater project. Thus, for each of the projects below, the following processes occur: 

  1. Initiate
  2. Plan
  3. Execute
  4. Control
  5. Verify
  6. and Design Close-out

Design Phase Project:  The outcome = design documentation, engineering drawings, detailed specifications, etc.

Prototype/Proof of Design Phase Project: The outcome = a working prototype based on the outcome of the Design Phase Project; along with documented proof of the successful performance of the design. Of course if the design fails, the project returns to the previous Design Phase Project.

Build Project Phase: The outcome = a complete full production product to include full scale production set-up for continuing products if the full scale is accepted.

Test and Acceptance Project Phase: The outcome = testing and documented results for the product, manufacturing systems and processes, may or may not include training and operational manuals and documentation. 

Production Training and Maintenance Program: The outcome = training the company production personnel; establishing maintenance requirements and training/qualified maintainers/repair personnel. 

Final Project Close-Out: The outcome = scope verification documents, quality documents, contract sign-off, all other documents that provide the owning organization what is needed to continue producing the overall product.

Project Close Out by Marie-Louise Barry

Closing activities also include sign-off on the project between the project manager and either (or all) the sponsor, the organization's comptroller, or contract officer. Simple and small projects may involve nothing more than a simple sign-off between the contract office and the project manager; it all depends on who initiates the project, has financial authority and control over the project, who manages the project, the users of the project and or customers of the project. The bottom-line is, it is the efforts necessary to verify final delivery and acceptance of the product and services produced (or performed) by the project.

Close-Out 6Credit: Cory Stophlet, Mar 2015

Other Closing-Out Activities the Project Team

  • Conduct post-project or phase-end reviews.
  • Conduct lessons learned/after action review with the team.
  • Perform individual and group team member assessments/evaluations.
  • Establish/Complete project historical and archive all data; inclusive of all documented results from the project’s activities.
  • Ensure that all the project information is collected and filed including archiving all electronic data and emails.
PM PractitionerCredit: Cory Stophlet, 2015

Final Word

Manage expectations before and throughout the close-out phase. As a project evolves and progresses towards its conclusion, everyone will inevitably have differing expectations as to the outcome or the project. Some client/customer/users will be happy with the results and some will not. The procurement and contracting office will be happy as long as the scope has been achieved and within the allocated budget (as well as possible). The sponsor will be happy as long as the scope is met and it achieves the organizations goals and vision. Sometimes the employees that are responsible to use the project or service may not be fully satisfied with the results.

Everyone has expectations and may not get everything they want. It happens. Sometime employees want things that are not in-scope; you, the project manager, will have to manage those expectations. This means to keep the scope requirements above-board and constantly in-front of all stakeholders. If a “desired” function or feature is really important, all stakeholders must know how and have the ability to present it through the change control process so that it is not brought up as an unachieved scope item or stumbling block at the close-out of the project.