90.0 Close Project


Just as it is important to formally kick off a project, it is also important to successfully close the project. The value of having a planned project termination is in leveraging all of the information and experience gathered throughout the project. If the solution is implemented and the team immediately disbands, you don’t have an opportunity to wrap up the loose ends, perform staff evaluations, document key learnings or ensure that appropriate deliverables are transitioned to operations. Of course, a project can end unsuccessfully as well. Even in this case, there are still key learnings, team evaluations and other wrap-up activities to make the most of what was done on the project.

When the project schedule is created, think about the activities that need to be performed to gracefully and appropriately close the project. These activities include:

  • Hold project conclusion meeting. A meeting should be held with the project team, sponsor and appropriate stakeholders to formally conclude the project. This meeting will include a recap of the project, documenting things that went right and things that went wrong, strengths and weaknesses of the project and project management processes, and the remaining steps required to terminate the project. Techniques or processes that worked especially well, or especially poorly, are identified as key learnings of the project. If your organization has a way to publish or leverage these key learnings, they should be sent to the appropriate group. (Key learnings that seem to work consistently on many projects, in many circumstances, might be raised to the level of a "best practice" and be utilized for all similar projects.)

An agenda for the conclusion meeting should focus on what the project was supposed to accomplish and what the project actually accomplished. The discussion should lead to a set of key learnings that describe what went well and what didn’t work. The agenda would be as follows:

  • Discuss the purpose of the meeting

  • Develop ground rules (optional)

  • List what the project should have achieved

  • Describe what the project actually achieved

  • Discuss “why” for any discrepancies between “should do” and “actually did”

  • Agree on a set of lessons-learned for future projects

  • List and document any remaining work required to close the project.

  • Declare success or failure. Sometimes it is obvious the project was completely successful and in other cases the project is a total failure. However, in many cases, there are mixed results. For instance, the major deliverables may have been completed, but the project was over budget. Or, the project team delivered on time and within budget, but the solution only met 80% of the business requirements. The key to declaring success is to define up-front what the success criteria are. If an agreement is reached with the sponsor and the appropriate functional manager on what success means, the project team can be evaluated against those criteria. The project team should first rate itself against those criteria, and then take the recommendation to the sponsor for validation.

  • Transition the solution to operation (if applicable). If the solution will exist outside of the project, it should be transitioned to the appropriate operation organization. The transition includes knowledge transfer to the operation team, completion and turnover of all documentation, turnover of the list of remaining work, etc.

  • Turn over project files (if applicable). A discussion should take place with the operation organization to determine which project and project management materials accumulated during the project should be turned over. Based on this agreement, some of the project material may be deleted or destroyed, backed-up, archived, etc. Those files and documents needed by the operation organization should be turned over to them to store in the appropriate long-term library or folders.

  • Conduct performance reviews. If the project was substantial, it may be appropriate to do performance reviews after the project completes. In this case, the manager of the project manager and the project sponsor evaluate the project manager. The project manager reviews the entire team or at least the direct reports (and then the direct reports review their direct reports, until everyone is covered). Sometimes the team is rated as a whole and then team members use the team rating as input into a personal performance review. Other times, the team members may have individual reviews based on only their own contributions. There should be some link, however, between team and individual performance. It would not seem to make sense, for instance, that a project could fail and yet all of the team members receive reviews saying they all did an outstanding job.

  • Reassign the remaining project team. Any remaining team members should be reassigned when all the termination activities are completed. For some people, this may mean completely new projects. For contract people, it may mean the end of their assignments. For part-timers, it may mean a return to their other full-time role.

It is the responsibility of the project manager to build project closure activities into the project schedule. These should be seen as vital parts of the project, not an afterthought as the team is getting disbanded. The project is not considered complete until the closure activities are performed

Close Contracts (90.0.P2)

Your project may have required the assistance of vendors for people, equipment, software, supplies, etc. Generally speaking, these project-specific contracts should be closed as a part of terminating the project. Of course, some contracts are broader than your project and these will remain open. You may have an open contract with a consulting firm, for instance, and you may have opened a Statement of Work for the specific services provided on your project. In that case, the general contract would remain open, but the specific Statement of Work would be closed. It is also very likely that all invoices have not been paid (or even submitted) when the project officially ends. However, the project manager or the appropriate contracts administrator should be responsible for closing these project-specific contracts after all outstanding bills have been paid.

Contract closure involves verifying that the work was competed and the updating of all contract records. Contract records are very important and include the contract itself and other relevant documentation such as progress reports, financial records, invoices, and payment records. These are often kept in a contract file, which should be part of the complete project file. Contract documentation is also important should a procurement audit be initiated. Such an audit is a structured review of the procurement process from planning through contract.

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