A project has a start, a middle and an end, so closing a project is an important part of the project management life cycle. Closing a project successfully means a good, clean transition for the project team. This involves transferring ownership of the products to the operational team, and makes it clear that the project team are no longer responsible for them. The project manager and the team will be able to move on to their next assignment.
A clear end to the project also provides an opportunity to ensure that any goals that were not achieved during the project can be addressed in the future.
How Does PRINCE2 Handle Closing a Project?
Closing a project in PRINCE2 uses a variant of the Managing Stage Boundary process, as this closure activity happens at the end of the last stage. The work required to close the project should be planned as part of this final stage. The Closing a Project process tackles the end of the stage in a slightly different way to the other stages: instead of gaining approval to move to the next stage, this process gains approval to close the project and handover to operations instead.
What Are the Objectives of the Closing a Project Process?
The objectives of the Closing a Project process are:
- To verify that there is user acceptance of the project’s products;
- To ensure that the operational team is able to support the products when the project and the project team is disbanded;
- To review the performance of the project against its baselines;
- To assess any benefits that have already been realised, update the forecast for the remaining benefits and plan a review of those benefits at some point in the future; and
- To ensure that provision has been made to address all the open issues and risks, with follow-on actions or recommendations.
How Do I Close Down a Project?
There are three areas to cover when closing a project.
First, the project manager should check that the expected results have been achieved. This can be done through updating the project plan, checking that all the products have been approved and meet the quality criteria and checking that the acceptance criteria for the project have been met.
Second, the project’s products must be handed over to the operational team. This could be done in one go, or it might have happened as part of a phased delivery. If anything is not yet completed, prepare a follow-on action list for the operational team to pick up, including scheduling a review of benefits at a later date.
Third, evaluate the project. This provides the opportunity to review the project’s original intent as agreed back in the initiation stage, against what was actually accomplished. The evaluation can be presented as an End Project Report, which covers how the project performed against targets, tolerances and the baseline schedule. The evaluation can also include a Lessons Learned Report, so that other projects can learn from what went well and what didn’t go so well on this project.
What If the Project is Closing Before it Completes?
Projects sometimes need to be stopped before they are planned to finish. There are many reasons for this, including that the business environment or strategy may have changed, negating the need for the project. If this is the case, the project can still be closed in a controlled manner, which will allow the project manager to salvage anything of value and check that senior management is aware of any gaps left by cancelling the project.
People don’t like to be associated with failed projects
When a project is closed prematurely, there may be some products that have been completed. These can be handed over to the operational team if appropriate. It is also useful to notify the management teams that the project team will be released early and the team members will be available to take on other assignments.
When a project is stopped early, it is really important to make sure that there is adequate communication to the business and the project team. People don’t like to be associated with failed projects, so try to communicate the positive aspects of what the project managed to achieve before it was stopped, and clearly explain the business rationale for stopping the project at this time.
Where can I get more guidance?
The PRINCE2 manuals, and Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2, both include sections on managing project closure.