Three Can’t-Miss Steps for Project Close Out
You’ve reached the end of your project – congratulations! Now you need to make sure you carry things past the finish line and out to the parking lot and do a proper project close. Project closures can often be done in haste or without the due attention that it deserves, due to many circumstances – no more budget, other (higher) priorities, dispersal of project team and so on. To ensure that your project is given the proper (final) attention it deserves, make sure that your project close includes, at the very least, these three items.
Lessons Learned & Action Plan
This should be a no-brainer. You learn a lot when you deliver a project, both positive and negative. Take advantage of these learnings and use them to make yourself and your team better. Organize and facilitate a lessons learned meeting (include your client if at all possible). Get open and honest (but constructive) feedback on what you and your team could do better, discuss what you did great and make sure that you put together an action plan to follow through on changes that you feel you can make to ensure that you improve for your next project. A rule of thumb should be that there is no constructive feedback without a matching task in an action plan to improve your process in some way.
Invoices Submitted and Paid
A cardinal sin for project managers is to “close” a project without all invoicing being submitted. Depending how your organization is structured, the project manager may also be responsible for ensuring timely payment of invoices from your customer. At the very least during your project close, you should ensure that the customer as all of the project invoices in front of them and that there is a plan for payment on any outstanding invoices (something your A/R department can easily follow up on).
Customer Succession/Retention Plan
This is an aspect of project close activities that is easily overlooked and yet so incredibly valuable to the health of the customer relationship that it should be the priority from the start. Get your sales team involved in discussions of how your customer will be looked after once your project is complete and signed off. If your project team is not tapped to stay on with the client (as most project teams aren’t), make sure there is a handover plan in place to ensure that the customer does not feel so much as a speed bump when moving from project-mode to day-to-day operations mode. This is also a great opportunity to solicit new business from the customer that was not done in the scope of your project.
Project close is often times an arduous and tiring task, especially at the conclusion of longer, tougher projects. But without it, even successful projects can often sour and lead to unnecessary challenges that are easily avoidable by following some type of project close routine. Ensuring that (at a bare minimum) these three items are looked after will start you down the path of a successful project close.