Closing out projects is something that unfortunately takes a backseat a lot of times during the execution of a project. Merely because most times the project team is so focused on getting over the go-live mark that anything after that is somewhat of an afterthought. However, project close-out plans are vital to getting your project over the true finish line – the project close. And it all starts with building a great project close-out plan. Here’s how.
Always Go Back to your Contract
Make sure that as you build out your project close-out plan, that you refer back to your contract and ensure that all deliverables have either been already delivered and accepted or that there is a task in your plan to ensure that they are delivered and accepted by your customer. You will not get a project sign-off until all of your deliverables are accounted for. I use the term “accounted for” since during the course of the project, deliverables can potentially be de-contracted via change orders.
Determine Ownership of Issues
When preparing a close-out plan, be cognizant of any open issues that are still lingering on your project. Issues, meaning likely technical defects with the solution that have been deemed ‘ok’ for go-live but need to be resolved in a timely manner before the project close. Your project team needs to be handling these issues just the same as they were during pre-cutover and ensure that your customer stakeholders are still engaged as well (for testing and validation purposes). Work with your customer to determine the path for each of your issues, establish ownership and remediation processes (likely you can use whatever you were using during the project).
Build a Firm Schedule & Task List
As with any plan, the schedule is the centerpiece. As you go through planning for your close out, consider all aspects of what you are contracted to deliver still and determine how best to get there. What about transitioning to your Support team? How will you get the customer formally introduced to them? Are there any more on-site visits planned? Does there need to be? All this will help drive out your schedule. Once you have agreement on it, you need to manage your close out like a mini-project and ensure that both your team and the customer team are performing to expectations.
Project close-out is not usually “highlight-reel” material when it comes to planning an execution but it does serve as a huge lynch-pin to making sure that all the great work that you and your project team did during the course of the project is not tarnished by a sloppy close-out. Project close-out is the last mile, it’s usually uphill but if planned and executed right, should be the final bow on your successful project.