Whether you’re working at a software company or a creative agency, you probably know very well that projects don’t end when someone pushes the final commit to the code base or when the client replies with “looks good” to your work. Sure, the delivery part of the project lifecycle may be over, but now is the time to properly close a project. In this blog post, we’ll show you some of the most important steps you should include in your company’s project management processes at the end of a project.

First, let’s address why you should even care about a project closing process.

Why is it important to have a project closure process in place?

A project closing process is useful to ensure everyone involved in the project is on the same page, and the project is officially finished. What happens when you don’t close out the project properly? For starters, you might still receive change requests from the client who’s unaware that it’s no longer the time for such requests. Closing a project is also advantageous from the resource management perspective. You won’t unnecessarily keep your employees booked on an already completed project-they will be free to work on new assignments. Finally, you will have an opportunity to look back at the project and evaluate what went right and what could be improved.

What about your employees? Participating in a close process after a project, whether it’s successful or not, will give them a sense of closure and improve team morale.

How to start designing your team’s project closure procedure?

If you want to build a unified process for project closure, you might want to start with a thorough analysis of the status quo. 

Meet with the project management team and discuss their activities towards the end of the project life cycle. Together you can analyze the pros and cons of different approaches and build a procedure that fits your company’s needs.

What should you consider including in a project’s closure phase?

First of all, you should go through the list of requirements and make sure that the project team prepared all of the deliverables. The project closing process can start when you’re ready to hand off the project.

Formally hand off deliverables

Get in touch with the client to formally transfer all of the deliverables together with the necessary documentation. It may be the case that you’ve been handing off different project elements earlier in the process. It’s perfectly fine. You just need to make sure that your client has access to the complete set of deliverables. Remember about sharing URLs, logins, passwords as well.

The next step is to obtain an official sign-off from the client. Ideally, you’d have a written statement—an email will do, that your project team’s work has been deemed acceptable by the client. If you fail to secure a sign-off, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise later on: if there are any issues, it’s better to address them now.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to receive feedback from the client. You can schedule a call to have a retrospective meeting with the client. After such a conversation, you’ll likely have some action points for future improvements and potentially a nice testimonial to put on your website.

Handle the paperwork

There are many project documents a project manager needs to deal with throughout the project life cycle. The closure phase is a great moment to organize all of them and make sure there are no loose ends.

People working on a project might feel like they know every in and out of the project. That’s probably the case for now, but what about in a couple of months when the client wants to ask about a technical detail? It’s much better to have all of the project-related documents properly organized.

Additionally, you should also formally close project contracts with different vendors or freelancers. Don’t forget to pay them!

Review the project

As mentioned earlier, project closure is a perfect moment to reflect on your team’s performance. Go to your project management or resource management software and analyze project reports. Here’s a couple of ideas of what you can take a close look at:

  • Estimates vs. actuals: compare your team’s estimated hours with the actual time they spent on the project. Can you notice any patterns? For instance, was there a particular phase of the project that was underestimated? Or perhaps you can spot that certain team member’s work has been underestimated initially, and they needed more time to finish their tasks. Such insights are very valuable for planning your team’s next projects. 
Project report - estimates vs actuals

Use Teamdeck to create an estimates vs. actuals report.

  • Resource utilization:  were all of your team members utilized evenly? Perhaps some of them were putting in a lot of overtime, whereas others didn’t have that much to do? Both cases aren’t good for team morale. Fortunately, once you identify improvement areas, you will be able to better plan teams for your next projects.
team utilization report

Calculating billable hours as well as non-billable time may help you find further improvement ideas when it comes to increasing your team’s productivity.

When you’re reviewing the project, you should also organize a project team meeting to discuss lessons learned and ideas for the future.

Acknowledge your project team’s efforts

If your company is working on multiple projects at a time, as it is the case for many agencies or software houses, it might not be obvious for everyone that a given project has just been completed. It would be a good idea for a project manager to send a company-wide message announcing the project’s completion and acknowledging their team’s hard work. They should try to highlight the achievements of every team member and make sure they included everyone. Such a gesture will definitely make your employee feel valued and noticed.

While a pandemic might prevent you from organizing a celebratory event for the project team, you should still try to have some fun with them. Even a virtual celebration might be a fun occasion to foster camaraderie.

Document and share lessons learned

By now, you have discussed the project at length with the project team, got feedback from the client, and looked at the data. It’s very likely that you have valuable, actionable insights that could benefit your company’s future projects. It’s crucial that you document them and share them with other people responsible for your company’s project management.

Additionally, it’s a great moment to create some marketing buzz around the project: put it in your team’s online portfolio, publish a case study. It’s advantageous to have such steps planned; otherwise, they might never get done amidst other projects and tasks.

Remove your team’s bookings

Even if you’re confident that your teammates know that the project is ready, you still should officially release them from this assignment. When looking at your company’s resource calendar, these employees should no longer be booked for the completed project.

Check your team's availability with Teamdeck - hire for remote teams

Make sure your team’s resource calendar is up to date. This way, other project managers can book them for new projects. 

Are you ready to build a project closing process?

When reading about different steps in a closure process, you have likely noticed that this phase will take some time. It’s yet another reason to have such procedures in place before the project starts. When you know how many hours it takes on average to close out a project, you can account for it when estimating project costs.

We hope that this blog post will help you plan effective project closure steps that match your company’s needs. It will definitely benefit your team’s future projects.

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