Alright! UAT is over and your client just launched their shiny new site! Before you raise a glass and celebrate, have you followed due process to close out the project?
Project closure is often ignored at the end of an engagement. Things are chaotic leading up to a Go Live, and that is usually followed by a brief moment of celebration and then the pressure to assign resources to the next gig.
Why is the Project Closure Process Important?
- Confirmation of Objectives Being Met: at the end of each engagement we must pause and ask ourselves, “Did we accomplish what we set out to do?”. After all, your client hired you to help them meet some organizational objectives, be it a new social intranet or an externally-facing website that their employees can easily update. Part of the closure process is to obtain project or UAT (User Acceptance Testing) sign-off from your client to confirm that you and your team have met the project objectives and met the agreed-upon requirements.
- Sense of Closure: confirming that objectives have been met to the client’s satisfaction gives the client and the project team a sense of accomplishment and closure. It gives the client a sense that you and your company are serious about helping them meet their objectives, and you will stay accountable for what was promised. Skipping this step is a big no-no! It’s like your hair dresser giving you a new haircut but not showing you the mirror in the end to ensure that you like the new cut!
- Improving Future Engagements: unless we look back and reflect on each engagement, it is impossible to learn from it. During the project closure process, it is essential that a lessons learned meeting happen with the client and another with the internal team. Clients will respect you more for asking the hard questions and soliciting honest feedback. A third party that was not involved with the project should facilitate these sessions. You want an open, safe and non-judgmental discussion surrounding questions such as: What would we do differently next time around? How did we work together as a team? How can communication be improved? How can we improve our project methodologies? Did we under or overestimate certain pieces? What were the major accomplishments?
- Capturing the Knowledge: as part of the lessons learned sessions, the team should identify project assets (documents or code), that can be re-used in future engagements. Task someone at the end of the meeting to do just that, so that it does not get forgotten as the next engagement begins. Set up a knowledge base where all the project documents can be accessed by the internal team and the client in the future. You don’t want to lose the key assets and re-usable components from each project. This is how you continually make your engagements more efficient over time!
- Tying up Loose Ends: there are a lot of administrative tasks that must happen at the end of a project to make sure the project is appropriately closed from a back-office perspective. Tasks like sending the final status report, asking for the final payment, approving all time sheets and re-assigning resources, should all be part of the closure process to make sure they are executed in a timely fashion.
- Rewarding the Team: recognition of a job well done is just as important as sharing constructive feedback. Making a company-wide announcement to share the successful completion of the project and thanking the team is extremely important. Take your team out for a fun event or a nice dinner and give them small tokens of your appreciation (gift cards, chocolates etc.). It’s also important to celebrate with the client. It allows you to connect with your client in a social setting (which is highly recommended even while the project is on-going) and to thank the key stakeholders for their support and contribution throughout the engagement. A little gratitude goes a long way!