Understand why, when and how-to to formally close a project

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1 Project Closure Purpose: Understand why, when and how-to to formally close a project Audience: Project managers, project sponsors, team members and other key stakeholders Learning Objectives: Describe business reasons supporting formal project closure Understand templates & tools available to support closing the project Understand how to gather data to create the PIR Timeframe: 19 Minutes 1of 8 Course: Project Closure Purpose: Understand why, when and how-to formally close a project Audience: Project managers, project sponsors, team members and other key stakeholders Learning Objectives: Describe business reasons supporting formal project closure Understand templates & tools available to support closing the project Understand how to gather data to create and publish Post Implementation Reports 1

2 Why is Closure Important? 2of 8 Why is Closure Important? Projects, by definition, have a beginning and an end. Without a formal closure process, projects can drag on as stakeholders strive to include just a few more requirements. These unbudgeted addons can create serious consequences like: significant impacts to schedules and budgets; sponsor interest wanes and the team loses motivation and focus. Any significant changes at this stage of a project should be treated as a second release and a new project. These changes have to be tightly controlled by the project manager. You finally finished a lengthy project and are ready to move on. Right? Well, not so fast! As the project manager, you own responsibility to the sponsor, customer, and team to formally close out the project. Being done with the project does not mean being done with the project management process. Merely finishing a project does not ensure that the organization benefits from the project's outcomes. The next steps in the process is to validate the outcomes and formally report the findings. For example, after completing multi-year project to implement a new Private Placement Workflow system, you want to make sure that what you planned to do was actually achieved. Your objective wasn't to simply deliver a system - but rather, to implement a process that: automates the global deal workflow; reduces the time to complete each deal by 50%; provides real-time 7x24 secure access to internal staff and external brokers. The real measure of success is achieving the specific business goal you intended to meet. This assessment occurs during the Closure process. 2

3 Closure Objectives, Timelines & Boundaries Objectives Transition Product/Service Complete Administrate Close-out Capture Performance Information Timeframe Grey boundaries between stages 3of 8 Closure Objectives, Timelines & Boundaries Closure is the final stage in the project life cycle and is triggered when the sponsor formally accepts the project. The objectives of this stage are to: transition the product, services and deliverables to operations and support; logically complete administrative and logistical close-out activities including contracts; release project resources and capture performance information that will help improve future projects. Every project requires Closure. For large & complex projects it is recommended you either close out each major phase (for example: design, coding, testing or training) or close out each major release. Remember it is advisable that large projects be broken into manageable releases (for example a formal release every 3-4 months) to ensure customers see incremental value over time. Projects allowed to go on for long periods without incremental deliverables are destined to fail. There will be a period of tuning before you can review the implementation as it is intended to function. You may have to: overcome resistance to change; hold customer s hands while they work with the new system; and eliminate technical issues that surfaced after testing. Where possible, allow for at least one, full, successful cycle of business before reviewing lessons learned. Since this may not always be possible (e.g. due annual processing requirements that could be many months off), your agency may have procedures to follow-up after closure is complete. There is a section in the PIR report called: Future Plans Review to capture information required to support this follow-up. Due to the broad range of process activities, Closure occurs over a period of time. The project manager is responsible for securing acceptances and closing out procurement immediately after the project is delivered. Post implementation review workshop sessions, surveys and lessons learned sessions typically occur approximately 2-8 weeks after the official implementation/transition of the project depending upon the complexity of the project. The goal is to find a balance between allowing sufficient time to lapse so that the full extent of benefits and short-comings can be identified while being cautious not to let too much time lapse to ensure that the project is fresh on the team s minds. Remember the boundaries between the stages can be grey. For example, you may start some closure activities while you are late in Execution and Control. Transition activities begin at the end of Execution and Control but may finish up in Closure. 3

4 Transition Planning & Sponsor Approval 4of 8 Transition Planning & Sponsor Approval It is the project manager s responsibility to ensure that the sponsor formally accepts the project as planned. Since securing this approval is not always easy, we are providing guidance on how to create measureable criteria that define completion so that conflicts can be avoided and approval secured. The ultimate measurement of success of the Execution and Control Stage is the project acceptance by the Sponsor. There should be an agreement between the project manager and the sponsor on any unresolved activities and ownership of the open/pending items. The Transition & Go Live checklist, project plan and project tracking log should provide information required to identify what is pending and who owns these outstanding items. The specific criteria or checklist items will vary by project. Here are some items to consider prior to the Closure stage: 1. Has the product been implemented and is it producing the expected benefits? 2. Have all deliverables been completed and implemented? If not, has accountability for outstanding items been assigned? 3. Have new workflows and procedures been documented, tested and implemented? 4. Have all outstanding issues been resolved or assigned owners? 5. Have hardware, software and other components been installed? 6. Are system, functional, performance and user acceptance testing complete? Have serious bugs been fixed and a process implemented to deal with smaller bugs and/or new bugs that might surface during regular operations? 7. Is training of all staff (users, support, help desk) complete? 8. Is all required system and user documentation complete and available? 9. Has any old hardware, software, licenses been decommissioned? 10. Do you have the formal approval of the project from the Sponsor? It is not unusual for a project to have outstanding items as the project nears its end. The key is that all major and minor issues have an: action plan, owner and timetable that the customer believes is reasonable. Sometimes the sponsor will conditionally accept the project based on formal plans to address outstanding items and issues. 4

5 Post Implementation Review Process 5of 8 Post Implementation Review Process There are two types of project evaluation active evaluation and post implementation review. Active evaluation occurs throughout the life cycle of a project and is focused on continuous improvement. For active evaluation to work, it must be encouraged by the project manager. Active evaluation is question-based. The team is focused constantly on evaluating how they are: creating the work product and making adjustments to address problems, issues, and risks as they occur. For specific events, team members should ask: Why did this happen? What were the consequences? Could this have been anticipated, avoided, or mitigated? Who should have reacted and when? Was it due to poor: communication, planning, estimating, risk, or issues management? Could policy or process changes prevent a reoccurrence? The goal of this active evaluation is it to identify better ways of doing things throughout the project, so the processes can be modified while there is still time to impact the project outcomes. The second type of evaluation is post implementation review and is focused on providing data for future projects. We will examine the goals of the Post Implementation Review (PIR) process and the CommonWay tools available to assist with this evaluation. The goal of this evaluation is to capture valuable knowledge and experience gained during the project so others can learn from the team. This evaluation is future-focused. You want to understand and document both what went well and the areas needing improvement. It is easy to avoid events that went wrong out of concern of hurting someone s feelings or getting someone in trouble. Even riskier is the identification of problems that could be perceived as criticism of senior management. For post implementation review to be effective, it is essential that these sessions be viewed as informative rather than adversarial. Ask that the team be open, honest, and objective. This can best be accomplished by staying focused on the facts and avoiding negative statements. For example, a statement about the inadequate performance of a sponsor could easily become a career limiting move. Instead, focus on the facts and lessons learned. For example: during the planning stage (week 4), a three week delay occurred while waiting for approval of the scope statement and project plan (fact). This delay was due to a personal tragedy that took the sponsor away from the office for 3 weeks (fact). This setback could have been mitigated if another executive were given authority to make these decisions (lesson). CommonWay provides three templates to capture performance information: Survey Tool (optional), Lessons Learned (optional), and PIR Report (required). You can supplement and/or replace the optional templates with: personal interviews, custom surveys, and lessons learned sessions to help evaluate the project. Performance information should assess: whether the outcomes matched the project goals, objectives and critical success factors and if the customers are happy with the work product. The results of the analysis are incorporated into the Post Implementation Report and published. Some organizations may ask project managers to present their findings to a Governance Board and/or Steering Committee. The Closure process will help the team to feel a sense of accomplishment and completion and provide an opportunity to celebrate. 5

6 Post Implementation Review Analysis 6of 8 Post Implementation Review Analysis The purpose of the business impact analysis is to determine whether the team was successful at delivering what they setout to deliver. This information can be gathered through: surveys, one-on-one interviews, and lessons learned sessions. It is the project managers responsibility to determine the most effective suite of tools for gathering the required information. Project Benefits: Start this analysis by reviewing: the goals, objectives, benefits, critical success factors and/or acceptance criteria from the Charter, Scope Statement, and System Development Life-cycle documents (SDLC). With the assistance of key stakeholders, assess whether the product is functioning as expected including: stability, performance, and scalability. Review the expected deliverables. Determine if the needs were initially identified correctly or if they changed due to unforeseen events. Ensure that all deliverables have been delivered with an adequate level of quality or a reasonable substitute has been provided. Identify any unexpected results. Budget: Now review the project s costs and benefits. Summarize final project costs. Highlight any cost overruns and reasons for these overruns. Identify ongoing operation and support costs. Assess whether the benefits realized are worth the cost of the project. If the project did not deliver a sufficient return, identify how this return can be improved. Schedule: Consider the original schedule (start and end dates) vs. the actual schedule (start and end date). Analyze the reasons for any deviations from the actual schedule. Scope: Consider any changes made to scope during the life of the project. Risks & Issues: Consider how Risks and Issues were managed, mitigated and resolved. Team Work & Communications: Consider how the team worked together; how they dealt with conflicts and how they communicated inside and outside of the project team. Requirements, Architecture, Design, and Security: Consider the inputs provided by the business and technical stakeholders and evaluate the quality of requirements, design, and security integration. Make a point to note the areas that required improvements. Governance Structure and Management Support: Assess how well the project structure supported the on-time/on-budget delivery of the project. Determine whether you had consistent management support at all levels of the organization for removing obstacles and keeping the project moving in the right direction. Sometimes there is initial support that wanes. Lessons Learned: Assess what went well and what could have been improved. Identify the top 3-5 lessons that other teams can benefit from. All the above components (good and not-so-good) should be analyzed and reflected in the Post Implementation Review Report.

7 Lessons Learned Purpose Forum Participants Questions 7of 8 Lessons Learned Lessons Learned sessions are one more vehicle for capturing performance information. Typically, a Lessons Learned Workshop is conducted with the entire team to review particular aspects of the project. Capturing lessons learned is the process of gathering, documenting and analyzing feedback on events that happened during the project for the benefit of future teams on similar projects. The Lessons Learned Sessions brings the project to closure by providing team members with an opportunity to: discuss successes; identify areas that could have been handled better; and provide recommendations to future teams on similar projects. The session is typically a large meeting that includes: Project Core Team Members Sponsor Extended Team Members Executive management (Optional) Some typical questions to answer in such a session include: 1. Did the delivered product meet the specified requirements and goal of the project? 2. Was the user/client satisfied with the end product? 3. Were cost budgets met? 4. Was the schedule met? 5. Were risks identified and mitigated? 6. Did the project management methodology work? 7. What could be done to improve the process? 8. Did you Archive information in the project repository? The CommonWay Methodology provides an optional Lessons Learned template. The PM can elect to use a white-board or flip-charts to capture the same information. This information is then analyzed and incorporated into the Post Implementation Report (PIR). Remember, a lessons learned session is a valuable closure mechanism for team members, regardless of the project's success.

8 Administrative Closure 8of 8 Administrative Closure Administrative closure is an important part of the formal closure process and is focused on logistical items. Many of these items happen early in the closure process. Project Repository Update the project repository with the latest version of all project documents. The Project Manager and team are responsible for keeping the repository current throughout the life of the project. Given this, the work at this stage of the project should be minimal. Some agencies may maintain a separate lessons learned database. If this is the case, follow any agency specific closure procedures related to this activity. Contracts & Financials Complete all paperwork required for contracted services and approve appropriate final payments to contractors and vendors. If there are issues or problems related to a contract, escalate and resolve them as quickly as possible. Close out project accounts. Summarize required project financial information and ensure that any accounting is done accurately. Resources Notify team members and functional managers that the project is concluding on a specific date and resources can be reassigned to new projects. Release space and equipment so resources can be reallocated. IV&V other Audits If your project operating model requires an Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) at the end of the project, ensure that this is concluded by the independent vendor and that the report is published per the engagement rules. Celebrate Take time to recognize the accomplishments. If vendors or functional managers require evaluations, provide the required input. We have walked you through: how to secure sponsor approval via the transition process; why closure is important; components of closure process and supporting templates. This concludes the Closure course.

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