This probably sounds like a strange question in the hopefully very organized world of project management, but it really isn’t all that strange. How do you know when your project engagement has come to an end? What is your project completion critera?
Is it when all tasks in the project schedule show that they are 100% complete? Is it when all customer sign-offs are safely tucked away in a project folder? Is it when the end solution has been deployed? Is it when your PMO Director says you’re done and assigns you to another project? (Don’t laugh…saw this happen once but that’s for another article.)
All of these – except for that last one – could logically be answered ‘yes.’ But they can also be answered ‘no.’ There is no perfect ‘right’ answer actually because each of these could still be followed and something could have fallen through the cracks. Knowing when we’re actually done with the project may vary a bit depending on the project, the customer, and possibly some stipulations agreed to during kickoff. To best ensure that the project is basically ‘complete’, follow these four steps…
Review the project schedule for completeness
For starters, look over the project schedule. Are all tasks showing as 100% complete? Without all tasks documented as complete in the project schedule – which should serve as the go-to resource on assigned project tasks that make up all things that were to be completed on the project – then we can never even begin to think of the project as ‘finished.’
Confirm with the project team
We certainly want to make sure that from a documented standpoint, all project work is complete. But we also want to make sure that we haven’t missed something that was discussed along the way. What if a project team member promised a task or document to the customer a couple of months ago. Since customer satisfaction is always of utmost importance, we want to make sure that any promises, documented or undocumented have been followed up on. Of course if its something significant, you’ll want to first check with the customer and confirm they need it and want to pay for it it’s out of scope. But always include this step – it may end up uncovering something that was important to the project or customer.
Discuss with the customer
Next, interview the project customer and make sure that they, too, consider the project work to be complete. Go through the project invoices with them or prior to this conversation to make sure all invoices are paid. Any outstanding invoices should be addressed with the customer at this time to ensure there is no reason that payment is being withheld.
Obtain customer signoff
Finally, the last step is to obtain a formal project acceptance or sign off from the customer. The other steps are really to help ensure that the customer is happy with the solution and that all stakeholders feel that the necessary project work has been completed. However, this official sign off really trumps everything else and is a necessary final piece to the project closure puzzle.
We can certainly make the project closure process a very rigid, structured process…and that’s fine. A good project checklist is always a great idea. However, by also following these steps you should really be able to ensure that nothing has fallen through the cracks and that the project is, indeed, complete. See how this project management tool can help you.