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The importance of performing close out activities before closing the project and the business risks associated with skipping these activities John Constance MSc in Project Management, University of Liverpool Week 5 Discussion Question Abstract Most projects are initiated, planned, executed and monitored and controlled with the full cognizant of executives and clients.
However, once the project has been considered an overall success, a part from preparing and conducting opening event with ribbon cutting and extensive speeches, little attention is paid to formal close out documentation. This often leads to incomplete information for use by facility operations and maintenance team or the next project team to implement a similar project. According to Ed Naughton, Director General, Institute of Project Management Ireland (www. projectmanagement. e, 2011) “without a project close out plan it will is difficult to know if the project was completed as planned, and how this information can assist the team in the next project as there will be no information on lessons learned therefore providing no assurance that past mistakes will not be repeated in another future project”. Introduction In my nine years of project management I have learned that to start a project is difficult; but to close a project is both difficult and at times seemingly impossible.
In order to close a project smoothly without undergoing stress even at celebration ceremonies, it is very important a plan is initiated during the planning phase. The key activities, processes and procedures, and acceptance conditions and documentation must be agreed and documented and this plan tracked and updated during execution and executed during closure, meeting not only the project team expectation but also the acceptance of the client. If this does not happen the project runs the risk of not being completed on schedule, within budget and targeted quality, also making future operations and maintenance difficult.
Experts View Robert K. Wysocki (Wysocki: pp 283-288) explained how “an effective project close out plan gets client to accept or reject deliverables through several applied approaches; it records all changes made in the life of the project; it keeps project records that can assist in estimating duration and cost of future projects; the lessons learned and best practices from past projects can be used to provide training for new project managers and project team; and the performance evaluation reports from functional managers can also be used as a guide for the next project”.
Wysocki also explained how “end of project impact or post-implementation audit helps the team and client determine if project goals and activity were achieved as planned, budgeted, scheduled and according to quality targets, specifications and client satisfaction” (Wysocki: pp 289). Other experts that support the importance of preparing close out plan before the project closure include, Robert P.
Walsh (2004, pp. 1) who wrote that “the close-out phase includes final testing and cleaning, occupancy approval from local authorities, punch list walk through, staff training, turnover of final documents, and move-in of furniture, fixtures, and equipment; thereby making planning ahead and outlining the close-out requirements at the onset of the project certain of a smooth start to occupying the new workplace”.
Dimitrios Litsikakis (The Importance of Project Closeout and Review in Project Management, 2007) said “projects managed with no close out plan continue to fail on new projects because management forgets to records past actions as they did not have the time to think and conduct a post implementation review to determine what went wrong and what should be fixed next time”. Conclusion The risk of skipping planned project activities as listed by Robert Wysocki (2009, pp. 83-288) is a big threat for the likelihood of future problems. This is the case with 2 projects in South Sudan. The first had close out problems because client condition of satisfaction for deliverables was not documented at the start of the project, nor was it tracked, updated, discussed and agreed. During close out, senior management from the client and contractor blamed each other for not having a plan making close out a war of words to be settled by an Arbitrator.
Also, another project, although with a documented close out plan that was reviewed and updated on a monthly basis, did not include an agreement as to who would be the receptor of project asset. This brought chaos during closure when government claimed all assets should be turn over to them and the donor refused, simply because there was no indication of this in the close out document.