Ground Preparation: Closing an External Project

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By Ramiro Rodrigues

When outsourcing a job to consultants and service providers, I’ve often found that achieving "agreement" with a client that a project is finalized is one of the most delicate times.


This is usually due to the fact that by closing the project the client knows that:

  • He or she is agreeing that there are no more pending requests.
  • The consultant/service provider will no longer serve them as to the scope of that project.
  • It authorizes the final payment of the project.


Scope verification—the process of formalizing the approval of a project scope—recommends progressive approvals are made as partial deliveries of the scope take place. This process, if well planned and applied, helps to minimize the weight of the final approval term.


The strategy I developed over many years of consulting work is something I call “ground preparation.” This strategy has four simple stages that need to be well distributed in the time near the project closure to increase your chances of a non-traumatic closure.


Let's review them:


1st Stage: As you move close to the end of the project, start the conversation, preferably face-to-face, with the stakeholder responsible for accepting the project.


2nd Stage: Send that same stakeholder a draft version of the project acceptance document that is as close as possible to the final version.


3rd Stage: After giving the stakeholder time to digest the draft, follow up to discuss any questions or concerns. Also, this is a good time to let them know when they can expect the final acceptance document.


4th Stage: Send the final version of the acceptance document and suggest that you collect it with, if applicable, some sort of closing event.


Of course, we are talking about a project that has successfully achieved its goals. But even projects that have had to be aborted or projects with a low degree of success at the end must be formally shut down. A lot of this strategy can be replicated whenever the end is imminent.


What are your strategies for closing down a project?


In my next post, I will review the characteristics of the acceptance term for internal customers.

Posted by Ramiro Rodrigues on: July 17, 2017 02:19 PM | Permalink

Comments (12)

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Thanks for sharing, very good post.

I like how you point out that scope verification is an iterative process. In many cases you won't just give all deliverables at once, but over time. The better you can manage getting approval earlier on, the less work is saved for the end, and you can also correct any errors that might have popped up.

Your 4 steps are straightforward but concise. I'll be utilizing them moving forward.

Really like the step by step plan! Thank you for that. I feel like project closure is often an after thought, appreciate the focus on it.

Realmente coincido contigo Ramiro, abundaría solamente que desde un inicio se deben establecer los términos para el buen fin de la obra o servicio. Como bien dices, las entregas parciales son importantes como referencia para conocer que tanto se ha logrado del alcance total, te puedo decir que de los mas de 15 contratos que he analizado, la mayoría durante el cierre de la obra siempre surgen adversidades que generan un ligero conflicto, no originado por la ejecución de los trabajos, sino propiciado principalmente por reclamaciones que la sub-contratista desea conciliar y le sean reconocidas, a lo que el cliente optará por sustentar hasta el mas minimo argumento para no reconocerlas

It's not mentioned but I'll assume your including some sort of lessons learned session for future use, probably fits around the 1st or 2nd stage.

Closure and acceptance by the external client is not an easy step. In some industry such as construction they use a provisional acceptance, follow by a final acceptance. It may make it easier.

Dears thanks for your words and, even more, for your contributions. My honest thanks, Gracias por sus palabras y, aún más, por sus contribuciones. Mi sincero agradecimiento, Ramiro Rordrigues

Closing correctly is critical as it formalizes the "temporary endeavor".

Good one. Closing is an important activity. Lessons learnt and Customer feedback should be recorded and analysed

I’ve seen Project Managers having a hard time to have their projects formally closed by the client. Usually before final acceptance is received, a bunch of negatives are collected and of course lessons learned come together in this process.

Thank you!

A good closure requires a good start, specifically defining the acceptance criteria up front.

Each deliverable should have been assigned a acceptance criteria. The acceptance criteria will vary by deliverable type. For a piece of software, the acceptance criteria could be a list of user scenarios that can be satisfied. For a document, the acceptance criteria could be completeness and accuracy.

Identifying early on what will be used as an acceptance criteria will ensure that your project closure will be simple.

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