Done: using the Closing a Project process in PRINCE2

The Closing a Project process is the last process in PRINCE2.   We all know that Projects are temporary and, just as important as getting a proper start to a project and defining what has to be delivered, is ensuring that we close the project effectively. Too many times the initial enthusiasm of a project runs out and the distinct project becomes more like day-to-day work - like it's always been there.  Alternatively, projects are never allowed to close because the customer keeps coming up with extras and change requests to bolt on at the end. You don't want this to happen.  When it's done, it's done - there should be a realisation that the project is over successfully - or things are so bad there's no point carrying on.  In either case you need an end of project template to hand over, learn lessons and take stock.  This is the PRINCE2 Closing a Project process - clearly defined steps for the Project Manager to follow when a project comes to close down.

How does the Closing a Project process help?

The Closing a Project process provides a clear checklist of documents and activities to ensure that you:
  • Bring the project to a controlled close
  • Hand over to the new owners of the products
  • Use the PRINCE2 Learn from Experience principle to review and write down what worked - and what didn't.
  • Identify any unachieved goals and objectives so they can be dealt with in the future

When to use Closing a Project

In PRINCE2, the Closing a Project process can be triggered by one of two things: - 1 - The approaching end of the final stage of the project.  This is known as a Planned Close.  Or - 2 - The Project Board has decided that the project is no longer viable.  This is known as a Premature Close

The Planned close

This is planned as part of the project's final stage.  It's important to note that, for PRINCE2, "Closure" is not a separate stage.  It's just part of the activities that get done in the last stage of the project.   These may also include building and testing the last products and then, when it is recognized that the Acceptance Criteria (in the Project Product Description) have been met, it's time to start the Closing a Project process.

The Premature close

This could be triggered by events inside the project - things not going well or the business case no longer being viable.  Or it could be something external - events in the program or portfolio which mean that your project has to close, perhaps to free up resource for other change initiatives.  In either case a Project Issue will be raised and reviewed by the Project Board who will issue a premature close request.

What happens during the Closing a Project process?

There are 5 activities for the project manager to carry out.   Only 4 are used, depending on whether it is a planned close, or a premature one.  These are the 2 possible start points:

Prepare planned closure activity

This is the start for a Planned close.  The Project Plan is updated and a Product Status Account is produced to confirm all the products are done and completed.  Approval is sought to start telling corporate that the project is ending and resources can be released.

Prepare premature closure activity

This is the start for a premature close.  This time the Issue Register gets updated to record the Project Issue which has caused the close and then the Project Plan and Product Status Account are updated, just like a planned close.  The difference is that the premature close includes a salvage operation - some agreement on how to recover products which have been completed or are works in progress. After this, planned and premature closes follow the same 3 activities:
  • Hand over products - pass over the products to operations for business as usual maintenance.  This could a "big bang" type handover or a phased arrangement
  • Evaluate the project - write-up the End Project Report and the Lessons Report
  • Recommend project closure - use the project Communication Management Strategy to notify stakeholders so that, once the Project Board approves the work of the Closing a Project process, everyone can be informed and resources released.  This is also the time to close and archive the project's registers.  Don't forget them - they contain a lot of good information for Lessons in your next project!

What happens after the Closing a Project process?

This may seem like a strange question.  But, remember, we're doing PRINCE.  It's about Projects in Controlled Environments.  The Closing a Project process is really the pre-close work done by the Project Manager.  The actual decision to close belongs to the Project Board, who have final responsibility for the project.  Board members or their delegated Project Assurance representatives will work with the Project Manager during the Closing a Project process but the "final act" of a PRINCE2 project is actually after this process when, using the Directing a Project process, the Board approve the work done in Closing a Project and authorize project closure.  Then you really are done and the project is over.