Project Practitioners > Is This A Project Managers’ Favorite Task?

Is This A Project Managers’ Favorite Task?

By Morley Selver, P.Eng IPMA B

 You know what task I’m talking about. Your project is up and running, you’re moving on to another project, gearing up, getting organized, motivated, excited about the new project, just can’t wait to get going, when the boss says, “Oh, by the way”. These are words no project manager wants to hear, but I digress. The boss comes in and says, “Oh, by the way, don’t forget, you have to close out your last project”. Talk about being deflated. Project closeout is the least enjoyable project task there is. It is boring, you’re not motivated, the other team members are not motivated, you have to spend a lot of time getting people to do the necessary work to complete their portion of the close out process, it’s all paper work, there are usually no funds, you have to get down to the details to find stuff, record keeping may have been poor so the records are not there, some bureaucrat won’t let you get away with; “Can we just do it this way”? “Oh no, you can’t, the procedure says you have to break it down into 50 separate sub-jobs, with each one having it’s own separate description, blah, blah, blah”. You get the picture. It is not a pleasant task, but it is a necessary task.

I Can’t Remember What Happened! 

If you wait to long within the project process to close out your project you will have trouble. When we waited until the end of the project to do the paperwork the team members had moved on and people had forgotten what transpired so it became a difficult task with the final result not very concise or complete. For the project manager, it became a matter of, just do it to get rid of this pain in my backside. Of course, once the project is complete, there was no more budget left to cover the closeout task. So, what to do? 

 Well you can  change the process to do the engineering portion of close out once you have issued IFC drawings. Make sure the team members have enough hours to do the necessary close out work and being at IFC, the issues are still fresh. It may not be perfect , but it does work reasonably well; all depends on the project procedures you need to follow. Sometimes, part of our closeout procedure is to return client drawings back to the clients data base as well as any drawings you create that need to be sent to the client. This can be a real pain if you are working with work packages and drawings cross several work packages, but you will have to work with it. An important step for closeout is to close your project to all charges. Close out can be a drawn out process with flurries of activity followed by no activity. When there is no activity there is a tendency not to keep track of charges to your project and unwarranted charges could be charged to the project. You have to be aware of this and control this aspect. Your project controls team member should help you with this.

What Do I Need To Include?

So what goes into a close report? As a consultant your report should contain;

  • an executive summary that briefly describes the project, final cost and schedule information
  • a project description that compares the original scope and the final scope.
  • performance metrics as they relate to scope, schedule, and budget.
  • significant deviations from the original plan
  • overall team’s perception of the project
  • overall clients perception of the project
  • things that went well and could be applied to other projects.
  • things that went wrong and should be corrected or avoided for future projects.
  • lessons learned that can be applied to future projects.

As you can see the narrative information needs to be gathered as soon as possible once the project is finished. Since projects can last for several years and by waiting too long to gather the information, a lot of good information will be lost once the team members move on to other projects. If you are able, you should understand what information is to be included in your close out report and track it as it happens in the project. This will cut down on a lot of effort later on. 

There’s Still More!

If you are a production organization, you will have to look after or gather the following:

  • Have the consultants returned all the drawings and other documentation you require
  • Have the red lines been completed
  • Do you have input from construction on lessons learned
  • If the work is complete, you need to close out any mechanical work orders 
  • If the work is complete, you need to close out electrical work orders 
  • Has all your QA/QC documentation been completed and has it been submitted to the appropriate people.
  • Have all the health, safety, and environmental forms and tasks been completed.
  • Has all pressure safety valve information been transmitted.
  • Has all the vendor data been turned over. This may be in the form of data books. Do you have sufficient copies of the data books and did the right people get them.
  • Do you have all the mechanical and electrical documentation.
  • Do you have all the process safety information
  • Have all the pertinent files been turned over. It is the project managers responsibility to go through and purge the office files. You are the one who knows what is important and not important. Do not leave this to your secretary.
  • Has all the procurement information been turned over
  • Have any warrantee cards been signed and sent to the vendor
  • Is it mechanically complete and all installation information turned over to maintenance
  • Is it electrically complete and all installation information turned over to the electrical group.
  • Is it controls system complete and has the installation information been turned over to the controls group.
  • Have all the equipment rentals been sent back or signed off so the project is no longer responsible for the equipment. This is a tricky one to watch for when in an operating facility. You need to make sure the project is no longer responsible for the equipment.
  • Project controls have to close off all cost inputs
  • You need a final cost report
  • You need all consultant close out reports
  • You need all consultant final billings
  • You need all contractor final billings
  • You need to close all of your facilities cost tracking documentation.

As you can see there is a lot of small stuff that has to take place and when you are moving on to another project or you have several other projects going on at the same time, close out can be a real pain and is going to end up on the bottom of your priority list. A real good way of tackling this onerous task is to do what I have done in the past. Give it to a junior engineer. They have to learn how to do it, so what better way than digging right in and getting their hands dirty.


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Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

The best way to take the pain out of this process is to mandate regular status reports, at least a monthly report (weekly is far more preferable). While they may not be popular during the time of the project, by its end they are invaluable in creating a narrative about the journey from the project's launch to its close.

Joe MacNish

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