To finally close out a project, it is necessary to demonstrate that project goals have been achieved. This often requires a substantial, well-organized effort, which is planned early on, as is shown in the following examples.
Closing a Course Catalog Project
The project specification to produce a course catalog for a university management center states: Develop and produce 5,000 copies of a catalog describing each course, seminar, and workshop offered; it is to be organized by subject matter and provide the instructors' names and qualifications, the date, time, and place of the offering, and a statement of the benefits to be derived from attending the offering. The material must be organized so that a training manager or a prospective student can read it and easily find the needed course or seminar. This catalog must be suitable for mailing, according to the criteria of the U.S. Postal Service.
This specification sets forth the project's goals. Every detail outlined in the specification is a goal that must be accomplished. After it has been demonstrated that each detail has been taken care of, the catalog can go to press, and the project can be declared finished.
The center director served as the project sponsor of the catalog project, and the marketing manager was its project manager. To ensure that each specification detail would be completed properly and that none were left out, the sponsor and the project manager agreed that several people should review the finished galley proof. Each management center's subject area manager would read the catalog before its final printing, checking for overall accuracy and correct instructor qualifications. The scheduling clerk would check the date, time, and place for each offering. An independent training director was to sample the listings to ensure that the benefits were well stated and that it would be easy for a potential customer to find the needed seminar or course. An outside editor would be paid to review the galley proofs for correctness of form, punctuation, and spelling. Corrections would be made as required.
When all the reviews and the corrections were made and a clear galley proof was delivered, the project manager was ready to authorize the printer to print 5,000 copies and secure U.S. Postal Service approval for the catalog mailing. The center mail clerk eventually counted the boxes of catalog to ensure that 5,000 had been printed. This well-organized effort brought the project to a satisfactory closure. Anything less would have resulted in confusion for students and chaos for the management center.
Closing a Project for an Accounting System Designated for Small Commercial Firms
The project specification states: Develop a software package that will provide an accounting system capable of holding up to 500 accounts. The program shall provide for 1) entry of sales information of accounts receivable for up to 200 customers, with entries accurate to the penny, and up to $100,000; 2) an accounts payable entry system for 100 vendors, with the same dollar constraints; 3) the ability to automatically bill customers monthly, specifying a finance charge option of one percent a month for accounts 30 days overdue; 4) the ability to automatically write checks for vendors whose payments come due, with a manual override for checks to be issued selectively; 5) a monthly profit and loss statement and balance sheet. The program will be written in C++ language to run with a UNIX operating system on a machine with 9 GB of disk storage.
A demonstration of every item in the specification is necessary before this project can be considered closed. Early on in product development, the project manager and the sponsor carefully considered how to do this. The project team would develop ways to test the components and a package using the names of a hypothetical chart of accounts and balances at the beginning of an accounting period and a list of transaction entries for a hypothetical one-month accounting period. They would enter the account data into a computer in the firm where the software package was to be tested, and they would introduce transactions through journal entries. They would create the situation of an overdue account, issue some special checks to vendors, close the books at the end of the accounting period, and print out a profit and loss statement and balance sheet.
However, this was not enough for closure. One product of the project was a user guide for the customer, explaining how to set up and use the software. Because the product was developed for a broad range of customers who were to buy the software package, several potential customers would have to test it. This type of test, which is done by a customer's staff at the customer's site, is called a Beta test. The hypothetical material used in the initial testing was incomplete. The customer's staff, following the user guide to install the software and install their data on the software, would do so over a certain period of time. This must be a time period already processed using paper and a pencil. The customer would repeat processing the test month, using the computer to show that results were identical with the paper and pencil procedure.
While the product was going through its Beta test, the project manager was writing up a report that included the information needed by a "hot line" operator or the customer service specialist, to deal with the bugs that inevitably would emerge.
The project was ready for closure when the Beta tests were successfully completed, and the project report was completed, discussed, and delivered. Then, the project was complete, and it was time to celebrate!
The software package is not a unique example. Many projects require the same type of treatment to be brought to closure. A project not brought to closure remains uncertain in that it is always being fixed, adjusted, or improved. Sometimes, it even drifts away from the satisfactory results that were once achieved. There is a bit of wisdom in project management that says, "Finish the project; leave the improvements to the next edition."
The project manager should work with the sponsor and the customer early in the project to formulate a plan to demonstrate project completion, and they should stick to it!
Closing a Project to Build a House
Some closure is simple. When a good contractor finishes building a house, he arranges a walk-through for the customer to look over the house. He then makes notes on the necessary touchups, completes the touchups, and literally closes the sale. But, as with other projects, some owners move in early, and their houses never get finished.