The closeout phase of the project life cycle is as important as any other phase, yet many project mangers and their organizations do not place as much value on this phase as it deserves. The primary reason is that any project-oriented organization that is especially dependent on external contracts for their core business is under enormous competitive pressure to move on to new projects as quickly as possible. This usually means that functional managers start reassigning project team members to new projects even before their old assignment is completed.
The project manager must plan for the closeout phase well in advance of the schedule project end—ideally in the development phase of the project life cycle. And the project manager must resist, within realistic boundaries, the siphoning off of team members before a formal project close date. Since the project manager does not have functional authority over the team members, this is not easy to do. One thing that can help is to include the closeout requirements and responsibilities in the project charter.
Although the primary emphasis in any project is to provide the end product to the customer on time and on schedule, the project manager must not forget that there are ancillary support items required in each project. For instance, almost every project requires documentation such as operating manuals. The project manager has to ensure that all requirements of the project and the product are satisfied.
Finally, one important task in the closeout phase that is often overlooked is the final audit or evaluation. This important task is critical to the organization because it is from these audits that future projects can be made better. The audit is accomplished principally for the lessons learned that could be applied to future projects.