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Closing a PRINCE2 project 

 September 3, 2022

By  Dave Litten

Closing a PRINCE2 project

Closing a PRINCE2 project will sidestep one of the main problems with projects is that when they come to their end point, it is not clear when to close the project, or worse, there are arguments about whether the project has delivered what it promised. Want to learn more?

Time to Close a Project?

The net result is that projects overrun their budgets, drift aimlessly into operational life, or deliver poor-quality products. Therefore the purpose of closing the project process provides a point in time when the acceptance for the project product is confirmed and recognition that the project initiation documentation objectives have been achieved.

The project manager will want to verify that the users have accepted the project products, ensure that the organization is able to support those products, review the performance of the project against its baseline documentation, assess benefits already realized and forecast those remaining, and close down any open issues and risks with follow-on action recommendations.

PRINCE2 Closing a Project – Controlled Shutdown!

Once it is clear that the above has been achieved then the project management team can be disbanded and further project costs should no longer be incurred. The end products must transfer into the ownership of the customer.

When planning the last stage of a project, products, costs, and resources for closing a project should also be included within the relevant stage plan.

The results and management products from closing a project should be used as input to the project board in the form of a recommendation of project closure, as it is the project board alone that had the authority to close the project.

Closing a project should also be used at any point during the project should it be necessary to prematurely close the project. This could happen after review of the Project Initiation Documentation at the end of the initiation stage, and at any point during the remaining delivery stages.

Some of the management products created during closing a project may need to be modified if this process is used as part of a premature close.

The activities involved with closing a project are: Prepare Planned Closure, Hand Over Products, Evaluate The Project, and Recommend Project Closure. In the event of premature closure, the same sequence will need to occur but the activity ‘prepare premature closure’ will replace the activity ‘prepare planned closure’.

Finally, the project board executive should notify corporate or programme management that the project has closed.

The 5 Activities of Closing a PRINCE2 Project

Closing A Prince2 Project

There are 5 activities in the PRINCE2 Closing a Project Process for the Project Manager and they are:

Preparing planned closure, i.e., confirming the completion of products and their acceptance
Preparing premature closure: This is done instead of the “prepare planned closure” activity if requested by the Project Board
Handover of products: Hand over products to the customer, as described in the Change Management Approach document
Evaluating the project, i.e., comparing the project objectives with the actuals and writing the End Project Report
Recommending project closure, i.e., sending a notification to the Project Board to close the project.

PRINCE2 Prepare planned closure

This activity is about confirming that the products have been produced, delivered & accepted.

The Project Manager does the following:

Project Plan: Update the Project Plan to show what products have been delivered. For example: Mark delivered or completed and make changes to the Project Plan if the last stage has performed better or worse than what was forecast in it
Product Status Account: Request from Project Support a document called “Product Status Account.” This is a short report on the status of all products, such as Product Identifier, Status: Accepted and so on
Meet Acceptance Criteria: Confirm that the project has delivered what is defined in the Project Product Description, and that the acceptance criteria defined in the Project Description has been met.

The Project Board will also check that all products have been accepted and signed for and the acceptance criteria have been met; and seek approval that project resources can be released (e.g., equipment used for the project, contractors and rooms) so that these do not continue to be charged to the project.
Once these steps are done, the Project Manager is ready to hand over the products, complete the End Project Report and then recommend project closure.

Prepare premature closure

Sometimes the Project Board will instruct the Project Manager to close the project. The Project Manager will not just abandon the project but should try to salvage anything of value so it can be used again.

Note: This activity is done instead of the 1st Activity “Prepare Planned Closure” if the Project Board requests to shut the project down early.

PRINCE2 recommends the following actions:

Record Premature Close: Record the Premature Close Request in the Issues Register
Project Plan: Update the Project Plan with actuals from the current stage. The Project Plan will show what was completed when the project was closed
Product Status Account: Request from Project Support a Product Status Account so that you can identify:
Products developed, currently under development, to start, etc
Products that need to be made safe and may be useful to other projects
Note: In smaller projects, the Project Manager will do this.

Products: Agree what to do with the completed products and products that are currently under development. This might require extra work, as there may be a request to complete one of the products first before shutting down
Lastly, seek approval from the Project Board that project resources can be released, so that the project can stop being charged for these resources.

PRINCE2 Handover products

The products produced by the project must be passed on correctly before the project is closed. Some projects hand over products as they are approved. This is known as phased delivery.

The Benefits Management Approach may need to be updated to include post-project benefits reviews of the products and also note the persons who will perform these benefits reviews in perhaps 6 months or 2 years. This will not be the Project Manager, as this is after the project has closed.

PRINCE2 recommends the following:

Follow on Action Recommendations
Prepare the follow-up on action recommendations for the products. These are mostly taken from the Issues and Risk Registers
Benefits Management Approach
Check that the Benefits Management Approach includes post-project activities to confirm benefits that cannot be measured until after the products have been in operation for some time
Configuration Management
The Change Management Approach document will describe how the products should be handed over.
Some common steps here are:

Confirm that the correct operation and maintenance environment is in place
Consider the early life-support requirements of products, as this is often where the most support is needed
Check if a support contract is required and get it drawn up if necessary
Confirm acceptance from the operations for the products and obtain acceptance records, as these are required by the Project Board
Lastly, transfer responsibility to operations for the products and register this in the Configuration Item Records to show who the current owner of the products is.
In short, products are handed over to operations and the Change Management Approach document describes this process to follow.

PRINCE2: Evaluate the project

The objective of this activity is to assess how successful or unsuccessful the project was and to learn from this project. This is an activity that is often rushed, so it is up to the Project Board to make sure that the Project Manager gets time to do this before being dragged off to a new project.

PRINCE2 recommends the following actions for the Project Manager:
Baselined documents:

Review the baselined documents from the start of the project. This is the Project Initiation Documentation, which includes the Project Plan and the Business Case documents.

End Project Report:
The Project Manager will compare the current documents in the Closing a Project Process such as the Project Plan and the Business Case with the baselined documents
The Project Manager will do the following to create the End Project Report
Prepare a summary of how the project performed
Review the project benefits delivered so far compared to the expected benefits
Review how the project performed against its planned targets and tolerances
Review team performance
Review of the Project Products.
Lessons Learned Report:
The Project Manager will work with the Project Management team to prepare a Lessons Learned report. This will be used to benefit future projects. The Lessons Learned report should include the following information:

A review on how the project went, what went well and what could be improved
How effective the Quality Management Approach was in designing, developing and delivery for purposed products; and
Any useful information gained regarding the tailoring of PRINCE2.
As you can see, the Lessons Learned Report can be very important for future projects and it is one of the documents the Project Board reviews before they close the project.

In summary, the main documents created in this activity are the End Project Report and the Lessons Learned Report, which are both given to the Project Board.

Once the Project Manager has done their work in the Closing a Project Process and has confirmed that the project can be closed, they raise a Closure Recommendation to the Project Board.

Remember, it is the Project Manager that prepares the project for closure but it is the Project Board who closes the project or, in PRINCE2 words, “authorizes project closure.”

PRINCE2 Recommend project closure
PRINCE2 recommends the following actions for the Project Manager:

Communication: Look up the Communication Management Approach Document to see who needs to be told that the project is closing. This can be any of the stakeholders
Close documents: Close the project Issue Register, Risk Register, Quality Register, Daily Log and Lessons Log (i.e., update the status as “complete” and make them “read only.”
Configuration Management: Check that all project information is archived and secure. See the Change Management Approach document for advice on this
Notification document for the Project Board: The Project Manager also prepares a draft Project Closure Notification that will be used later by the Project Board. This will state that the
Project has closed and give other summary information on the main product produced.

In short, products are handed over to operations and the Change Management Approach document describes this process to follow.

You may ask, “What happens next?”
The project returns to the Directing a Project Process and to the last activity “Authorize Project Closure”
The Project Board reviews the Project Closure notification document, decides to authorize project closure, and sends this Project Closure Notification out to advise stakeholders that the project is closed.

Want to become a PRINCE2 Practitioner in the next few weeks?

Check out our PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner Masterclass here

Dave Litten


David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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