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How to ensure smooth project closure and handover

Project closure and handover is a pivotal stage in the PRINCE2® methodology, designed to ensure that the project outputs are accepted, the project is completed within scope, and resources are efficiently released. This phase not only wraps up the project in a controlled manner but also sets the foundation for the ongoing success of the delivered outputs.

As projects begin to wind down, it's essential not to overlook the final stages, even if it seems like the result has been achieved or you’re already preparing for the next project. Project closure is a crucial and valuable stage that offers learnings, improvements, and reflections. These insights are not just for the next team but also for the current team, emphasising their role in the continuous improvement process that project handover can deliver.

Strategies for smooth project handover

Reviewing project objectives

Start by revisiting the objectives outlined at the project's initiation stage. This involves ensuring that all goals have been met and that the final deliverables align with the initial project scope.

Verify deliverables

The project’s outputs should be compared against the product descriptions provided in the Project Initiation Documentation (PID). This step is critical to check that all expected deliverables are accounted for and meet the required standards. This can be a collaborative approach, such as during the handover meeting, which cross-references all of the deliverables against the standards when transferring these to the next team.

Assess project performance against targets

Evaluate the project’s performance relative to the initial targets set for timescales, budget, scope, quality, benefits, and risks. This assessment should reflect whether the project has adhered to the stipulations of the PID.

Capturing lessons learned

A thorough review session should be conducted to capture lessons learned, which is an integral component of the PRINCE2 methodology. This aims to identify what was successful and what could be improved, providing valuable insights for future projects.

Customer deliverable acceptance

It’s crucial to obtain formal acceptance of the project’s deliverables from the client or customer. This typically involves the client signing off on the completed work and confirming that it meets their requirements and expectations.

Collating feedback

Gathering feedback helps gauge client satisfaction and pinpoint areas for improvement. This feedback can guide future projects and enhance client relations.

Prepare handover documents

Create comprehensive handover documents encompassing all necessary instructions, warranties, and support details to effectively use the deliverables.

These documents may include:

  • Project closure report
  • Service transition plan
  • Acceptance record
  • Operation maintenance manuals
  • Release notes
  • Configuration records
  • User guides
  • Contact information for user support
  • Archive and data retention policies

Training and support

Ensure that adequate training and support are provided to those who will manage or interact with the project’s outputs. This step is vital for a smooth transition and ongoing operation. This may include training from third-party service providers or going through user guides and manuals to manage the deliverables effectively.

Staff reassignment

Reassign project team members to other roles or projects, making sure they are well-prepared for their new assignments. Consider their new roles and responsibilities and confirm any ongoing support functions for the project after the handover.

Closing supplier contracts

Finalise all supplier contracts and ensure all obligations, including payments, have been fulfilled. It may be worthwhile reflecting on the working relationship of these contracts and keeping a record of this for future projects.

Document storage

Organise and store all project documentation in a secure yet accessible location, ensuring compliance with organisational standards and data protection laws.

Document archiving

Archive critical documents and files according to organisational policies, safeguarding important information for future reference.

Benefits realisation

Review the benefits outlined in the business case to ensure they align with what was delivered. Set up mechanisms to measure these benefits as they materialise over time.

Schedule sustainability reviews

Plan for future reviews to assess the long-term impact and success of the project deliverables, ensuring sustained benefit realisation.

Formal project closure

Prepare and distribute a project closure notification to inform all stakeholders that the project has officially been completed and closed

Celebrate success

It is important to recognise the project team's effort and success. Celebrating can boost morale and positively influence team dynamics for future projects. Creating an end-of-project celebration can be a great final step, ensuring that all project closure and handover tasks are completed successfully. It is also a great chance to reflect on and recognise the hard work that went into the project.

10 questions to ask at a project handover

To ensure a smooth handover, these ten questions can help to ensure all bases are covered:

  1. Have project objectives been achieved? If not, why not, and what’s the impact?
  2. What are the outstanding issues that need managing, and how?
  3. What are the SLAs for ongoing support and maintenance?
  4. Who is responsible for the benefits review plan?
  5. What training has been received and is still needed?
  6. Are all documents available and accessible?
  7. How must we ensure compliance with legal and regulatory laws?
  8. Are there any warranty periods to be aware of?
  9. Who is responsible for future changes and approvals?
  10. What feedback has been received, and how can we use these insights?

A systematic approach for project handover

By adhering to these structured steps, project managers can ensure that the closure and handover phase of their project is executed smoothly, enhancing overall project success and client satisfaction. This systematic approach not only closes projects efficiently but also strengthens the foundations for future initiatives.

If you want to develop a systematic approach to project closure and handover, a PRINCE2 certification is a great place to start. View our PRINCE2 training courses and start your learning today!