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Module 8: Project Closeout

Introduction

This module reviews the nature and significance of project closeout, an essential, although sometimes neglected, aspect of research project management. By ‘closeout’ we mean: the finalisation of all aspects of the project; assessment of its success or otherwise; formulation of lessons learned; and, ideally, the forging of opportunities for subsequent projects.

This module thus links in particular with the project management ideas and techniques addressed in topics in Modules 1 and 2, where the emphasis is on strategic context, commencement and planning. In working through the material on project finalisation in this module it may therefore be useful from time to time to review the project management guidelines of those earlier modules.

In addition, the closeout£¬acquittal and reporting procedures outlined in this module relate to, and provide a project management context for, issues addressed in topics in Modules 5 and 6. Again, it may be useful to refer to those modules in working through some of the topics below.

Closeout is a critical component of the research project that is not just about ticking boxes and transferring responsibility. Of course the time and effort expended in closeout needs to be proportional to the size, value and nature of the project that has been completed. For example:

  • A project that has been done for the first time will generally receive greater review and scrutiny than something that is more routine in nature, with the review possibly more focussed on the search for better and more efficient future approaches
  • A project that has cost a lot of time, effort and human resource will generally receive more effort in review, with the review possibly more focussed on the search for answers on how to put together more effective teams
  • A project that gives organisational profile and therefore may represent a reputation risk to the organisation may be reviewed more closely, possibly more focussed on the search for how best to present project outcomes to key stakeholders and the public

Project closeout and review is not a one-size-fits all recipe. Thought needs to be put into defining the process and approach to project closeout in the initial planning and definition stage of the project (answering questions like, “How will I know when this project is finished and/or has been successful?”), and of course, budget provision for the closeout and review processes should also have been made, otherwise closeout and review is unlikely to happen in a rigorous way.

A good project closeout and review process is dependent on having had good processes for setting goals, priorities, project definitions, scope, schedules and budgets as well as having effective controls for monitoring and tracking changes during the life of the project. Without this, closeout and evaluation become a subjective view of how the project has gone against what was originally proposed to be delivered (as changes have not been recorded and communicated) that is unlikely to measure up to external scrutiny or satisfy key stakeholders or lead to any substantive benefits to the organisation in terms of lessons learned.

This module comprises online learning material and a workshop.

You are expected to devote time to reading the online material and carrying out compulsory activities before attending the workshop. This module should take less than three hours to read and you may need to devote up to another hour and a half to carry out the compulsory activities.

The workshop is based on the assumption that you have completed the reading and carried out the compulsory activities.

Aims

The aim of this module is to provide you with an efficient and structured approach to project closeout. This approach will enable you to meet minimum client/sponsor obligations and capture ways by which they can improve your future approach to overall research project design, development and implementation.

The module also aims to illustrate some of the different requirements of different project types that university researchers need to be aware of as well as the benefits of using the closeout process to identify future research opportunities and improved research practices.

Learning outcomes

After completing this module you should be able to:

  • Identify the major components of project closeout in a university research context;
  • Explain the benefits of properly closing out a project, as well as the potential consequences of ineffective closeout;
  • Explain the relationship between project closeout and project planning and management generally;
  • Identify obligations to a client/sponsor at, and leading to, project finalization;
  • Identify obligations to project team members at, and leading to, project closure;
  • Structure a review and evaluation report for a project that has closed;
  • Make and prioritise recommendations for other activities that could be undertaken to add value to the research investment that has been made.

Content overview

The module comprises 4 topics and workshop preparation materials that it is expected will take approximately 4 hours to work through online:

Topic 1: The importance of closing out

This topic explains the importance of closing a project, including who is responsible for doing it, how the information is used, the benefits of doing a proper project closeout and the possible consequences of not meeting requirements.

Topic 2: Project closeout compliance requirements

This topic addresses what must be done, in other words, the key compliance issues that apply to all projects and that are generally a condition of funding.

Topic 3: Project review and evaluation

This topic is focused on improving understanding of the need for and importance of review and evaluation. It is broken down into four key sub-topics which in themselves provide a template approach to a project review and evaluation.

Topic 4: Using project closeout to your advantage

This topic details some value adding activities that will help position your research and research team for the future, looking at things like celebrating success, how project assets could be further used, using media and promotion to best effect and further leveraging research results in various commercial activities.

Topic 5:Project closeout at your university

In this section please find any specific information about project closeout procedures, policies and issues at your university that may have been provided by your local Future Research Leader Program facilitators.

Workshop details

The 4-hour workshop for Project Closeout takes a real project funding proposal and contract as the information with which to develop a closeout template for that project. In the first part of the workshop, the project is framed to be at the time the project starts and documentation provided includes:

  • The original application for funding by the university to the funding agency
  • Selected components of the contract for services following approval of the project
  • The contract schedule, with deliverables and budget

In the second part of the workshop it is assumed that the research project is now finished. Groups discuss whether, from their perspective, the project has been successfully implemented. Documentation provided to inform this discussion includes:

  • An external review of the project application by a third party expert appointed by the funding agency
  • Project final report cover letter and financial acquittal from the research organisation
  • Funding agency report on project status and intellectual property
  • Various correspondence that took place after the project was completed

In the final part of the workshop, based on previous discussions, groups make recommendations for future projects and develop a key message/recommendation for each of the other groups, along with the response they derived from this communication (i.e. the 'hook' that will lead to improvement for future projects).

For all parts of the workshop participants work in one of three groups (the research organisation, the research team or the funding agency) to ensure that multiple perspectives are considered and discussed in the development of a project closeout template, the project review process and the development of recommendations for future projects.

Aims of the workshop

During this workshop participants will further develop the example project closeout template from the module materials, experience an approach for post-project reviews and develop recommendations for different stakeholders.

The specific aims of this workshop are for participants to:

  • Develop a draft for a project closeout template that integrates contributions made by all workshop participants (therefore reflecting the needs of 3 different types of stakeholders) and provided the basis for project closeout templates for use in other research projects
  • Summarise the key points of a post-project review and have an approach for post-project reviews that can be used on other research projects in the future
  • Develop recommendations for future projects with messages and defined responses targeted at specific stakeholder groups

Workshop participant manual

Please download this file, print it out and bring it to the workshop if used.

Participant manual (MS Word format)

Participant manual (same file in rtf format, if you prefer non-proprietary format)

Acknowledgements

Principal writer

Dr Delyth Samuel, University of Melbourne

With contributions by

Maree Magafas, The University of New South Wales

2013 revisions by Ian Green, The University of Adelaide

Educational developers

Bill Potter, Monash University

Associate Professor Len Webster, Monash University

Web developer

Rob Andrew, Monash University

Jane Liang, Group of Eight

Project management

Group of Eight Future Research Leaders Program

Accessing the module material

Now that you have read the module introduction you can access and navigate your way through the module content via the Module 8 Organiser link in the navigation bar at the top left of this page or in the bar below.

If you wish to print this page you can generate a pdf file via this printer icon [ ]. A pdf file for each topic in this module can be generated using the printer icon to the left of each topic title on the Organiser page.

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