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Module 8: Project Closeout

2.2 Client/sponsor obligations management

The requirements for fulfilling client/sponsor obligations are usually clearly defined in the project funding agreement or deed of agreement between the funding organisation and the research institution. Although the chief investigator is the person responsible for the management of the grant, the funding agreement is not with the chief investigator but with an authorised representative of the university, such as the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research), who signs the deed of agreement.

However, in reality it is the chief investigator’s responsibility to ensure that client/sponsor obligations are met in full throughout the lifetime and at the end of the project. It is advisable that all project staff and not only the chief investigator are fully aware of what these obligations are.

It is also advisable, if the university does not provide a project closeout checklist of things to complete at closeout, that the chief investigator makes such a list to ensure each item is ticked off once completed. Each organisation needs to develop their own project closeout checklist though, based on their own organisation's internal systems and processes.

2.2.1 Project closeout checklist

The following is an example of a project closeout checklist previously used by a research and development organisation.

Table 2.1: Example project closeout checklist from a research and development organisations

Section No. and Title. Content & Reference
1. Project objectives Check Project Definition in [research project management system]. Note here that the project objectives are up-to-date
2. Summary of activities completed Check in Technology Development Strategy in [research project management system]. Note here that the completed activities are up-to-date
3. Project key deliverables/outcomes:
Not achieved
Refer to original milestones in [research project management system] and milestone reports where available. List status of each milestone here.
4. Business Plan and Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA)
  • Confirm Business Plan (if one prepared) is in [research project management system].
  • Confirm most recent BCA is in [research project management system] and provides Net Present Value (NPV) and BCA calculations and assumptions.
5. Reason for terminating or shelving. Short explanation
  • normal: project ended as planned,
  • premature; project ended early with some parts eliminated
  • perpetual; project extend due to increases in scope
  • failed; project could not be completed
  • changed priority; shifts in organisation priorities due to changes in market or technology
6. Project Team and Steering Team Refer to Resources in [research project management system]. Note here that project team members list is up-to-date. List Steering Team members and contact details
7. Total project expenditure and effort.

Expenditure ($), effort (research person years) by financial year.

  • Research Organisation/Supplier contribution ($)
  • [Organisation] contribution ($)
  • Contributions from other sources ($) (include cash and in-kind contributions separately).
8. Income received Any income received from consultancies or other external activities by members of project team during the course of the project.
9. Outstanding payments Report outstanding payments by third parties to Research Organisation/ [Organisation] and by Research Organisation/Supplier to [Organisation].
10. Commercial partners/contacts List commercial partners/external contacts who participated in the project and briefly the way in which they contributed to the project.
11. Agreements Brief description of all agreements (e.g. licensing, NDA, etc.) with commercial partners or other external parties.
Report any obligations to or expectations of third parties to these agreements.
12. Detailed documentation of technology/know how/findings to end date. Include descriptions of software, source codes, algorithms, hardware, chemical/mechanical processes, specifications, drawings, designs, prototypes, formulas, etc. Attach copies of all documents to Document Storage in [research project management system] or to the final report if not available in electronic form, and provide a list of these attachments.
13. Intellectual property
  • List all patents/trademarks, their status, countries where applied and costs to maintain.
  • Recommendations for maintaining or abandoning patents/trademarks.
  • Recommendations for dissemination of project outcomes.
14. Publications/Reports List all publications and Research Organisation/Supplier reports prepared and relevant to the project. Place in Document Storage of [research project management system] or attach to report if not available in electronic form.
15. [Organisation] Funded Assets/Equipment List assets and major items of [Organisation]-funded equipment purchased from the project budget.
16. What steps/activities and capabilities would be required to re-start the project? Concise description.
17. Who would be potential partners to take the project further? Name of key prospective companies and brief description of their business.

(Note that items in parentheses have replaced specific organisation system tools with the generic description of the tool.)

Another example (taken from Module 1: Research Strategy and Planning) provides a checklist based on major project management areas.

Table 2.2: Example project closeout checklist based on major project management areas

Knowledge areas Evaluation/Closeout Phase Checklist
Scope management • Evaluate the achievement of the project milestones. What work is still to be completed?
• Is there an opportunity to further collaborate with your partners?
Time management • Review the timeline and plan and ensure all necessary tasks will be completed prior to project closure.
Cost management • Update the budget summary. Aim for full expenditure of the grant by the conclusion of the funding period.
Quality management • Prepare the final report for the granting body. Submit via your research grants office for closeout of your project.
• Prepare a final summary of the project, lessons learned, expenditure, time management and other observations to apply to subsequent projects.
Research management • Copy all data files to CD and other storage devices.
• Ensure confidential records are secure.
• Continue writing publications from the project – keep your stakeholders apprised of these.
• Monitor project impact over the coming years.
• Clean up records and prepare an archival file to be stored in the university.
Risk management • Summarise lessons learnt from the project. Share with other researchers.
Human resources management • Celebrate the project's successes.
• Review the project and identify learning that has been drawn from the project experience.
• Ensure staff have expended their leave allocation prior to project closure.
• Assist team members in planning for transition to new roles.
• Plan for redeployment or transfer of team members to other projects or roles.
• Interview project team members on their project experience and suggestions for future projects.
• Conduct an exit interview for each team member to review their contributions, affirm their achievements and assist in exiting the project.
Stakeholder management • Celebrate the project successes. Invite relevant local colleagues and stakeholders.
• Canvass stakeholder feedback on the benefits of the project and its potential impact.
Communications management • Present a seminar on the project outcomes to interested parties and peers.
• Develop a media release on the project and its value.
• Update your website to profile the outcomes.
• Continue to maintain your media archive.
• Communicate the project closure to all stakeholders and provide a forwarding contact address.
Procurement management • Dispose of equipment and resources.
• Ensure confidential material is not accessible by subsequent users of the equipment.
Integration management • Ensure the final stages of the project are understood by all team members and assist them in completing their agreed commitments.

The Project Closeout Checklist would normally be aligned to the set up of the organisation’s research project management system, and the content of the checklist will be driven to an extent by this. The benefit of a standardised approach becomes apparent when, for example, a search needs to be done on the status of all intellectual property in the research portfolio, or to list all the current commercial partners in the research portfolio. From an organisational point of view knowing all your research partners, their usage level and pattern has been can become an extremely important tool in research strategy development.

Each granting agency, including the universities themselves, has their own specific guidelines for application and acceptance processes, and the deeds of agreement are funding agency specific.

Whilst it is worth investing the time in becoming familiar with the different granting agency agreements each time a grant is applied for, it is critical to be familiar with these documents and requirements once a grant has been awarded.

Granting agencies do change their agreement templates on a frequent basis and having had an agreement with a specific agency before does not mean that the contract will still be the same as last time. The rules may have changed and there may be new obligations that need to be met at project closeout.

It is easy to meet client/sponsor obligations at the time of project closeout if the project has been planned and managed well throughout the project and client/sponsor obligations have not already become an issue. The major focus of the closeout process in this context is on meeting all financial obligations and it ensures that an audit trail exists that may be followed up in the future. Key compliance obligations of project closeout are discussed in more detail in the following sections. You may also wish to refer to Module 3, Grant and Contract Administration, for further information.

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