Congratulations! You have successfully completed your project. It’s time to celebrate and take a well-deserved break, right? Not so fast. As satisfying as it may feel to cross that final item off your to-do list, there are still important tasks to complete before you can truly close out the project.

Project closeout is the final stage of the project management process. It involves tying up loose ends, evaluating the success of the project, and officially closing it out. This step is often overlooked or rushed through due to all the excitement of completing a project, but it is crucial for ensuring the overall success and future improvements of your team’s projects.

In this blog, we will go over 8 steps to effectively close out your project, talk about the consequences of not properly closing out a project, and go over some project closure best practices.

What is the Project Closeout Phase?

Project closeout is the final phase in the project lifecycle, involving a series of tasks to wrap up the project formally. It’s the moment when the project team ensures that all aspects of the project are complete, objectives met, and everything is in place for operational handover. Think of it as the grand finale of a concert where every note needs to resonate perfectly to leave a lasting impression.If you want to learn more about the different phases within a project, check out our blog on project lifecycle phases.

Why is Project Closeout Important?

The importance of a structured project closure cannot be overstated. It’s an opportunity to reflect on project performance, consolidate learnings, release project resources, and, most importantly, recognize the efforts of your project team. Effective project closure ensures that the project delivers its intended benefits and provides valuable insights for future projects.

8 Steps for Effective Project Closure

Now that you know what project closure is and why it’s important, let’s take a closer look at the steps involved in an effective project closure.

1. Validate Original Deliverables

The validation of original deliverables is the first and perhaps most critical step in the project closure process. This involves a thorough comparison of the final project deliverables against the initial objectives and client requirements. It’s a time for the project team to ensure that every output precisely matches or exceeds the expectations set at the project’s inception. This validation not only confirms the project’s success but also sets the tone for project acceptance. It’s a collaborative effort requiring input from all stakeholders to affirm that the project outcomes fulfill their needs and the problem statement the project aimed to address.

An overhead view of two people looking over documents with colorful graphs and other graphics (Project Closeout - Conduct Final Testing)

2. Conduct Final Testing

Before project deliverables can be handed over or deployed, they must undergo rigorous testing to ensure their quality and functionality. This step is crucial for identifying and rectifying any defects or issues that could impede the deliverable’s performance in a real-world environment. Final testing encompasses various forms, including user acceptance testing (UAT), performance testing, and security testing, depending on the project’s nature. The goal is to guarantee that any product, software, or outcome is not just complete but is also ready for smooth operation, thereby safeguarding the project’s integrity and the stakeholders’ investment.

3. Tie Up Loose Ends

Even with meticulous planning and execution, there often remain tasks or issues that need to be addressed before a project can truly be considered complete. Tying up loose ends may involve finalizing minor adjustments, resolving outstanding issues, or completing tasks that were deferred during the project’s lifecycle. This step ensures that the project closure doesn’t leave any ambiguity or unfinished business that could lead to problems down the line, ensuring a clean slate for the project team and stakeholders.

4. Complete Administrative Duties

The administrative wrap-up is a pivotal step that involves finalizing all project-related paperwork and ensuring that all contractual and financial obligations have been met. This includes closing out timesheets, finalizing budgets, completing expense reports, and ensuring all contractual documents are signed and archived. It’s a step that, while often seen as bureaucratic, is essential for preventing future legal or financial complications and for maintaining a clear record for future reference and audit purposes.

Five members of a project team standing over a table looking at documents (Project Closeout - Next Steps)

5. Inform the Team about the Next Steps

Project closure is also a time of transition for the project team members, who may be moving on to other projects or roles within the organization. Communicating the next steps involves informing the team about demobilization procedures, their roles and responsibilities post-project, and how the skills and experiences they’ve gained can be applied to future projects. This not only helps in the smooth transition of team members but also ensures that they feel valued and recognized for their contributions.

6. Update Stakeholders and Deliver the Final Report

Maintaining transparency with stakeholders throughout the project is crucial, and the project closure phase is no exception. Updating stakeholders and delivering a comprehensive project closure report provides an overview of the project outcomes, performance against objectives, and any lessons learned. This report serves as a formal closure document, cementing the project’s achievements and learnings. It also plays a vital role in maintaining stakeholder trust and can be instrumental in securing future support and resources for upcoming projects.

7. Facilitate Post-Mortem Meeting

A post-mortem meeting, or project retrospective, is an opportunity for the project team to gather and reflect on the project’s successes and challenges. It’s a candid discussion aimed at identifying what worked well, what didn’t, and why. This step is fundamental in cultivating a culture of continuous improvement, allowing team members to share feedback and insights that can inform future projects. The lessons learned from this meeting should be documented and shared across the organization to enhance project management processes and decision-making.

8. Develop Improvement Roadmap

Armed with the knowledge and insights gained from the project and the post-mortem meeting, the final step is to develop an improvement roadmap. This roadmap outlines specific actions and initiatives aimed at addressing the challenges identified during the project and leveraging the successes. It serves as a strategic plan for enhancing processes, tools, and methodologies for future projects. By systematically planning for improvement, organizations can ensure that each project builds on the learnings of its predecessors, leading to more efficient, effective, and successful project outcomes in the future.

Each step in the project closure process is interlinked, contributing to a comprehensive closure that not only marks the end of a project but also sets a solid foundation for future endeavors. By following these eight steps, project managers and their teams can ensure that every project closure is a testament to their hard work, dedication, and continuous improvement ethos.

Three professionals at a desk with a monitor, a camera, and various documents (Consequences of Incomplete Project Closeout)

Consequences of Incomplete Project Closure

The consequences of incomplete project closure can have far-reaching impacts on an organization, going beyond mere project timelines and budgets. Let’s delve deeper into some of these consequences, including the ones you’ve identified:

The Perpetual Project

A project without a formal closure can become a “Perpetual Project,” one that seemingly never ends. This scenario often arises when project objectives are not clearly met or when residual tasks continue to accumulate without formal acknowledgment or resolution. Such projects drain resources, both in terms of time and budget, and can significantly demoralize the project team. The perpetual project becomes a black hole of effort and resources, diverting attention from new or ongoing initiatives that could offer more value to the organization.

The Orphan Product

Projects that conclude without a proper handover result in “Orphan Products.” These are outcomes or deliverables that, while completed, lack ownership for ongoing maintenance, support, or integration into business-as-usual operations. Orphan products can lead to operational inefficiencies, as there is no clear accountability for their success or failure in the real-world context. This can also result in wasted opportunities for the organization to leverage project outcomes effectively.

The Documentation Void

Inadequate project closure often leads to a “Documentation Void,” where critical project documents, insights, and learnings are not properly archived or are incomplete. This absence of comprehensive documentation hampers future projects from building on past successes or avoiding previous mistakes. The lack of a project closure report, including detailed post-mortem analysis, means that valuable lessons learned are not captured or shared, making it more likely for the same issues to reoccur in future projects.

Two people going over a document that reads "evaluating effectiveness" with illegible text underneath it (Project management)

Missed Opportunities for Recognition and Growth

A key component of project closure is acknowledging the hard work of the project team and individual contributions. Incomplete project closure can lead to missed opportunities for recognizing team efforts and individual achievements. This oversight can impact team morale and motivation, affecting not only the current project team’s performance but also their willingness to engage fully in future projects. Furthermore, without a formal closure, the opportunity for constructive feedback and personal growth is lost, stunting professional development and organizational improvement.

Risk of Organizational Liability

One of the most significant risks associated with incomplete project closeout is potential legal liability for the organization. In many industries, contracts and agreements are a crucial part of doing business, and failing to fulfill these obligations can result in breaches of contract or even lawsuits. This is especially true for projects involving external clients or partners where deliverables, timelines, and budgets are contractually defined.

Incomplete project closure can also damage a company’s reputation and credibility. If a client or partner feels that their expectations have not been met due to lack of proper project closure, they may spread negative word-of-mouth or leave bad reviews online. This can severely impact future business opportunities and partnerships.

Moreover, certain industries are subject to regulatory requirements that dictate how projects must be conducted, documented, and closed. Failure to adhere to these regulations during the project closure phase can result in legal action against the organization, penalties, or even the revocation of licenses to operate.

Four professionals in a conference room discussing their finished project

Project Closeout Best Practices

Adopting some best practices for project closeout can help ensure a smooth and successful conclusion to any project. These practices include:

Use Project Lifecycle Software

To ensure a smooth and efficient closeout process, project lifecycle software should be utilized. This allows for easy tracking of tasks and deliverables, as well as communication among team members. Additionally, it provides a platform for storing all project documentation and facilitating collaboration between stakeholders. Depending on the type of industry you work in and the specific needs of your project, it is a good idea how to optimize the project life cycle with software that is specifically designed for your field. For example, a construction project manager may be using Deltek Vantagepoint to optimize the project lifecycle, while software development teams may opt for Jira.

Implement Phase-Gate Reviews

Phase-gate reviews are systematic checkpoints at various stages of the project lifecycle, including the project closeout phase. These reviews ensure that the project meets predefined criteria before moving on to the next phase. Implementing phase-gate reviews as part of the closeout process allows for a formal evaluation of all project aspects, ensuring that deliverables meet quality standards, objectives are achieved, and stakeholders’ expectations are fulfilled. It also facilitates the identification of lessons learned and best practices for future projects.

Archive Project Documentation

One of the key aspects of an efficient closeout process is having all project documentation readily available and easily accessible. With project lifecycle software, this can be easily achieved by archiving all important documents in a centralized location. This not only makes it easier for team members to access the necessary information but also ensures that all project documents are organized and up-to-date.

Get Feedback From Your Team

Another important step in the closeout process is getting feedback from your team members. This allows you to gather insights on what went well and where improvements can be made for future projects. Your team works on different areas of the project and may have new, different, or refreshing takes on how the project was executed and what can be improved upon.

Project Closeout - Celebrate


The closeout process is also a time to celebrate successes. Take the time to recognize and thank your team members for their hard work and dedication throughout the project. This can boost morale and motivation, as well as foster a positive team dynamic. It’s also important to acknowledge any challenges or obstacles that were overcome during the project and highlight how they were successfully resolved. This not only celebrates the team’s accomplishments but also provides valuable lessons learned for future projects. You can even consider implementing a recognition tradition within your project closeout. After all, 92% of workers feel valued in companies with recognition programs in place.

Closing Thoughts

The project closing phase is a crucial step in any project and should not be overlooked or rushed. It allows for reflection, evaluation, and celebration of the team’s hard work and achievements. By following these steps and incorporating them into your project management process, you can ensure a successful closeout that sets your team up for future success.

Remember to always communicate effectively with stakeholders, thoroughly review all deliverables, tie up any loose ends, and take the time to celebrate together as a team. With a well-executed closeout process, you can confidently hand over the completed project to your client or organization knowing that it was completed with excellence and efficiency.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do I know when a project is done?

A project is considered complete when all deliverables have been submitted and approved by the client or organization. This includes any final reports, presentations, or products that were outlined in the project plan. It is important to carefully review the project scope and ensure that all agreed-upon tasks and goals have been met before considering it complete.

What is a project closeout checklist?

A project closeout checklist is a detailed list that guides the project team through the final tasks required to formally close a project. It serves as a comprehensive tool to ensure no critical steps are missed during the closeout phase. Key components of a project closeout checklist include reviewing project documentation, finalizing any outstanding contracts or agreements, conducting a post-project evaluation, and obtaining client sign-off. This checklist helps project managers and their teams tie up loose ends, assess project success, and officially mark the end of a project.

Why is a project closeout checklist important?

A project closeout checklist is crucial for ensuring that all tasks and goals outlined in the project plan have been completed. It serves as a final quality control measure to ensure that the deliverables meet the client’s expectations and any remaining issues are addressed before closing the project. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for reflection and evaluation of the project, allowing for lessons learned to be applied to future projects. A thorough closeout process can also help maintain positive relationships with clients by demonstrating professionalism and attention to detail.

What is the project closure summary?

The project closure summary is a comprehensive document that encapsulates the entirety of the project’s journey from initiation to completion. It serves as a final report that provides a high-level overview of the project, including its successes, challenges, performance metrics, and the lessons learned throughout its lifecycle. The project closure summary is a critical component of the project closeout process and serves as a reference for future projects and for stakeholders who want to understand the project’s outcomes.

The project closure summary is essential because it provides a clear understanding of the project’s performance and outcomes. It highlights key achievements, challenges, and lessons learned, all of which are valuable information for future projects. It also serves as a record of the project’s success or failure, which can be used for accountability purposes or to improve processes in future endeavors.

Additionally, the project closure summary helps ensure that all critical steps have been completed during the closeout phase. It serves as a final check to ensure that all documentation has been reviewed, contracts have been finalized, and all project deliverables have been completed and accepted by stakeholders.

What is the most important phase in the project lifecycle?

The most important phase in the project lifecycle is arguably the project initiation phase. This is because it sets the tone for the entire project. However, each step in the project lifecycle is important in itself and no step should be overlooked or ignored.