Project deliverables were approved, now what? It’s important to properly close and archive a project as a final stage of managing projects. Let’s dig into it.
What Happens During Closing
Deliverable Acceptance - This stage involves verifying and obtaining a formal acceptance of project deliverables by your stakeholders, and ensures that the final output meets the agreed-upon criteria laid out in the brief and is satisfactory to all parties. This is crucial as it prevents any loose ends and minimizes the risk of any future claims of unmet expectations.
Marking Complete - Closing a project, which can be signified in a number of ways (for example: marking a job as “done” on a project ticket), provides a formal acknowledgement that the project has achieved its goals and objectives. It allows all of those in your project RAM to recognize the milestone in the project lifecycle.
Tip: projects should remain on a project tracker for a specified amount of time after it’s been marked “complete” (i.e. one week during status meetings) to visually acknowledge this for stakeholders, instead of seemingly disappearing from the list.
Archiving - Final files should be properly labeled and placed in a “Final” folder on your drive or server. Note that final files may not be the editable working files, and these should be placed in the “Final” folder. Files should be easy to find and easily searchable so that if anything need to be amended for any reason through a change order (for example, an annual event logo might need the date changed from 2022 to 2023), you can easily pull files and make that change. Don’t get stuck having your team rebuild old files!
It’s also important to document what file(s) were released, say, to a print vendor, so that if the file is ever called into question, you can check exactly what was sent out.
Tip: Create a “Sent to vendor” folder with the date in your “Final” folder for further documentation.
Resource Reallocation - A project’s closure allows for the formal release of the project’s resources to be reallocated to other projects in the queue. More on that here.
Celebrating Success - Project closure provides a chance to celebrate the project's success and acknowledge the efforts of the project team. I find that often, once a project is completed, it’s “on to the next.” Sometimes, especially after a long project that required a high level of effort, it’s nice to recognize team members for their contributions. It can boost morale, foster a positive culture, add to the team’s motivation, and create a sense of community.
Tip: If your company offers programs like Bonusly or BlueBoard, these “public” acknowledgements are another great way to acknowledge a team member’s contributions. Sometimes, a team Slack channel callout is also nice!
Retrospectives - In general, a project manager should be reviewing projects for process efficiencies and best practices, process blockers, and reviewing any other challenges faced and strategies deployed to overcome them. If the project had scope creep, consider the origins of the scope change and if it can be avoided in the future. Future projects should benefit from insights gained and any process improvements should be brought to attention and implemented. Don’t be afraid to share your findings.
Retrospectives should also review the creative performance against the success metrics outlined in the brief. Any learnings can be implemented in subsequent creative rounds or for future projects. For example, one CTA (call to action) may elicit a better click thru rate than another CTA, and the team would choose to use the CTA that has higher performance on future creative.
Reporting - On a regular cadence (monthly, quarterly, bi-annually), project managers should be reporting on department or team metrics. This could include: number of projects completed, number of assets delivered, resource efficiency, hours against projects, how frequently you’re seeing scope creep, etc..
Reporting is also a great way for leadership to quantify the team’s contributions. Often it is hard to justify the efforts of a creative team and reports tailored to supporting efficiency, effort, etc. could be used to justify keeping your current headcount or requesting additional team headcount.
It’s important that completed projects are documented in a certain way that will allow you to easily pull together the data, regardless of what may be asked of you. One way to do this could be to use a standardized master tracker or categorization in your project management tool that allows you to filter or organize the data, depending on the ask.
Another great way to use reporting would be to track the number of hours put against the different priority levels (Tip: your P1s should have the highest number of hours put against them since they are critical projects, and P3s should have the least number of hours put against them.)
The act of closing a project plays a vital role in the creative project management process. It formalizes project completion, ensures all parties have signed off, accurately archives files, boosts morale, officially frees up resources, evaluates process, and provides a valuable reporting data point. By putting in effort to close a project appropriately, project managers can maximize success and ensure the team is set up for future projects.
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