Clients and suppliers alike are responsible for success and for successful project closure. When one hears stories of project failure, everybody blames everybody else. However, one should be skeptical until getting all sides of the story. Here is another rule to consider: Always ALL parties are at fault to a certain extent, while some are more at fault than others. However, when it is time to point fingers and lay blame, then most probably the project has already gone to its doom. I know many would say that all projects can be saved, but project management experts can tell you that preventing the problem would take much less time than fixing it, if fixing is at all possible.
So, what can project stakeholders do to ensure successful closure of a project? As one would expect, most of these things need to be done early in the project, and in partnership with many of the stakeholders. Here is my top ten list for successful project closure:
10. Sponsors (on both client and supplier sides): Ensure assignment of competent people in key project roles, especially: Project Manager (on both client and supplier side), subject matter experts (from both sides). To ensure this, make sure to document roles and responsibilities for these roles and the level of experience and background required. This is often done for the supplier side, but seldom done for the client side.
9. Project Manager (Supplier Side)Document acceptance of local deliverables throughout the project, and do not wait until the final deliverable or the end of the project. It will reduce the impact of a change in direction or change in staff on client side.
8. Project Manager (Both sides) Insist on using change control process for any change, even no cost changes. This includes who is authorized to request what type of changes, and evaluation of each change. It does not have to be complicated, but has to be clear and adhered to.
7. Project Manager (Both Sides): Create a “punch list” to document things that need to be fixed for closure to happen, and which can wait for support period. Get firm commitment that further changes must go to support.
6. Project Sponsor and Manager (Supplier Side): Address client worries of separation on what will happen after project is closed. Ensure client understands that you are in it for your reputation, not only for the money, and that you will not let them down if they need help in the future.
5. Project Sponsor and Manager (Client Side): Focus on the value sought from the delivered product or service, rather than focusing on getting all the features. How much value does a project in progress offer to a client? absolutely no value whatsoever, until deliverables created are put to good use. Usually the value lost from delaying use of the product and losing momentum outweigh by far benefits gained from non core features the client might be able to squeeze from supplier.
4. Project Sponsor and Manager (Both Sides): Ensure dealing on fair basis and trust rather than we-they style negotiations where each party is trying to take care of their interests even if at the expense of fairness or the other party’s rights. Even if you win short-term gains by applying win-lose tactics, everybody loses long-term. It is ironic that the tougher a client is and more stringent and picky, the less value they get from suppliers, who are trying to do the least they are obliged to do by contract just to get out of the toxic relationship.
3. Sponsor and Project Manager (Both Sides): Remember always the business value and partnership, and do not get caught into political games or trying to judge or prove other side wrong. The client and supplier reflect on each other’s reputation by the mere fact that they are working together. The clients you are working with as a supplier say a lot about you. Likewise, the suppliers you are working with say a lot about you as a client. So judgment, criticism, negative attitude, all reflects on both sides not one.
2. Sponsor and Project Manager (Both sides): Avoid relationships built on fear; fear of supplier not delivering, or fear of client not paying. When there is fear, emotional decisions are taken, mistakes are made, and people on both sides are trying to avoid each other at all cost, instead of working together in partnership towards creating value for client and a successful referral for supplier.
1. Sponsor (Client side): Remember that procurement practices from which the contract originated have a lot to do with how successful the project is. If procurement focuses on lowest price, or if client does not have the ability to evaluate proposals technically, or if the RFP is too specific (especially in the case of buying services) where it does not allow or reward innovative supplier input to create higher value for client, or favoritism, or unfair practices, all these mistakes will lead to losing good suppliers and attracting the wrong ones and eventually will contribute to problems in closing and in getting the value anticipated.