5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 3: Closing Process Group


This post covers the last of the five process groups, the Closing Process Group.

1. Closing Process Group—Purpose

The purpose of the Closing Process Group according to the PMBOK® Guide is to conclude all activities across all Project Management Process Groups to formally complete the project, phase, or contractual obligations.

A key word in this definition is the word formally, which means that the conclusion of the project has to be documented. (Whenever you see the word formally, think “in writing”.) The phrase “contractual obligations” covers two sets of obligations that the organization may be under:

a) if the organization doing the project is a buyer receiving some component from a supplier (in order to make the finished product), the contractual obligation to the supplier is to compensate the supplier according to the agreed upon terms of the procurement contract, and

b) if the organization doing the project is providing the finished product to a customer.

the obligation to the customer, the contractual obligation to the customer is to provide the customer with the finished product according to the agreed upon criteria for acceptance.

These two sets of contractual obligations are contrasted visually in the diagram below.

The first set of contractual obligations is covered under the Close Procurements process, and the second set of contractual obligations is covered under the Close Project or Phase process in the Closing Process Group. Those two processes are in fact the only processes in that process group.

2. Close Project or Phase—three scenarios

There are three separate scenarios covered by the Close Project or Phase process.

a. Phase complete

Let’s take the situation where the project is complicated enough that your organization has decided during the Initiating Process Group that the project will be split into several phases. A phase is like a mini-project in that it will comprise the five process groups including the Closing Process Group. In this case, the Close Project or Phase process really means Close Phase. The deliverables for that phase must be validated internally within the organization and then, if the final product is destined for a customer, must be verified (externally) by that customer. If this internal validation and external verification by the customer are both successful, THEN the project may continue to the next phase.

b. Project complete

Let’s say that the project, whether it consists of one phase or many phases, is now at the point where the final product has been produced. In this case, the Close Project or Phase process really means Close Project. An essential part of this process is delivering the final product to the customer. The customer must then either formally accept or reject the product. If the customer formally accepts the product, and pays the agreed upon compensation for that product, then the contractual obligations of your organization and the customer are both fulfilled, and the project may proceed to conclusion.

c. Project terminated

Let’s say that the customer, instead of formally accepting the product, formally rejects it because it does not meet the customer’s expectations. There may be a request for rework, or some other terms on which the customer may accept the product if your organization makes suggested changes to make the product meet the customer’s expectations. If your organization is unwilling or unable to meet the customer’s expectations as far as the product is concerned, then the project may be terminated, and there will be legal repercussions for your inability to fulfill the contractual obligation to the customer.

Even if there is no customer, the project may be terminated because the sponsor concludes that the project no longer is able to be completed within the scope, time and budget constraints of the project set forth in the project charter.

This situation when a project is terminated is also referred to in the PMBOK® Guide as premature closure.

In either case, if the project is terminated, that doesn’t mean that the Close Project or Phase process is skipped. In this scenario, the organization must still document why the project was terminated so that the lessons learned on this failed project can be used to prevent such an occurrence on future projects.

So in summary the above three scenarios may all lead to the Close Project or Phase:

3. Close Process of Phase—categories of activities

The closing process actually covers three separate types of closure: closure of procurements, internal closure (administrative and financial), and external closure (formal acceptance of deliverables). These three terms for the categories of activities are not in the PMBOK® Guide, but they are terms which I am using in order to make sense of the list of activities presented in the PMBOK® Guide.

Here’s the list of activities presented in the PMBOK® Guide divided into three categories in order to bring a little more conceptual clarity to the overall process. NOTE: These activities are listed by category. The internal closure activities are in blue, the external closure activities are in green, and the closure of procurement activities are in yellow.

Category Activity NOTES
1. Internal Closure Confirm that the defined processes are completed to produce final product of the project. Focus is on processes (quality assurance)
2. Internal Closure Validate (internally) that the product of the project meets acceptance criteria. Focus on deliverables (quality control)
3. External Closure Deliver final product of the project to the customer or sponsor. The moment of truth!
4. External Closure Obtain final acceptance of the product of the project from the customer or sponsor. If product rejected, project may be terminated.
5. Internal Closure Complete financial records and release unused project resources. Important for”lean” practice!
6. Closure of Procurements Close out all procurement activities and ensure termination of all procurement agreements. May be conducted earlier than project closure.
7. Internal Closure Document lessons learned (part of corporate knowledge base, a category of Organizational Process Assets). Why reinvent the wheel next time?
8. Internal Closure Update all processes and procedures (a category of Organizational Process Assets). Crucial step for PMOs
9. Internal Closure Archive all project documents and templates in the project management information system (PMIS) NOTE: PMIS is part of EEF, but documents are OPAs
10. Internal Closure Perform assessment of team members’ performance Another moment of truth!
11. Internal Closure Conduct review of project (or phase) performance This is the post-project review
12. Internal Closure Distribute final report of project (or phase) performance. Time to celebrate (if project successful)!

Note that the Closure of Procurements category (listed in yellow) is part of the Close Procurements process within the Closing Process Group; the Internal Closure and External Closure categories (listed in blue and green, respectively) are part of the Close Project or Phase process within the Closing Process Group.

This concludes the review of the last of the 5 process groups, the Closing Process Group.

The final post for Chapter 3 will deal with how project information is categorized, and a brief introduction to the knowledge areas.

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