22 August 2019

Project Sign-Off: Control Your Projects’ Closing with a Single Document


You’ve reached the final stretch! Congratulations is in order – but before the podium, comes the declaration! Project Sign-Off is the key document, outlining the who’s, what’s, when’s, and how’s.

All good things must come to an end.

Amid the voyage of software development, the Project Sign-Off document is the all-important flight manifesto. In this case, the project’s Close-Out shares significance with Project Kick-Off.

In brief, the end of the process consists of the stakeholder, i.e. the customer approving the deliverables set out by the company. A handover of the project then takes place, which effectively closes the contracts of the IT project.

As this marks a crucial segment of the process, I’ll explore this in considerable detail, before explaining the focal point of the Project Close-Out – the Project Sign-Off document.

Project Sign-Off and Delivery

The formal end to the project is a milestone moment, which includes exact measurables. Checking against the Project Management Plan, you should verify these measurables point-by-point.

Official Approval

This process warrants formal approval from the customer, whereby they agree that the deliverable features, outlined during project Kick-Off are complete.

Full Disclosure

Primarily, once the project is complete, an official confirmation must be made by each member of the software house team. All project managers and team leaders should communicate the finalisation and prepare to inform the stakeholders of the project.

No Room for Manoeuvres

As the project draws to a close, no room remains for decisive movements and updates. Any reservations or concerns should be raised as early as possible within the project life cycle before formal handovers are due to take place.

Of course, members of the project management team should still disclose any potential doubts they may have regarding the result. As the project Sign-Off is a time for reflection, any concerns should make their way into formal documentation, as a guide for subsequent projects. Despite the inconvenience caused by this, it will alleviate any problems within the earliest possible stages.

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More Than A Formality

The Project Sign-Off is the instrument for the complete handover of final deliverables. It forms the nucleus of the Project Close-Out stage. The supporting actions accompanying the document constitute the following:

Approval Process and Testing

This workflow consists of a sequence from start to finish. The process ensures your work remains qualitatively consistent. Final testing of the product or service then verifies overall quality.

Project Documentation

A presentable overview must include the tasks completed, with successful deliverables, evidence of realised project demands, and clear accountability. Additionally, the documentation cites key contributors, alongside their roles and responsibilities within the project’s framework. As this report outlines project completion, it should be clear, concise, and be informative to the end-user.

Final Audit and Report

An independent examination of the product takes place, verifying the product’s compliance with the client’s criteria. Due to a greater focus on overall compliance, the audit differs from software peer reviews, or software management reviews, whose focus is on technical content and quality aspects. This concludes a compilation of the findings into a digest, for presentation to the client.

The Project Sign-Off Document

One can liken this to a formal manifestation of the end of the project.

The document clearly states all practical and necessary information one would need to confirm what kind of project had taken place, who was involved, when this took place, as well as the specific elements making up the project.

As a word of advice, this document should follow the project charter, referring to the information set out in the initial report.

This should be a simplified and concise document containing the following fundamental elements:

  • A statement indicating the purpose of the paper is to ‘signifying the end of the project.’

Note : this can be worded in any way, deemed communicable, at the very least, in title-form.

Note : In some cases, it is a good idea to include projects/deliverables which have been implemented, as well as those which have been abandoned.

  • Spaces for Signatures.

I have prepared a mock-up of the document, which you can view here. Feel free to copy this for your future use as well.


Mind the Project Sponsor

Trust is key to the working relationship, as confidence in either party ensures a smooth process, lasting through to the end of the project. Communication and transparency underpin this relationship, whereby any issues should present at the earliest possible stage.

In this way, you will avoid last-second issues, which can ultimately hinder, or even void the closure process. At the very least, pressing concerns can delay incoming payments, with the potential for limiting the payment entirely.

Thoroughness is as essential to closure, as is the product development itself. Be sure to mark where your responsibilities end and ‘theirs’ begin. This way, you ensure that your agreement protects your team from additional and unnecessary duties. It is good to remember that your definition of completion may differ that of your client, therefore be sure to set clear definitions and scope of the work.

Legal instruments can also provide protection. Consider the use of clauses citing working day limits, e.g. 60-days, 100 hours, et. al. Additionally, ensure you set a limitation of liabilities, as well as agreed-upon terms of payment.

Final Thoughts

Your project is complete – now it’s time to make it official.

Your last task is to organise the project documents for presentation to the client. Be sure to include all final reports and pay special attention to the coveted sign off sheet. The sheet must reach all members of the team, to ensure clarity and consensus upon the completion of the project and the subsequent meeting with the client. Of course, oversight means some items will be left behind. In this case, remaining issues must make their way into a to-do list, or another such document.

As a final word of advice, completion moments are also reflection moments. Project managers should take time to review the lessons learned from this work and apply this to their next project.

You have the advice, and you have the documentation – now you can safely land this plane and turn off the ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign. Congratulations, your team has made it.

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Karol Parafianowicz
Senior Project Manager