December 21, 2015 | by Wayne Smith

Construction Project Management Part VIII

Why is Close-out So Hard?

The purpose of this article is to suggest a few techniques to making close-out work better. A wireless network construction project is completed at the end of the execution phase, but the project isn’t finished or closed-out. Close-out is the final phase where the project team must collect and archive all of the documents, photographs, test reports and drawings generated by the project. Final red-line drawings must be obtained and archived. The team should also complete evaluations of contractors and installers for future reference. Final billings must be called in and final payments completed. Once all the financial obligations have been resolved, the project manager can move to close-out the construction contracts. The project is then completed and closed.

The importance of archiving all of the relevant documents cannot be overstated. The network operator should have access to important details regarding all of its physical assets. Future site enhancements and maintenance work depends upon this information. Not having this information simply makes everything less efficient and more expensive to maintain. It does both the network stockholder and the customer a disservice since costs will increase to compensate for lost efficiencies. Good information is the foundation for efficiency.

A frequent complaint that we hear from wireless network providers is that their projects are so difficult to get closed-out. It is only human nature that once the construction, testing and turn-up is completed, most people want to move on to the next challenge instead of collecting all of the paper and other boring data about the project behind them.

Better Practices

A major reason why close-out documentation is not perceived as critical is because project managers don’t emphasize its importance. Their lack of emphasis simply telegraphs to suppliers and vendors that it isn’t important. Close-out must be established in the project plan and in vendor purchase orders and agreements that this is an intrinsic and critical project milestone. It must be repetitively stated both verbally and in writing. This means the close-out requirements must be detailed in writing and brought to the attention of the appropriate parties. These requirements must clearly state:

Who is to collect the informationWhat information is requiredWhen it is supposed to be collectedWhen, where and how it is to be delivered to what party

Of course, it should be made clear that no final invoices will be paid until the project has been officially closed. There should never be an exception to this rule.

Better Tools

Having some good close-out software tools is really helpful at this point. At a minimum, all of the project’s documents should be kept in an on-line repository and document manager. Such software will keep track of versions, revisions, email distributions, etc. while providing a centralized location for all project information. The software should at a minimum have an automated upload feature that allows project managers, vendors and installers to upload their close-out information immediately after finishing their tasks. There is no reason to wait a couple weeks for anything. Electronic test results, photographs, completed or photographed forms all can be easily uploaded to the system eliminating that last minute close-out paper chase.

A successful and efficient project close-out is pretty straight forward. It really boils down to making sure the members know their close-out requirements, getting them to capture that information when they finish the task and providing them some basic software tools that can assist them in getting it done. This is an easier way and more efficient way to complete the project close-out.