Cost Management: The Importance of Close-Out Reports

If you have ever been involved in a project, you probably know how it usually ends; in the weeks or months prior to the formal ending, several project members and teams are already moving to new projects because there work is done. Then, at the project’s formal ending, there’s probably a meeting or gathering where there’s champagne, a lot of hands to shake, some congratulations… Then everybody goes their own way.

Forgot anything? Right. Proper project close-out. Although often forgotten or rushed through, it is quite important; it allows you and your (future) colleagues to learn from the mistakes and successes of a specific project. A high-quality close-out report will improve future projects. How may you ask? By including a detailed overview of the project and references for future projects it can be used as a helping tool or even a guideline depending on the similarity of the project.

Tip: It is best to start writing the report or collecting information required for the close-out report from the start of the project. You will be less likely to forget aspects and you reduce the time required to complete the close-out report after the project is finished.

The exact structure of a close-out report is not fixed but its content can be roughly divided into two categories. First, an overview of the project which will allow people unfamiliar with the project to understand the background and processes involved. Second, references for future projects. Extra attention will be drawn towards the second because it helps with closing the loop.

Project overview

Someone who is not familiar with the project should be able to get up to speed by reading the report and apply the information to future projects. From the report, it should be clear what the objectives were and what the scope of the project was. It should include any scope changes (if there were any), and their reasons. In the close-out report, it should also be clear who was responsible for what.Furthermore, achievements of the project and a documentation of the planning and control process should be in there. With regard to the latter, the project quality, performance and communication quality should be described. Basically, anything which should be known to fully understand and assess the project should be included.

Lessons learned

By gathering the mistakes and successes of a project, and the lessons learned from them, you are effectively creating a do’s and don’ts list for similar future projects.

Tip: When you are finished with a project, be sure that it’s easily found by those who need it. For example, you can add a hyperlink to the close-out report in Cleopatra Enterprise.

Historical data and benchmarks

Another important aspect is the collection of historical data and benchmarks. While these can also be regarded as an overview of the project, these are typically used to compare future projects. Benchmarks can be used in your future projects to check key project metrics against previous projects. In the Cost Management module of Cleopatra Enterprise, for example, you can easily define your project metrics and use the data from other projects to include color coding of good or bad values of the project metric. Historical data can be used to develop Cost Models which allow you to use your actuals as input for your high-level factor estimates.

Finally, write recommendations for future projects based on the other content of the close-out report so that a future reader can quickly improve on their project and look up the relevant details in the report.


If you want to learn more about cost control, our 2-day Cost Control & Earned Value Management course is starting on June 13.


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