Closing a project is an often-overlooked process for a project management office (PMO). It may not be as exciting as when a project kicks off, but completing these six steps to approve and sign-off a project during project closing are just as important.

Your PMO may not directly take these actions, but you should have a clear process in place for project managers. Ultimately, an office is measured on the successful delivery of projects and getting each project approved is a key indicator the project has been completed.

To help you understand and take control of the approval and sign-off stage of the broader project closing process, we’re going to look at:

  • Why you need to have a process to get a project approved and signed off
  • The people who should be involved in the project approval stage
  • The six steps to getting a project approved and signed off

Why is project approval and sign-off important for a PMO?

Project approval is a key step to measuring the success of a project. Without confirmation from all parties that a project is complete, your office can’t complete the project closing process and be able to assess success.

Having a project approved will significantly reduce project risk. Once the project is approved, there can be no more amendments or change requests billed to the project, thus controlling costs. It should also be the point when the clock stops ticking on the project deadline, so there is no more time risk.

You will need to make sure a project is formally approved before you can move on with the rest of project closing. Until you know that the work phase of the project is done, you can’t move on to requesting feedback or assessing the success, for example.

Who needs to be involved in project approval and sign-off?

Your original project planning documents should clearly outline who needs to approve and sign-off on a project.

It’s possible that this could have been amended during the project’s life, such as when an approver leaves the organisation or an extra layer of sign-off is identified. Managing these changes should be part of project processes and the original documents should be updated with new approvers.

Generally, a project should be signed off by:

  • The client, that is the person who commissioned and is paying for the project
  • The end-user, which could be a rung or two down the hierarchy than the client
  • The project sponsor and the relationship manager inside your organisation
  • Your PMO, which may need to confirm all the reporting data has been delivered so far
  • Project suppliers to confirm they have completed their part in the project

There may be other stakeholders that you need to engage at this point; it’ll depend on how big the project is and who has been involved.

6 steps to project approval and sign off

When getting project approval, you need to ensure that the project manager follows the right steps. Here’s how we suggest your process should look when seeking sign-off from stakeholders.

  1. Confirm that all deliverables have been transferred by checking the internal process has been followed.
  2. Identify the people who you need to seek sign-off from, and how to contact them, i.e. some stakeholders may require email or written sign-off.
  3. Send the sign-off requests in the correct format and make the request time-limited, this should ensure a timely return and will give the requester a clear indicator of when to follow up.
  4. Deal with any last-minute requests, amendments, or queries that may come from people before they offer their approval – strong relationships with the client should prevent major issues.
  5. Log receipt of approvals and ensure that documents are updated to reflect who has signed-off and when.
  6. Send all the approvals for archiving in line with your company processes so they can easily be referred to in the event of future issues.

How to get a project approved and signed-off during project sign-off

Getting to the end of a project can be a big milestone for your PMO and the people working on a project. You need to ensure that the project gets approved in line with contracts and agreements so you can move on with the next steps to close the project.

Having your project managers follow our six steps for project approval and sign-off to close a project will ensure everything is completed in line with your PMO’s requirements.