In my limited time as an assistant project manager, I have quickly learned the importance of taking the proper steps to make sure a project is closed properly. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that my office is always good at – and I think this is pretty common problem. When it gets to the end of the project process everyone is either excited or exhausted and so ready to be done with the project that little attention is paid after the project is handed off. Ideally, the hand off of the final product shouldn’t be the last step for a project. Newsignature.com outlines the six most important reasons for following a proper project closure process (listed below).
- Confirmation of Objectives Being Met
- Sense of Closure
- Improving Future Engagements
- Capturing Knowledge
- Tying up Loose Ends
- Rewarding the Team
These are all very important reasons to pay attention to this final step in the project cycle. In particular, I think points 1, 3 & 4 from the list above are the most important and are the reasons that I place such value on this step in my daily work. Once a project is finished and handed off to the client, our team generally has a sense of closure and it’s pretty clear if the objectives are met – but that is something to make sure of. We are notoriously bad at maintaining our archives, so items 3 & 4 from the New Signature list are most important to me. We need to make sure that everything the team has worked on is in one central location, organized and clearly laid out so that anyone not familiar with the project could come back to the folders and make a change if necessary. This also helps in having organized files for future reference on similar projects and allows the team to take an extra minute and reflect on the project, making sure that any lessons learned are communicated so that similar mistakes aren’t made in the future.
Wether you’re a project manager or a team member, it will be helpful to remember these six key parts of the project closure process to ensure that all projects you work on end in the best, most productive way possible.
The Project Closure Process and Why It's Important
By no means am I an expert in either Agile or Waterfall project management, but I’ve studied them and I’ve found that in my currently position we implement a blend of the two styles. In general, I much prefer Waterfall because it allows for more structure and insurance that each piece is finished, this is a somewhat unpopular opinion with the modern field of project management that is trying to bring Agile to the forefront.
Our project situation makes it almost impossible to use a traditional waterfall approach, we have student workers who typically work at most 20 hours a week, and our projects are generally proposed, planned and completed within a semester. This creates a rushed timeframe that doesn’t allow for an extensive planning phase and results in a lot of changes to scope as the project is already being worked on. Because of this situation we try to implement an Agile approach to projects but even that doesn’t always work because of our limited project team and the workers not being around all day. As a result, within a project, some things might be planned incrementally with a Waterfall technique while other parts of the project are implemented and created simultaneously like Agile.
This combination of techniques is a result of necessity, but creates confusion and duplicated work from time to time. While adapting and pivoting is always going to be required on some projects, I prefer to approach projects from the Waterfall perspective. I like to be able to put more time and detail into planing the project and then making sure each segment of the project is completed fully before moving on to the next stage. At the end of the day you have to be able to use whatever approach fits the project and will allow the project to be completed in the given timeframe, meeting the given requirements.
Waterfall vs. Agile: Which is the Right Development Methodology for Your Project?
The variety and number of project management software and applications available today is quite frankly overwhelming. There are hundreds of applications that are all slightly different, and supposedly are all meant to do the same thing. In my short time in the field, I’ve only been exposed to a select few but I’ve learned a lot from that exposure. The single most important things that I’ve learned is that at the end of the day, your preferences probably don’t matter if they don’t align with the program your company expects you to use.
At Ball State, pretty much every project must be managed in Workfront, formerly AtTask. Like I said, almost all of these project management applications are pretty much the same, but that doesn’t mean that some are better than others. Workfront is very clunky, light on features, and just not very user friendly. I compare it to a few other systems I’ve used like Basecamp or Trello and it just falls short, especially in the area of collaboration. The feel of Workfront takes me back to 2007 Microsoft Project, outdated and confusing. Even the newest version of Project is a step up from Workfront in my opinion.
I do have to say that I think much of my distaste for Workfront may be because – as a “millennial” – I expect everything to be constantly updated and cutting edge, which the program simply isn’t. Aside from the physical design the deliberate lack of collaboration due to administrative oversight makes the system less responsive and effective than Trello or Basecamp. At first I was tempted to just use a program I preferred in addition to Workfront, but it just became too much of a hassle. That’s when I learned that sometimes you just have to use the tools you have to get the job done, even if there are better tools out there.
I’ve been lucky enough to manage what I would call a small-scale R&D project for my firm. At the highest level we aim to use technology to solve problems for educators at Ball State, as part of this mission we are always keep an eye on new and upcoming technology. Recently the area of virtual reality (VR) has started to take off, and in a effort to learn the VR field and be prepared for it’s future implementations we bought an HTC Vive.
I knew going into it that this project would be unlike other projects for many reasons, but most importantly because we know nothing about how to do anything involving VR. On most projects there are parts that require training or research but this entire project was a big experiment. A project of this nature presents challenges to a project manager because there aren’t clear deliverables or clearly established timelines – this means traditional management techniques may not be appropriate. One of the rules of project management is having a clearly defined point at which a project is finished, if the project doesn’t have an end condition then it isn’t a project – it’s a process. With all of that in mind, we knew this still had to managed as a project – whatever that might mean.
At first we approached the project with some weekly research reporting goals in order for the team to self-define what the project was going to be. The mandate was to come up with a deliverable that would allow us to discover how the technology worked along the way to meeting that deliverable. Once the research had been done, the team decided they wanted to make a simple video game that incorporated 360 degree video with computer generated graphics. Now that we have a deliverable in mind, as the project manager I can begin to build requirements, milestones and deliverables that define the project scope and timeline.
In a small company that doesn’t have a dedicated R&D segment, the resources of the company have to remain shared which causes even more problems for a project of this nature conducted in a setting like ours. Since the VR project isn’t client driven it often ends up taking a backseat to other projects which makes the already unknown timeline even more uncertain. I must admit that it becomes very frustrating to manage an R&D project like this, but since there are different expectation there is often less pressure and more understanding when deadlines get moved. Since the goal isn’t really the deliverable and more the learned knowledge, the process tends to be more fun for the stakeholders and workers. It’s important to learn that even an R&D project can be broken down into deliverables and managed traditionally as long there are some clear outcomes defined. Even if those outcomes start out vague, and even if you don’t know how long it will take to achieve them, it’s a starting point; and that’s all you need.
My name is Eric Barlow, I am a Graduate Student in the Information and Communication Sciences Masters program at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. I will hopefully graduate in December, after four semesters in the CICS program. I hope to join a corporation in either Indianapolis or Cincinnati in the area of project management or IT management. I currently work at the Digital Corps, a media development office on the campus of Ball State University, as their part-time assistant project manager and IT supervisor.
I received my undergraduate degree from Ball State in Telecommunications, with a minor in business. I enrolled in the CICS program to reinforce my undergraduate business training and strengthen my skill set in information technology and management.
In my limited time as an assistant project manager, I have had the opportunity to manage a wide diversity of projects included a small scale R&D project. I am looking forward to ICS 698 with Dr. Gillette because I hope that it will increase my knowledge about managing R&D projects and teach me how to better approach projects of this nature with new techniques. Additionally, my office at Ball State is partnering with Marketing and Communications to produce the new Ball State departmental websites, including the new CICS website which is one of the main focuses of this course. I hope that my familiarity with this project will allow me to give the class a unique insight into all elements and aspects of the way the project is actually progressing.
I look forward to working with Dr. Gillette and everyone in this class. Feel free to contact me and connect with me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/ericbarlow/