Many projects are never really completed; they just fizzle out and fade away. You are probably familiar with the excitement that goes into launching many new projects. Depending on the size of the organization and the environment in which you work, you may be involved in projects that are denounced with great fanfare. Even a project that is announced behind the closed doors of your supervisor’s. office generally starts out with a certain momentum. The single most effective trait of an effective project manager is the ability to close a project with the same level of enthusiasm as when it is started. Closing a project can be the easiest and the hardest part of project management-it involves a rigorous evaluation and review of the decisions, processes, and effort that went into making a project a success or doomed it to failure. It’s not always pleasant, but it is always educational. In this chapter, we’ll look at how Microsoft Project 2000 can help you and your organization to get the most from closing a project.
To Close or Not to Close
Project managers list a host of reasons why they might never officially close a project. In some cases, “scope creep” has caused the project to mutate and grow in a thousand different directions, so much so that the original project may no longer even be recognizable. In other cases, the project may have failed to reach its objectives and the key players would rather not draw too much attention to that fact. Perhaps, political factors in the organization make it imprudent to evaluate and close some projects. And in all too many cases, other priorities get in the way. Although the primary objectives of the project may have been met, no one takes the time to evaluate the process and learn how it could be done even more effectively next time.
The process involved in closing a project can be as critical as the process involved in defining and designing the project at the outset. If your goal is continuous quality improvement, it is imperative that every project success or failure be carried through to its conclusion-you cannot improve if you don’t know what it is you are improving
Closing a Project
One of the most important factors in setting up a project is defining when a project can be deemed complete. If the deliverable and milestones are clearly spelled out, then it becomes clear when the project has met them, or when it is no longer possible or desirable to meet its objectives. So, the first step in closing a project actually happens before the project even starts. In the early stages of the project development, you must decide what the project will look like when it is done-what determines success? Obviously, if the project.Involves building a piece of machinery, it is a little more obvious when you have reached your objective than if the project is designed to raise awareness about the importance of exercise in maintaining good physical health. In either case, however, a dear definition of success at the outset goes a long way determining .whether you have made it.
What Is Success?
Success is often defined in a very limited way: Did you build this machine or produce this publication? However, success may come in many different and surprising forms. Perhaps in failing to produce the item you set out to produce, you discover something totally unexpected. Perhaps the process did not work in this project, but it became clear how the same process could be successful in another project. Or maybe the team came together for the first time and now, knowing what to expect from each other, it will be successful the next time around. Although you can reach some conclusions about a pro;kt, keep yourself open to other ways a project may have succeeded or failed despite the project’s objectives.
After you decide that a project has met its objectives or that it will not reach. its objectives, you can proceed with the other steps involved in closing a project. These steps include the following
• Conducting.a project review, including a review of the processes’ used in the project
• Evaluating project results
• Communicating information about the project results to all the stakeholders
• Preparing for future projects
If the project is the result of a contract for your services, you may also have to finalize contract-related issues as part of closing a project. The contract may include an inspection or Sign-off before the final invoice is paid. If that’s the case, you certainly want to take care of those issues so you can submit the final invoice for payment. All of these items should be listed in the original project planning materials-it’s always a-good idea to go back and review everything you agreed to at the beginning to make sure you are not missing anything. When you are sure you know what you need to wrap up the project, you are ready to move on to the project review meeting
Conducting a Project Review
, One person rarely accomplishes a project in its entirety. That’s not to say that a person working alone couldn’t use Microsoft Project to help guide them through a complicated project. Project has all the tools you need to manage tasks and schedules in a project, even if you are the only resource available to the project. However, most projects are the result of a team effort. We’re using the word team in its loosest sense-teams do not necessarily require cohesiveness-only the effective ones do!
During the review meeting, someone should be designated as the recorder to keep a record of the key points that come from the review. At the end of the review meting, these key points can be written up to be included in the final project report
Reviewing the Project Constraints
One definition of project management is to efficiently use resources to ‘complete a project as designed, on time, at the desired level of performance, and within budget. When conducting a project review, this definition is often a good place to start a general discussion about the project. criteria listed in this definition, how did you do? Did you use resources efficiently? Was the project completed as designed? Was it completed on time? Do the results meet the standards of quality and performance? How do actual costs compare to budgeted costs? Thi~ discussion often evokes the need to dig deeper, and perhaps more scientifically as you break down the project life cycle.
Problem Identification: Was the Problem Accurately Identified?
,Accurate identification of the problem is the only way to solve it. As you look back on the entire project, could you have done a better job identifying the problem? Did you identify the real problem, or did you mistake a symptom for the actual problem?
Definition Was the Problem Clearly Defined?
After the problem was Identified, did you research the causes of the problem thoroughly? Did you consider.all the possible causes of a problem? Is there anything you missed?
Development How Did the Project Unfold?
The development phase is where the real fun begins. Initial planning is complete and the actual work starts. During this part of the revie you want to find out what it was like to be doing the of the project. Certainly, it’s important to document if the project stayed on schedule, but even more importantly, you want to find out what happened that took it off schedule. Was it poor planning or did something interfere with the process? If some tasks finished ahead of schedule, how did that affect the rest of the t schedule? Were schedules realistic to begin with? Were resource assignments realistic? Did the plan include enough material resources as well as work resources. How were over- or under allocations handled?
At this stage of the review, you also want to look at how the project team functioned. Examine the communication methods you used-did everyone feel like they were in the loop? Email, telephone, face-to-face meetings, written correspondence, and the Web are all valid forms of project communication. Which methods worked best? What could be done to improve communication next time? Should additional methods of communication be tried?
implementation Could the Results of the Project Be Implemented?
Projects are generally designed to create something new, whether it is something as concrete as an airplane or as intangible as a method to develop high morale within a company. When a project is completed, you should be able to implement the results in some way: use the object you-created, sell the product, implement the policy. If the results can’t be implemented, what went wrong along the way? Was it something intrinsic to the project or are external factors influencing its implementation? For example, if the project’s objective was to develop a prototype for a new software pro’duct, is there money available to finance the production of the software? What factors are outside of your control? What, if anything, could you and the project team have done differently to carry the project through implementation? Does the product work or is a lot of rework required?
Creating Final Reports
Although the review meeting is as much focused on process as it is on performance, Microsoft Project 2000 can help you prepare reports that are useful in conducting the . review. These reports give you the facts and’ figures to fuel the discussion, and ma”e sure that everyone is working from the ‘same data. The reports can also show problems and successes that you might have otherwise- overlooked
Project has two vehicles for directly reporting project data: reports and views. “Using Views to Evaluate Data,” provides details about how to create custom vie~ in Project 2000, how to add and remove columns, and how to sort and filter views to see just the data you want to see. “Using Reports to Analyze Data,” covers how to use the built-in reports and how to’ build custom reports that focus on’ particular data. You might also want to review is. “Importing and Exporting Project Data,” to learn how to export data from Project into Microsoft Excel and other applications to conduct even further analysts.
In this section, we’ll discuss the predefined reports and views that can give you the data you need to conduct the postmortem and prepare a final project report. To create a Project report, choose View >- Reports and select the appropriate report category from the Reports dialog box, shown in Figure 20.1.
Using Project’s Predefined End-of-Project Reports
Project has seven predefined reports that offer valuable data in preparing a final project report. There are three overview reports: Project Summary, Milestone, and Top-Level Tasks; and four cost reports: Budget, Earned Value, Over budget Tasks, and Over budget Resources.
The Project Summary report, shown in Figure 20.2, is found by clicking the Overview category of the Reports dialog box and then clicking the Project Summary Report button. The Project Summary report provides an overview of the following
Dates including start and finish dates, baseline start and baseline finish, actual start and actual finish, and start variance and finish variance.
Duration including scheduled and remaining duration, baseline and actual duration, and variance and percent complete.
Work including scheduled and remaining work, baseline and actual work, and variance and percent complete.
Costs including scheduled and remaining costs, baseline and actual costs, and variance.
Task Status including the number of tasks not yet started, tasks in progress, tasks completed, and total tasks.
Resource Status including the number of work resources, over allocated work resources, material resources, and total resources.
The Milestone report, shown in Figure 20.3, and also found by clicking the Overview category of the Reports dialog box, gives a summary of the project’s milestones. It includes Task ID, Task Name, Duration (0), Start and Finish Dates, and Predecessors
The Top-Level Tasks report, shown in Figure 20.4, is an overview report that shows the Task ID; Task Name; and actual figures for Duration, Start, Finish, % Comp (Percent Complete), Cost, and Work. This report shows only Level One tasks on the outline, so. you can focus in on the major activities of the project without getting lost in the details.
The Earned Value report, shown in Figure 20.6, is a standard project-management report, designed to show how a project’s budgeted costs compare to actual costs. The Earned Value report shows the budget cost of work scheduled (BCWS),budgeted cost of
work preformed (BCWP), actual cost of work performed (ACWP), scheduled variance (SV),cost variance (CV), estimate at completion (EAC),budget at completion (BAC),and variance at completion (VAC).Earned value can be monitored all throughout a project’s lifecycle to measure the cost of work performed up to the status date or the date of the report. At the end of a project, the EAC,BAC,and VACprovide final summary data about .the project. EACis equivalent to the Cost field in Project; on this report, it shows the total scheduled or projected cost for a task. BACis equivalent to the Baseline Cost field in Project. VACis the difference between EACand BAC