Group of Eight Australia
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Module 8: Project Closeout

Frequently asked questions

1. Why are post-project reviews (PPR) important?

The post-project review is an instrument for supporting continuous improvement and quality management. It aims to identify what went wrong and what went right and identify changes to improve the delivery of future projects.

2. What are some of the benefits of post-project reviews?
  • Insights into scientific methods and approaches that might be used in other projects
  • Data for upwards accountability, including program and unit reviews and organisational performance measures
  • External accountability to stakeholders and funders
  • Information to aid in the selection of future research projects for funding
  • Information to assist in the planning and budgeting of future research projects
  • Improved levels of project management capability in the organisation
3. How can you describe the 5 levels of project closeout maturity, using the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) as the framework?
  • Level 1 - Ad hoc PPR: Reaction-driven reviews, Based on capabilities of project individuals
  • Level 2 - Establishment of PPR policies: Introduction of sound review practices, Based on experience with similar reviews
  • Level 3- PPR processes standardised: Establishment of sound and consistent review criteria, PPR responsibility assigned to a unit
  • Level 4 - PPR goals quantified and measurable: Corrective action can be taken, Quality of transferable knowledge predictable
  • Level 5 - Organisation-wide post-project review: Consistent inter-project learning, Proactive review of PPR processes
4. What are some of the possible problems that can be caused by ineffective project closeout?
  • Having to make up shortfalls in funding from other accounts
  • Having to return funds because they haven't been accounted for (even though they are spent)
  • Losing entitlement to the final instalment of funds
  • Reputation damage to the project teams and organisation
5. What is the major focus of most project reviews?

Projects that are perceived to have not been successful.

6. What needs to be in place to ensure that learning from post-project reviews is captured?

Systems and processes to capture information from reviews and update and integrate learning into operating procedures.

7. Who defines whether a project is successful or not?

The project stakeholders.

8. What does a review need to include and why?
  • An assessment of technical deliverables to see whether the project has delivered what it said it would – i.e. project effectiveness
  • An assessment of the project process in terms of how it was run, how the team worked etc – i.e. project efficiency
9. Why are criteria for acceptance important to define and agree upon clearly?

Because if the stakeholder does not think the project is finished additional work may be required beyond budget available (or time and people).

10. In terms of measurable performance criteria what do the letters in the SMART acronym stand for?
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable/Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound
11. Why is the commercial model of a balanced portfolio approach difficult to implement in the university research context?

University research is undertaken by fragmented research groups funded from a number of different sources and who are often competing for the same bucket of money. The research is primarily focussed at the fundamental end of the research value chain. Projects are started in response to funding becoming available, and the 'portfolio' is an ever-changing mix of projects.

12. Why should researchers take the time to understand the research strategies of their funders?

Because their project is likely to be only a small component of a much larger portfolio of R&D and understanding context will help align research efforts to what the funder wants.

13. How would you decide how frequently to hold project review meetings?

This will depend on the size, length, scope, risk profile and so on of the project.

14. What events might trigger additional reviews?
  • Incident Reviews: Triggered by something not going according to plan
  • Significant Milestone Review: Often triggered by a funding requirement which is either time or deliverable based
  • Post-Project Review: Triggered by the end of the project
15. What is the key output of the review process?

A review document with ranked recommendations.

16. What are the two types of recommendation that can arise from a post-project review?
  • Recommendations on how to do less of the things that lead to projects going off track
  • Recommendations on how to do more of the things that lead to projects being successful
17. What three criteria must recommendations meet?
  • Recommendations need to be actionable and implementable by the project team;
  • The chief investigator or the team needs to be able to influence the project management process so that the recommendations can be implemented.
  • Where the problem is outside the sphere of influence of the project team, arrange to meet with the source of the problem and attempt to influence changes in practices in those groups, using post-project review data to support your request for change.
18. What 5 sections does a post-project review report typically contain?
  • The classification section
  • The analysis section
  • The lessons learned section
  • The recommendation section
  • Appendices
19. If research cannot be completed in the agreed timeframe what two options are available?
  • Seek an extension with a carry forward of funds
  • Seek additional funds for a follow-on project
20. Where are the requirements for fulfilling client/sponsor obligations usually defined?

In the project funding agreement or deed of agreement between the funding organisation and the research institution.

21. What is a project closeout checklist normally aligned to?

The organisation's research project management system.

22. When seeking an extension, what guide would you use to work out how much extra time to ask for?

As a guide, if an extension of the final report deadline is sought two days prior to the deadline the extension requested should not be for more than two days i.e. ask for no more time than the notice you are giving.

23. When disposing of assets at the end of the project, what records should be kept?
  • Who authorised disposal of materials on a project
  • The method of disposal
  • Any other information about the disposal of assets and materials
24. On what basis are sabbatical leave, employment and severance pay entitlements calculated for project staff on short-term employment contracts?

You need to check on the basis of number of years service. You need to check on the specific HR policies.

25. What are the 3 most common issues that cause staffing budgets in projects to be incorrect?
  • Severance pay has not been budgeted correctly into the project.
  • Chief investigators forget to tell project staff about whether the grant will be renewed (or not).
  • The chief investigator does not return the appropriate paperwork to the HR department.
26. Why is it essential to complete all items on a financial checklist prior to the end of a project?

Once the end date is reached no further expenditure can be made against the project.

27. What records are used to investigate a project after it has finished?

The investigation is undertaken using the original records.

28. What are the problems with financial rewards for performance?
  • They are quickly forgotten, especially if paid at the same time as regular salary payments and are too easily perceived as extra compensation for underpay during the project
  • Team members may compare what each member received so it's difficult to reward better performers with a better reward
29. Why is celebrating failure a good idea for R&D projects?

R&D is not guaranteed success and failing is also a result. If an organisation wants to encourage a culture of innovation it needs to celebrate failure (as well as success) so that people can move onto new challenges.

30. What are the differences between an in-process project review and a post-project review?

The in-process project review concentrates on progress and performance and checks whether conditions have changed. It tends to be oriented to the short-term. The post-project review tends to include more detail and emphasises improving the management of future projects, with a focus oriented to the longer term.

31. What are the two perspectives for a post-project review?
  • Organisational view
  • Project team view
32. What are the five most common classifications for the way that projects end?
  • Normal - project ended as planned
  • Premature - project ended early with some parts eliminated
  • Perpetual - project extended due to increases in scope
  • Failed - project could not be completed
  • Changed priority- shifts in organisation priorities due to changes in market or technology
33. What are the five major wrap-up activities involved in closing down a project?
  • Getting delivery acceptance from the customer, shutting down resources and releasing to new uses
  • Reassigning project team members
  • Closing accounts and seeing all bills are paid
  • Evaluating the project team, project team members, and the project manager
34. Should a project review include comments about individuals or groups involved in the project if they are relevant to the project and verifiable with other sources?

No. In a project review, comments about individuals or groups participating in the project should not be included under any circumstances.

35. What is the major goal of a post-project review?

It is to improve the way future projects are managed.

36. What is the most common circumstance for project closure?

A completed project.

37. What are the 5 Ws and how are they used?

Who, what, where, when and why – to position a story for media attention.