Lessons Learned Review
Where We Started
A leading Canadian financial institution had invested significantly in improving its project management practices for all significant systems development investments. As a follow-up to the rollout and adoption of these new capabilities, an assessment was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the implemented practices, and their delivery of real benefits to the organization.
What They Needed
The organization had invested significantly in the development and implementation of robust project management practices. This included the establishment of a project management office to support and champion project management practices within the organization. Standards were established that required several core deliverables be produced for every major project, and that defined the project management practices be adopted. The requirements applied to all significant new systems development investments within the organization.
Following several years in which these practices were in place, a review was sponsored to evaluate the degree to which project delivery performance had improved, and whether the promised financial benefits associated with the projects were being delivered. An additional part of the analysis was understanding the degree to which the existing post implementation review process supported being able to answer these questions.
What We Did
The resulting project impact analysis was a collaborative effort, during which we worked extensively with an internal financial analyst. We conducted a review of all major projects that had been conducted since the adoption and implementation of the project management practices. The objective of the analysis was to determine performance based upon the defined standard deliverables that all major projects were required to produce.
We engaged in an extensive effort to secure documentation for completed projects, both from corporate project repositories s well as though follow-up with PMO client representatives and the project organizations.
Once we had compiled as much documentation as possible, we conducted a review to evaluate the impacts of completed projects. The focus of our analysis was on three overall dimensions of performance:
- We assessed project performance, and the degree to which there projects delivered on commitments of schedule, cost and scope.
- We reviewed the delivery of project outcomes, and the degree to which projects were delivering promised results.
- We assessed the deliver of project benefits, and the degree to which completed projects delivered on their promised benefits and projected performance measures.
In conducting the review, we found a number of challenges with collecting anticipated information. While there was a challenge in securing documentation, and it became evident that not all projects were complying with mandatory requirements, a number of significant findings emerged from the review. We were able to identify that where documentation did exist, project performance was often positive. We also observed that projects tended to deliver well on project business cases, although the analysis period was limited and did not reflect on-going financial impacts.
Other insights gained included challenges being experienced in understanding and adhering to the guidelines around project documentation, and a need for simplification and improved communication and education regarding documentation requirements and how to effectively use the standard templates.
What was most significant and an unexpected finding was the value of the narrative documentation being provided by teams as projects were completed. A significant number of projects were conducting lessons learned reviews as well as evaluations of their business case performance. The insights that were included in this documentation were enormously valuable, and offered constructive and useful suggestions that could have a significant impact on organizational performance and the improvement of project practices. We were able to make recommendations to review, capture and incorporate these learnings into organizational practices.
The organization started the engagement to evaluate whether project performance was improving. While the insights on this question were relatively promising, the more valuable result was the identification of actionable improvement opportunities that—by addressing and incorporating into organizational practices—offered significant improvements to the delivery of future projects.