Using Digital to Deliver a Knock Out in Your Project’s Closure Phase

When we started this series almost a year ago, How PMO’s Can Catch the Wave of Digital Disruption, our focus was on how the PMO and project managers could leverage technology to optimize their projects.

We highlighted in that article the need for the PMO and the PM to embrace technology to surf the wave to success — or risk becoming redundant. The four articles that followed: Fast tracking the Initiation Phase using Disruptive Technologies, Using Digital Disruption to Dissolve Planning Dilemmas, Executing and Delivering Projects at Light Speed, and Streamlining and Optimizing the Monitoring of projects the Digital Way, we showed examples of how, through the intelligent use of technology, project managers can and should optimize their entire project lifecycle.

For our last article on the series, we need to wrap it all up.  Yes, you guessed it, we need to deal with the closure phase. Now considering that the majority of projects run over time and budget, you can be assured that this process is probably the most hotly contentious phase of the entire project life cycle. In traditional projects, this is where the project manager confirms that requirements have been met, obtains formal sign off, and receives final acceptance of the product from the customer.

Any project manager will tell you that these are no simple milestones to achieve. Often, if this delicate situation is not negotiated carefully and a diligent change manage process has not been followed, customers stand aghast when they review what they originally agreed to and what they are finally presented with.

Thankfully, due to agile processes, the customer would have seen multiple releases throughout the life of the project, and should have enjoyednumerous opportunities to generate revenue during the life of the project. This was not always the case with waterfall development, where projects would run for three years at a loss without the client seeing any sign of a final deliverable. At the end, the software or package is “thrown over the fence” to the client without them really having a chance to even test the product. Those traditional projects were often half-baked due to funds having run out and the project manager having to negotiate some sort of settlement on behalf of customer and supplier.

Thankfully, those days are behind us and now we can focus on how technology and digital disruption can further provide us with opportunities to improve.

Using AI to verify customer satisfaction

Before digital disruption, project managers would use non-sophisticated surveys in an attempt to solicit customer feedback as to whether their projects had achieved the sought-after satisfaction metrics. At the start of their projects, they proudly forecasted that through the changes they were going to implement, customer satisfaction should increase by at least 10 percent from the current baseline. It’s during the closure phase that the project manager needs to show the data that supports their predictions.

Traditionally what that meant was surveys were distributed via email or data collated via some outbound call campaigns. The problem with these methods was that they were often not accurate, customers didn’t answer them honestly.

Nowadays, a better option is to use artificial intelligence tools which work with machine learning and natural language processing to listen to customer chatter on communication channels to pick up on actual indicators that will measure the happiness of customers.

According to a report by Oracle, 26 percent of all customers who have a poor customer experience post their views on Social Media. These numbers were in 2011, so you can bet your bottom dollar they are much higher now.  It’s therefore no surprise that their Oracle RightNow Feedback Cloud Service platform uses patented artificial intelligence technology to monitor clients’ social media channels to provide data on customer satisfaction. The project manager should tap into this wealth of a resource and allow it to gather insights on project performance that our project managers of days gone by could only dream of.

Robots will ensure that Project Managers tick all the boxes

Sitting on the other side of the fence, not as the project manager but as the project management office, there are a plethora of options to help wrap up governance procedures. We know the situation where we have a team of project managers, in some corporations as much as a 1000. The poor, over- stressed PMO tries to implement best practices to ensure that all their projects are properly wrapped up in way that all the boxes are ticked. This can lead to a few project assistants in the PMO burning the midnight oil in an attempt to collate and follow-up on project managers to provide the correct data.

How is the poor head of the PMO to ensure that all these project managers have followed the relevant governance practices? By using applications such as Stratejos which utilises AI and robots to monitor performance on projects. The PMO can view Intelligent dashboards that let them know which PM’s are still owing data, and which project portfolios will not have the required information to sufficiently close and wrap up their projects.

Those days are gone. Robots can quickly flag if pertinent information is missing, if all the processes have been followed, and can send out gentle reminders to project managers that they still need to complete activities 1094, 1095, and 1096.

We project managers are implementers of change and in many ways digital disruption has been one of the best things to happen to the world or project management. Let’s embrace this change and adapt the way we use technology from start to finish to ride the digital wave to project success.

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson runs Acuity Training, an IT training business offering classroom courses in London and Guildford, Surrey. A leading provider of MS Project training the UK, it offers a full range of Project courses, from introductory courses through to advanced. He blogs and can be contacted at Acuity’s blog

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