Project closure is the concluding phase of a project, in which the main types of activities are finalized. The documents and decisions made during this phase are expected to result in a formal completion. Importantly, the closure includes a “Lessons Learned” component that may offer valuable data for conducting similar projects in the future. The following paper provides a description of the closure phase and its critical elements, details the procedures related to the Lessons Learned activities, and applies the described concepts to the case of the Bandai Pippin project.
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Typically, closure comprises three major elements. In the first, inputs, the accepted deliverables are compared against the goals and objectives formulated in the project management plan (Fahri, Biesenthal, Pollack, & Sankaran, 2015). In the case of the Bandai Pippin project, the deliverables would likely include certain project specifications such as functional and reliable hardware characterized by high cost-efficiency, availability and quality of instruction manuals and other informative documents, marketing campaign performance, and promotion of the product in mainstream media as well as in specialized outlets (Laporte, Chevalier, & Maurice, 2013). The criteria for completion formulated in the project management plan should include compliance with safety standards, criteria for seamless and reliable performance of hardware, settlement with retailers regarding the distribution of the console, sufficient coverage in the gaming press, and a certain level of awareness demonstrated by the intended audience. Finally, the information accumulated throughout the project (e.g., performance reviews, encountered barriers, and probable causes of failure) should be compiled and systematized for use as organizational process assets.
The second element is tools and techniques, in which the project scope statement and feedback from customers are used to measure the efficiency of the project. This analysis can be performed internally by the project managers or externally by technical and professional associations (Brunswicker & Vanhaverbeke, 2015). In the case of Bandai Pippin, the latter would present a more plausible option since the final product was expected to be compatible with several types of consumer electronics and communication standards and protocols (e.g., use of online connectivity protocols).
Finally, the third component, termed outputs, refers to the presentation of a final product or service. The most apparent element of the outputs component is the product itself, which, in the case of Bandai Pippin, is a gaming console. Furthermore, the outputs include a compilation of documents created throughout the project’s life cycle, such as recordings of activities, operational schedules and calendars, and risk registers (Aurea Works, 2016). Finally, a document that confirms the closure on a formal level should be included. In a Bandai Pippin project, the outputs include customer feedback, reports regarding hardware comparison, analysis of marketing and promotional strategies, and updated market research addressing any gaps in the initial statements.
As can be seen from the abovementioned information, the highlighted elements serve two primary purposes. First, the elements of the closure phase function together to formalize the completion of the project. This aspect is important mainly from the organizational perspective since it ensures the consistency of the documentation. Accountability and transparency are essential principles of the modern business environment. Thus, documentation and reports are expected to unambiguously and clearly define each stage of the project and specify the application of the resources used in the process. Second, two elements of the closure process include information obtained during the project’s lifecycle and indications of its strengths of weaknesses. This latter factor is especially relevant for projects targeting new, unfamiliar, or under-explored segments of the market. In the case of the Bandai Pippin project, elements expected to serve as sources of competitive advantage turned out to be either irrelevant to the consumers or poorly communicated by the marketing team (Frank, 2015). In addition, it is clear that the overall assessment of the market either misguided the team or caused the data to be interpreted in a distorted manner. It should be mentioned that information could be obtained from case studies of similar projects since several similar failures preceded the failure of Bandai Pippin. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that the majority of issues could be addressed more effectively based on historical information obtainable at the closure phase.
Lessons Learned Element
As mentioned in the previous section, the closure phase contains elements designed specifically to obtain an understanding of the causes of a project’s failure. The most feasible of these elements is a part of the organizational process asset category and is referred to as Lessons Learned. This element is typically conducted at dedicated meetings organized at the end of each phase. The latter is especially important because complex and multifaceted projects often use different sets of resources at each stage of production (Kerzner, 2017). In the case of Bandai Pippin, the Lessons Learned information needs to cover several aspects of the project, including engineering, design, marketing, distribution, transportation, support, and progress in establishing agreements with game developers, among others. Understandably, such an encompassing approach would require the participation of a wide range of stakeholders. Specifically, the representatives of each manufacturing department need to be present in the meetings covering the initial phases of product development. Consequently, the completion of phases involving negotiations with distributors and retailers requires the presence of team leaders responsible for these activities. Customer support representatives are to be included in the latter phases after pilot testing has been conducted and the first batches of the product have been shipped. Importantly, the marketing department should monitor the entire process since it may provide relevant adjustments to the information and align the demonstrated results with the performance demonstrated during this phase.
It should be emphasized that the results of the meetings need to be systematized and consistently documented in order to be applied to similar projects in the future. Thus, it is necessary to summarize the data in a written report. This report should list the issues identified during the phase, compliance with the milestones laid out in the plan, and—preferably—feedback from the company’s staff and customer focus groups. Depending on the project stage, data can be gathered using surveys and interviews, sales data, reports from market analysts, and coverage from media sources.
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As can be seen from the information considered here, the data produced during the closure phase can be applied in future projects. Specifically, information about discrepancies between the project management plan and observed performance can be used to identify potential weaknesses in similar plans. More importantly, the gaps in market research and promotion strategies responsible for any failure can and should be acknowledged, both in the consumer electronics segment and, with minor adjustments, in all areas of activity of Apple, Inc.
Aurea Works. (2016). Close project or phase. Web.
Brunswicker, S., & Vanhaverbeke, W. (2015). Open innovation in small and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs): External knowledge sourcing strategies and internal organizational facilitators. Journal of Small Business Management, 53(4), 1241-1263.
Fahri, J., Biesenthal, C., Pollack, J., & Sankaran, S. (2015). Understanding megaproject success beyond the project close-out stage. Construction Economics and Building, 15(3), 48-58.
Frank, A. (2015). Before gaming on iOS and Apple TV, there was Pippin. Web.
Kerzner, H. (2017). Project management: A systems approach to planning, scheduling, and controlling (12th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Laporte, C. Y., Chevalier, F., & Maurice, J. C. (2013). Improving project management for small projects. ISO Focus+, 4(2), 52-55.