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Project History File – Project Closure (#5 in the series How to Close Out a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

This series discloses important aspects of closing out a project by describing the following aspects:

Without gathering data from previous projects the project manager is at a serious loss when it comes to planning and organizing the next project. Having past actuals (activity durations, labor hours, costs, etc.) from previous projects, even though they were not identical to the new project, will aid the project manager in making sound analogous estimates in the new project. Building a project history file can be accomplished easily by dedicating an external, portable hard drive for this purpose. Accessing historical data can be accomplished quickly using “desktop search engines” such as Google’s. It is assumed that any intellectual property rights would be safe-guarded when using this practice.

Following is a list of items that can be considered for a project history file:

  • Planned and actual schedule durations. This includes past similar projects of any kind that have been completed.
  • Planned and actual labor hours (costs). Data may be in either dollars or in direct labor hours.

  • Copies of all approved changes to the Project Management Plan.. Most project management plans will change over the course of the project lifecycle. Having a record of these changes, especially those which benefitted the customer and the organization, can be invaluable.

  • All meeting minutes. Since it is a common practice to keep minutes of most project meetings, gathering copies can be very convenient. Many project managers will find themselves referring back to them more often than they might have imagined.

  • Problem logs. Future problems can often be avoided if past problems are documented and understood. This too can be invaluable when developing risk management plans.

  • Subcontractor performance records. Many project managers find themselves going back to previous subcontractors that performed well, and these performances are often fed into an organization’s “approved supplier” database. Because these more formal databases lack detailed information it is best to keep records in the personal project history file.

  • Customer satisfaction records. Tracking past customer satisfaction records can also be invaluable when dealing with the same customer. By reviewing past data project managers can often anticipate what is important to a given customer and what is not important. A secondary benefit is gleaned when considering proposed changes to a new product’s features by knowing how the customer might view the value of a proposed change.

  • Post project reviews (lessons learned). The results of a lessons-learned review will often be forgotten after several weeks. Remembering what needs to be done to avoid past deficiencies can only be accomplished by having immediate access to them at any time.

MICHAEL D. TAYLOR, M.S. in systems management, B.S. in electrical engineering, has more than 30 years of project, outsourcing, and engineering experience. He is principal of Systems Management Services, and has conducted project management training at the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension in their PPM Certificate program for over 13 years, and at companies such as Sun Microsystems, GTE, Siemens, TRW, Loral, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and Inprise. He also taught courses in the UCSC Extension Leadership and Management Program (LAMP), and was a guest speaker at the 2001 Santa Cruz Technology Symposium. His website is

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