Managing a project is not about avoiding mistakes at all costs, it’s about learning from them and not repeating them. As well as mistakes, we also learn from successes. It’s therefore important as Project practitioners to ensure that we also maximise project successes.

Lessons Learned is the learning gained from the process of performing the project. Through the process of Lessons Learned we bring together learning to usefully apply to future projects.

Wellingtone’s Director of Consulting Services, Emma Arnaz-Pemberton has previously shared a lot of insight on the topic as well as providing The Definitive Guide to Lessons Learned. In this article, I look to build on Emma’s recommendations and address specifically how technology can support establishing the process of Lessons Learned as a core part of project management.

5 stages of the lessons learned process

The Lessons Learned Process

  1. Identify – identify what you can learn from, whether that’s what went well, what didn’t go so well or what could be improved.
  2. Document – document and share findings. Ensure this includes recommendations for future application
  3. Analyse – analyse the lessons learned to determine how to apply them
  4. Store – store lessons in an easily accessible location
  5. Retrieve – refer to lessons learned to improve the current project processes as well as inform future project processes

One of the major flaws with implementing Lessons Learned in project management is that it’s often seen as end of project activity, almost a ‘tick box’ exercise as part of project closure. Although it’s still relevant to capture lessons at the end of a project, it’s important that lessons are captured throughout the project lifecycle, whilst they’re still fresh in people’s minds. Not only does this ensure key details are captured accurately, but it enables the project team to apply learnings, whether positive or negative, to future stages of the in-flight project.

It’s best to begin discussing lessons learned during the project kick-off meeting. That’s why Wellingtone’s PPM solutions are purposely designed to include a Lessons Learned log, accessible to project teams from day 1. Depending on the tool, Project Online, Project for the Web, the lessons learned log is either surfaced in the PMO Portal or within the Power App itself. Either way, it should be noted that this information is captured in a central repository.

In some organisations, Lessons learned documents are often stored in isolation, normally on a shared drive or in some form of project library. Providing a dedicated repository within the PPM Solution will ensure lessons learned are stored centrally which aids with retrieval. If this information cannot be easily retrieved and shared with people that will benefit from it, then what is the value in capturing it?

Benefits of building a central repository of lessons learned

Key Word Search Capability

Information should be stored in a manner that allows users to identify and search for lessons by keywords.

In Power Apps, each view includes the search box to quickly locate specific information:

You can also easily apply filters to each indivi­dual column:

Apply filters to each column keyword search capability

Or to the top-level view:

Top-level view in Lessons Learned

If you’re working with Project Online > PMO Portal, then use the search bar located at the top of the page to look for content by entering keywords or a specific phrase enclosed in quotation marks.

Search bar in PMO Portal on Project Online

Similar to Power Apps, you can also apply Filter by or Group by functionality at column level:

Why not go one step further and build it into your Power BI reports.

Lessons Learned in Power BI reports

Add Comments or Tag colleagues

The above highlights where end users can “pull” the information by manually searching for it. Lessons can also be “pushed” to the PPM community. A great example of how the technology can support this is by using the ‘share’ or ‘comments’ feature available in SharePoint lists or the ‘share’ feature in Power Apps – simple for encouraging collaboration across the PPM community

From SharePoint, you can either share the entire list or a single list item. For list items, you can find Share to the right of the Title column.

You can select specific people or groups of people, it’s also optional to include a message. The users mentioned will also receive an email notification advising an item has been shared with them.

As well as Share, you can also use the Comments feature.

Again, for list items, you can find Comments to the right of the Title column. Once the comments pane loads use the @-sign with a person’s name to tag someone directly.

Comments Feature in Lessons Learned for Microsoft Project

Comments Feature in Lessons Learned for Microsoft Project

For sharing items in Power Apps, you’ll find Share on the top ribbon.

Share Lessons Learned in Microsoft Project

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By: Rachel Goodwin

Rachel Goodwin
Senior PPM Consultant, Wellingtone | An experienced PMO professional; P30 and PRINCE 2 certified, skilled at developing and implementing Project & Programme management methodologies, tools and best practices, with the ability to balance formal processes with pragmatism to drive delivery.

Published: 6 June 2022

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