Okay, so archiving projects isn’t the most exciting topic. At least until it prevents embarrassment, saves time, or helps you focus on what’s important. The list of benefits is much longer, but I’d like to begin by calling out my top six motivations. This will be quick. Don’t blink.
The Benefits of Archiving
The first and most obvious benefit is saving time when planning and executing new projects. Old projects provide a wealth of information for new projects, including tangible elements such as lists of stakeholder’s contact information, and intangible elements, such as workarounds. How did we get past this roadblock last time?
The second is historical access, which is the basic purpose of any archive. People frequently leave organizations and projects, and the knowledge they take with them is lost or forgotten. Their replacements bring fresh ideas and new experience, but may waste time reinventing a wheel if they’re unaware of the organization’s previous experiences.
The third benefit is derived from the second. That is, having historical records can help us focus on what’s important today. If you've eliminated possibilities or resolved situations during previous projects, awareness of those outcomes keeps you from wasting time revisiting them.
The fourth is better estimations. Looking back at similar project elements can help us make better estimates for activity durations, costs, and resource requirements this time. The last time it cost X. This time we think it will be X + inflation + an adjustment for Y.
The fifth is project portfolio analysis. How often did we meet our project plan baselines? Has our Project Management Office (PMO) been effective? Did we get our portfolio mix and priorities right? The more projects in your archive, the more accurate extrapolating your data becomes.
The sixth benefit is training. Using past projects as a source of training materials for new project managers, stakeholders and PMO members is a great way to demonstrate the project management methodologies and approaches used by the organization.
What to Archive
Okay, so archiving is worth the effort, but what should be saved? The most obvious choices are your project plan and charter documents, but equally important are the project assets. Assets can be anything from an Excel spreadsheet to a prototype widget; basically, anything that could be reused or inform future projects.
It’s also a useful to hold a brainstorming session with the project team at closure to identify the lessons learned. It can be a short session and recording lessons for future reference may reveal problematic decisions or behaviors that need to be addressed. I’ve also discovered that this exercise causes higher lesson retention by project managers and team members, and they resurface naturally during future project planning and execution.
How and Where to Archive
Whether you're archiving physical or digital assets, the two most important considerations are space and inventory management.
If you’re archiving physical items, space and inventory systems can be expensive, so your organization will need to determine if it’s worth the cost. The pitfalls to avoid include creating junk spaces, not maintaining the archive with periodic reviews and cleaning, and not keeping good records so that assets can be located when needed. If you’re archiving paper, a cost-benefit analysis of digitizing should be considered.
Digital assets are the easiest to archive, but the same considerations of space and inventory management apply. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply choose a storage solution with the ability to expand as you need more space, and create a simple folder structure that all users can understand and navigate. It can be helpful to have a document in the root folder that explains the folder structure. It’s even better if your storage solution provides document management and text searching. Also be sure that your storage solution has automatic backup capability or redundancy. Network and cloud storage solutions are great for this, and they typically provide basic access control.
Project EMC2 Can Help
Project EMC2 provides built-in archiving for its project files, making it easy to reuse project components when you need them. Internal projects often share common stakeholder information, requirements, project activities, risks, and project reports, and you can simply copy and paste them from archived projects into new projects. All archived projects are continuously visible in the Archive tab within the application.
The archiving feature is also designed to use synchronized cloud folders, such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, and DropBox. These services allow you to share your project files with team members and stakeholders, and offer excellent access control, file protection, and backup. Some even offer versioning control.