Monthly Archives: April 2017

Know When Your Business Needs IT Consulting Services

Businesses must ensure that only the latest technologies and software are deployed at the workplace, in order to provide quality solutions to their clients, and to be ahead of the competition. With the ever-changing technological trends in the industry, businesses find it cumbersome to adopt these technologies. Instead they can hand the entire function over to a sound IT consulting services company – who in turn will tap into their global pool of highly skilled IT professionals, who have the advantage of working in various IT environments, and have extensive experience across sectors. By providing assistance to business, IT consulting services providers free up existing resources; ensure IT transitions are smooth and problem-free; optimise key business processes; identify areas that benefit with further cost saving; build competitive advantage through IT; reduce IT complexities; provide IT strategy consultancy services, IT project management services and provide specialised programme management solutions – all of which, help the organisation achieve significant business efficiencies and cost benefits.

Choosing to work with an IT firm definitely boosts a company’s overall efficiency, which in turn decreases costs. Firms tend to look for a flexible and bespoke solution to address the client’s IT needs, thereby delivering solutions that are in tandem with the client’s goals.

The advantages listed above necessitate hiring an IT company. But how will a business know that it needs IT consultancy services?

A business may function with its existing IT architecture without knowing the benefits of such services. In order to discern the need for IT consulting services, businesses must first understand the details of their services. According to Wikipedia, ‘IT consulting is a field that focuses on advising businesses on how best to use IT to meet their business objectives. In addition to providing advice, IT consultancies often estimate, manage, implement, deploy, and administer IT systems on businesses’ behalf, known as Outsourcing’. IT consulting services firms thereby help businesses strategise and evaluate their IT functions as a whole and take the necessary steps to implement and/or deploy and then administer effective and robust IT systems in place. Businesses can seek the services of an IT firm when:

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  • IT investments regularly overshoot the set budget. Fast-paced technologies and trends warrant proper planning. When making strategic use of the allocated budget seems difficult, seeking the advice of IT consultancy services providers is imperative.
  • A business decides to relocate or reduce staff.
  • Projects regularly miss deadlines. Lack of specialists, complex projects and shoestring budgets lead to inefficient project management. A sound IT consulting services company designs bespoke, safe and cost-effective solutions, either full time or part time.
  • Challenges of globalization, technical and regulatory changes arise. Business and technology management when integrated help the business survive, and therefore IT strategy consultancy is important.
  • Programmes and projects eat into the budget. A business needs specialised programme management solutions to achieve significant cost savings. A robust IT services company provides either the co-sourcing or the outsourcing model to help businesses remain ahead of the competition, by providing tailored solutions.
  • There is a need to change networks or when the need to shift to a new IT architecture arises.
  • The company is in need of a robust disaster recovery plan.
  • There are no data storage systems in place.

Availing the services of the right IT consulting services company may be a challenge. A business must choose a provider before the problems stated above get worse – and must choose a provider who is able to set in place a sound IT system in place. Therefore, a business must choose a provider who provides flexible solutions. Businesses must also remember that though they think they are able to fix small issues, the reality is that these issues must be treated at the root, and they can be properly tackled only with strategic IT solutions – only provided by an effective IT consulting services company.
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Improve Your Home With Masonry!

A wall is simply a unique portion of the entire infrastructure of a building. All of the elements, such as color, size, shape, texture, and finishing touches, combine together to create limitless architectural expression. Shade and texture convey a certain depth and character to the structure of a wall and yet the overall appearance should exhibit uniformity.

Masonry is a durable means of construction building using different substances such as brick, marble, stone, concrete blocks, limestone, stucco, tile, granite, and glass blocks. Generally, masonry is both the building activity itself and the materials that are used in the process. Choosing the right type of material and deciding how they should be used in the construction of a house is confusing without the proper knowledge and skills. With the help of the right home builder, everything can easily fall into place.

Concrete Masonry Units (CMU)

CMU’s are the most common type of masonry material utilized in building construction. They are often chosen because of the many benefits they have to offer as a wall material. They are cost-effective, fire-resistant, highly durable, environmentally safe, increase structural integrity, and have a better resale value. It is helpful to understand the different types and sizes of CMU’s available since they are manufactured by several different companies.

Bricks

Historically, bricks are one of the most durable and long-lasting types of masonry units. They are made from blocks of ceramic building material originally made from clay or mud. There are several substances used in making bricks, yet clay is the substance that is most generally used today. The advantages of using clay include: durability, classic beauty, low-maintenance costs, low purchase cost, energy efficiency, greater resale value, impact resistance, fire-proof, and availability in appealing textures. Bricks are used in several different applications; however, they are most commonly used for building a house. To emulate classical bricks, the manufacturer burns the material to provide a rustic appearance.

Stones

Stones have been used in masonry construction for hundreds of years. They can be made from local stones, limestone, granite, and sandstone. The quality of the material depends on its resistance to breakage, water penetration, and the ability to be cut into regular shapes. Stones are durable, maintenance-free, natural-looking, inexpensive, offer a timeless appearance, and come in variety of sizes and colors. Stones make a wonderful, long-lasting wall.

Veneers

Veneers are a construction material made from small pieces of stone or brick that are used for low load-bearing solid masonry. This substance is widely known as a “curtain wall” because of its appearance. Some of the advantages of using veneers include: provide effective drainage; promote insulation; affordability; light-weight; easy installation; and lower labor costs when compared to the installation of other walls. There are two methods of wall construction using this substance: the anchored system and the adhered system.

There are several types of masonry material available. All of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. It is important to have some basic knowledge about these materials in order to choose the right type of masonry. Each type has its own beauty and unique appearance; however, many factors must be considered before making a final decision. It is a good idea when making a selection to consult with expert home builders who can offer their assistance in choosing the appropriate masonry material for the improvement of a home!

Waste Management Solutions: Five Crafty Ways To Reuse Plastic

Every year there is approximately 333,557 tons of plastic waste tossed into the ocean. Plastic pollution is a toxic hazard that threatens the habitats of ocean and land wildlife. In addition, the mass production of plastic contributes to the dilution of natural resources and increases the burning of fossil fuels.

Waste management companies across the globe are seeing an uptick in plastic pollution-and most are encouraging people to avoid it. Sometimes, plastic is unavoidable-however reusing it can minimize production which is important for the environment. Here’s a look at five crafty ways to reuse plastic materials.

1. Refill Plastic Jugs

Milk jugs, plastic orange juice cartons, and gallon water jugs are great for lemonades and punches. Although it’s encouraged not to use them for drinking too long, it doesn’t mean you have to throw them right in the recycling bin. Fill them with non-consumable items such as glue, dishwashing detergent, or an anti-freeze mix.

2. Make Plastic Bags Useful

One of the biggest headaches for a waste management company is plastic bags. Most of these bags aren’t biodegradable and eventually will end up in oceans or streams. Plastic bags can be used for a variety of projects, including:

– Carrying school lunches

– Making fashionable purses and bags

– Worn as booties over shoes

– Piping bags for cake decoration

The most damaging type of plastic bags come from the grocery store. Avoid using them by purchasing reusable shopping bags or asking the cashier for a paper option.

3. Turn Water Bottles Into Wire

Every day, people throw away thousands of plastic water bottles that end up in a waste management facility or landfill. Water and small plastic soda bottles are comprised of a thicker plastic and are perfect for making wire. Use industrialized scissors, wire cutters, or a utility knife to cut thick or thin strips of plastic. These makeshift wires are great and prevent purchasing and using plastic zip ties.

4. Keep the Bottle Caps

Caps from soda bottles and plastic jugs are hard to recycle-however, they can be used for an assortment of projects. Conserving bottle caps can be useful for things such as:

– Creating a push cushion ring for sewing

– Decorative art projects

– Making jewelry such as earrings, rings, and necklaces

– Fusing them together to make pill holders

Most bottle caps aren’t biodegradable and linger in a waste management facility for awhile. Large bottle caps can also be used as a buffer between furniture legs and flooring-especially fine grain wood and carpets.

5. Turn Two-Liter Bottles Into Planters

Two-liter bottles have an array of uses. A popular option is cutting it in half and using the top piece as a funnel. However, the bottom half of a two-liter bottle can be used to create a planter. Plastic planters are great for small plants such as herbs and succulents.

Alternatives to Reducing Plastic Waste

Waste management companies, scientists, and environmentalists can agree that plastic waste is a growing problem for Mother Earth. Reusing plastic materials isn’t always a viable option, however, there are alternative means such as recycling, using glass and ceramics, and avoiding the purchase of non-recyclable plastic items.

Article Writing 101: The Perfect Author Resource Box

If you want to really make your article “SELL” then you’ve got to craft the perfect RESOURCE BOX. This is the “author bio” that is below your article body and it’s also known as your “SIG” (short for SIGnature).

Here are the essential items that should be in your RESOURCE BOX:

  • Your Name: You’d be amazed at how many folks forget to include their name in the RESOURCE BOX. Your name and optional title should be the first thing in your resource box.
  • Your Website Address: in valid URL form. Example: http://Your-Company-Name.com/
  • Your Elevator Pitch: This is 1 to 3 sentences that encapsulates the essence of what makes you and your offering unique. Also known as your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
  • Your Call To Action: You’ve got them warmed up and now it’s time to lead them to BUY from you or visit your website. This is where you “Ask For The Sale.” Best to only give (1) specific call to action.

Here are some optional items you could include in your RESOURCE BOX:

  • Your Ezine Subscription Address: While getting your interested visitor to surf your website is nice, capturing their email address can help you begin the confidence/trust process. If you’re going to do this strategy, include a URL for your ezine subscription address and do not use an email address for the “join” address.
  • Your Contact Information: Such as your business phone number or how to reach you for interviews or your press/media kit. Keep in mind that article marketing is a timeless strategy and you may not have an easy ability to retract what you put in your article once it hits major distribution.
  • A Free Report: This could also be part of your call to action or your free bonus report that further enhances your credibility as the expert on the topic of your article.
  • Your email autoresponder: I’m not a big fan of this strategy due to the fact that spammers will text-extract your autoresponder address and add it to their spam list. Perhaps this strategy was best for the 1990’s and has now run its course.
  • An anchor URL that is related to one keyword or keyword phrase that you want to build SEO strength for. Example: if I wanted to build search engine relevance/strength for the term “Article Writing,” I’d link up that term in my resource box to my website. This is an intermediate to advanced level strategy and should not be abused by over-doing it. Keep it simple.

What NOT to include in your RESOURCE BOX:

  • A listing of every website you own. There is no faster way to dilute your credibility than by posting a half dozen irrelevant URLs that have nothing to do with each other. Best to only post ONE URL that is related to the topic of your article.
  • A listing of every accomplishment you’ve achieved to date. No one cares. Keep your resource box brief and to the point. Yes, your resource box should be benefit oriented so that the reader finds value in reading it rather than your ego being justified.
  • Advertisements or pitches for products that are not relevant to the topic of your article.
  • Keep the size of your resource box so that it’s no larger than 15% of your total article size. Too often I see resource boxes that are 50% of the size of the total article and this is abusive.

Your Perfect Resource Box Conclusion:

The BODY of your article is where you “GIVE” and the RESOURCE BOX is where you get to “TAKE” for your article gift of information. The resource box is the “currency of payment” you receive for giving away your article. Be sure to include your name, website address, your unique selling proposition as briefly as possible and a simple call to action.

Does Your Website Follow “The Iron Law of Marketing?”

Many websites unwittingly ignore ‘The Iron Law’ of Marketing. They begin by explaining features about the company, e.g. how long they’ve been in business, what their premises look like, etc. The truth is that most visitors to your website couldn’t give a hoot about the features of your company! What they primarily care about is WIIFM.

WIIFM stands for ‘What’s In It For Me’. It’s ‘The Iron Law of Marketing’. Unless visitors to your website can quickly see what your business can do for them, the chances are that they’ll be gone quickly, typically in seconds. Once they’re gone, they’re gone – probably never to return.

WIIFM – ‘What’s in it for me’. Are we really so self-centred? Well, yes, I’m afraid that we are. Please don’t feel guilty – it’s just the way we’re hard-wired. Sure, farther down the line, we care about others. But, first and foremost, we’re concerned about how we survive and thrive. That’s simple evolutionary common sense.

If you want your visitor to stay on your website, you need to heed ‘The Iron Law of Marketing’. You need to give your visitors WIIFM – ‘What’s in it for me’. But the paradox is this: the ‘me’ shouldn’t be you (i.e. your premises, etc). It should be them – your visitors.

You need to put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and address what they’re interested in, what they might want, how you may be able to help them.

Most companies are concerned to get ‘targeted traffic’ (i.e. potential clients to their sites) through SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and other clever stuff. And this is important – very important indeed.

But if most of your prospective clients leave your website in a few seconds, isn’t that just a little bit silly? (And we’ve all done it, me too!) Isn’t that rather like filling a bucket with water… which just runs out of all the holes in the bottom?

It’s not rocket science! We simply need to show visitors to our websites the benefits of doing business with us. And we need to do it in a fun, interesting manner.

If possible, we should pack our websites with ‘FREE gifts’, so that visitors derive immediate benefit. One of the most valued gifts is FREE information which you give to your visitors and which will help them.

I’m amazed when I see websites created and run by people ten times more clever than me… yet doomed to failure because they broke ‘The Iron Law of Marketing’ – WIIFM, ‘What’s In It For Me’.

Often it just needs a change in focus and some alterations for your website to be much more successful. If you disregard WIIFM, it will become your worst enemy. If you take heed, it will become your best friend.

Does Your Pool Cue Matter? The Truth About Modern High Technology Pool Cues

I started playing pool at the young age of 7 years old, during the winters growing up in northern Maine when the temperature reached 50 below zero and it was too cold to ski. The rec room at Loring AFB had a couple of pool tables, and as a very athletic kid I had a natural curiosity about the game, and after watching a few games I was invited by one of the airmen to play a game with him. He showed me how to hold the cue stick and make a bridge, and got me a little wooden box to stand on so I could reach the table. It did not take long for me to become addicted to the game, and soon invited my friends to play. We spent many a cold winter day inside that rec room, playing for hours, making up our own rules and games, and eventually even betting nickel candy bars on the outcome. Yeah, we were big spenders!

When summer hit, we put the cues away and played baseball all day long. My dream, since I was 5 and saw the Dodgers play in Los Angeles several times before my dad was transferred to Loring, was to be a pro baseball player, and I eventually got a baseball scholarship to college in Texas, where my dad retired in 1966. Through the years, every spare hour not spent practicing baseball was spent in a pool hall, and after my baseball career ended with a torn pitching shoulder, pool became my number 1 interest. I won my first tournament when I was 17, at a bar that my sister worked at, and won a cue stick as first prize. I was thrilled beyond belief, until I screwed the stick together and rolled it across the table. To my horror, it rolled like a corkscrew, being so warped as to be unplayable! Back to playing with a bar stick!

For the next 20 years, I hustled pool where ever I was working at the time. I drilled oil wells all over the country, and made as much money hustling the roughnecks after their shift as I did from my salary. As a mud engineer, I was responsible for checking many different rigs daily, and got to know, and play against, hundreds of different pool players each year. Moving around the country to different areas on a yearly basis, I was able to keep under the radar and remain a relative unknown, so it was never any trouble to get a money game going. I do not think I ever met a roughneck who did not play pool, and most of them had a pretty high opinion of their game. That usually changed when it came time to pay up!

In 1989 I met the Alexander brothers on a golf course in Dallas. Nick, a lawyer, had founded Clicks Billiards many years before, and now had a total of 20 pool halls from Phoenix to Florida, with his original pool hall right there in Dallas at Abrams Rd. and Northwest Highway. Greg, his brother, was the General Manager, and responsible for hiring managers for all 20 of their pool halls. By this time I had retired from the oil business, and made my living on the golf course and pool halls every day. Greg and Nick were both members of Sleepy Hollow Country Club in south Dallas, where I hustled golf every day. Greg was a 3 handicap, and after I had played with him 3 or 4 days a week for several months (and took quite a bit of money from him), he asked me if I played pool. Heh heh heh. "A little bit", I said, and he took me that night to the original Clicks Billiards, to try to win a little of his money back.

After he paid up the hundred I beat him out of that night, he offered me a job, as assistant manager of the original Clicks. He knew I had never bar tended before, but assured me I would pick it up quickly, and would fit right in with the pool players who made up their core customer base. Was he ever right! I took to it like a duck to water, and ended up meeting most of the best pool players in Dallas, and some of the best in the country. Clicks had several exhibitions, including one by Grady Matthews, and one by Ewa Mataya, the Striking Viking. Clicks was also where I met CJ Wiley, the road player who won the ESPN Ultimate Nine Ball Challenge in 1995 or 96. There were many, many top notch professional players at Clicks, with many a $ 1,000 game of one pocket going on day and night , with lots of major Dallas bookies bankrolling a lot of the action, and sweaters on the rail by the dozens, just watching … or praying, lol.

CJ rolled into Clicks in 1990, and proceeded to terrorize the local pros. He was an instant legend, steamrolling every major player in town. Guys who scared the dickens out of me would not even touch CJ when he offered them the 5 and out. His rep grew, and his ranking did too, eventually reaching # 4 or 5 in the world of Pool. Working there, I became fast friends with CJ, and when he opened up his own room in Dallas, CJ's Billiard Palace, I eventually quit Clicks and went over to manage CJ's place. When he opened up, 90% of the action, and pro players, went with him. He had 12 Gold Crowns, as opposed to the 4 at Clicks, a kitchen, and was open 24 hours. The action never stopped.

So what, you ask, does all this have to do with the title topic? I bought my first cue, a Thomas Wayne model, in 91, and while it was beautiful, with lots of gorgeous inlays, and very responsive, it really did nothing to improve my game. I played with it for 3 years until it was stolen, and I loved the cue, but I could play just as well with a bar cue, providing it was the right weight and had a good tip. I spent 700 dollars for the cue, but I really did not need to. It did not give me any advantage over a house cue.

I had a severe back injury in 1994, that made me quit playing golf and pool. I did not want to risk an operation, and it was not until 2008 that I got some non-narcotic medication from the VA that let me bend over the table again without excruciating pain. By this time, Predator Cues had come out with a 10 piece shaft that was hollow at the tip, significantly reducing cue ball deflection at impact … or so they claimed. Having been away from the game for 14 years, I had read little about these cues, and was intrigued, to say the least.

For those of you reading this who do not know what cue ball deflection is, here it is in a nut shell: When a cue ball is struck to either side of the vertical axis … the center line …. the cue ball will deflect, or "squirt" in the opposite direction. So if you hit the cue ball using right 'english' … hitting the cue ball right of the vertical center line … the cue ball will deflect to the left, and vice versa .. The amount of deflection varies, depending on speed of the stroke, the distance from the center line (or tip offset) the cue ball is struck, and the mass of the tip. In other words, the more english you apply, the harder the stroke, and the bigger the mass of the tip ….. these factors will all increase the amount of deflection, or squirt. This squirt must be compensated for when aiming, or you will miss the shot quite often.

This is where the Predator technology comes into play. With a small hollow space at the end of the tip, the reduced mass drastically reduced the amount of deflection by allowing the cue ball to push the shaft out of the way at impact, instead of the shaft pushing the cue ball out of the way. The 314 shaft became very popular immediately with professionals, and the Z shaft reduced deflection even more by reducing the tip size from 12.75mm to 11.75mm. A shorter ferrule also helped reduce mass, and therefore reduce deflection even more. Independent testing has the Z² shaft and the 314² shaft from Predator as being the # 1 and # 2 shafts in the world in causing the least amount of deflection. Predator cues and shafts are used by over half of the top 40 professionals, 3 of the top 5 women professionals, and over 35,000 players worldwide, according to the Predator web site. These professionals are not paid to play these cues. They play them because their living depends on their playing ability, which is enhanced with this high-tech equipment.

Since Predator led the way in the mid 90's, many companies have now joined the technology revolution. Lucasi Hybrid Cues offers the Zero Flex Point shaft on all their hybrid models. This shaft has technology similar to the Predator shafts to drastically reduce deflection. They offer these shafts with many joint types to fit most cues made today. World Champion Thorsten Hohmann from Germany now plays Lucasi Hybrid.

The OB-1 and OB-2 shafts also offer low deflection technology, and John Schmidt recently changed to the OB cue. He said he ran over 400 balls playing straight pool, the second day he used the OB shaft.

I had to try out one of these cues myself, and I must say: I love the new high-tech pool cues. I play with a Predator 5K3, and despite not having played in 14 years, my game has ascended to a level way higher than I ever played before. The reduced deflection makes the hard shots using english much simpler, by reducing the amount of compensation for squirt.

In summation, the advance of technology has shortened the learning curve for beginning and intermediate players by reducing cue ball deflection, and requiring much less compensation for the squirt effect. And the pros, who make their living with a cue? Nearly all of them play a low-deflection shaft of some kind. Why would not they? If they do not, their competitors (who all do) will take the money.

While Predator remains the benchmark for low deflection, they are also not cheap. The retail price for a Z² shaft is nearly $ 300, but the new Lucasi Hybrid Cues, with similar technology (and also new grip technology to reduce impact vibration) are a good lower priced alternative. For less than the price of a Predator Z² shaft alone, your can get an outstanding Lucasi Hybrid [http://www.poolsharkcues.com/product_info.php?cPath=6&products_id=78/] that has advanced low-deflection technology and plays fantastically well. If a World Champion like Thorsten Hohmann is playing a Lucasi Hybrid, you KNOW it is an outstanding cue.

So think long and hard when purchasing a new cue stick. If you do not use a cue with modern low-deflection technology, chances are your opponent will be. Everything else being equal, a modern low-deflection cue, or an older cue with a new low-deflection shaft, is going to win the vast majority of the time. Greatly improved accuracy will make it so.

The Importance of Project Closeout and Review in Project Management.

Description

The well known English phrase “last but not least” could not better describe how important the project closeout phase is. Being the very last part of the project life-cycle it is often ignored even by large organizations, especially when they operate in multi-project environments. They tend to jump from one project to another and rush into finishing each project because time is pressing and resources are costly. Then projects keep failing and organizations take no corrective actions, simply because they do not have the time to think about what went wrong and what should be fixed next time. Lessons learned can be discussed at project reviews as part of the closeout phase. Closure also deals with the final details of the project and provides a normal ending for all procedures, including the delivery of the final product. This paper identifies the reasons that closeout is neglected, analyzes the best practices that could enhance its position within the business environment and suggest additional steps for a complete project closeout through continuous improvement.

Project managers often know when to finish a projects but they forget how to do it. They are so eager to complete a project that they hardly miss the completion indicators. “Ideally, the project ends when the project goal has been achieved and is ready to hand over to customer” (Wellace et. al, 2004, p156). In times of big booms and bubbles, senior management could order the immediate termination of costly projects. A characteristic example of that is Bangkok’s over investment in construction of sky-scrapers, where most of them left abandoned without finishing the last floors due to enormous costs (Tvede, 2001, p267). Projects heavily attached to time can be terminated before normal finishing point if they miss a critical deadline, such as an invitation to tender. Kerzner (2001, p594) adds some behavioural reasons for early termination such as “poor morale, human relations or labour productivity”. The violent nature of early termination is also known as ‘killing a project’ because it “involves serious career and economic consequences” (Futrel, Shafer D & Shafer L, 2002, 1078). Killing a project can be a difficult decision since emotional issues create pride within an organization and a fear of being viewed as quitters blurs managerial decisions (Heerkens, 2002, p229).

Recognition

The most direct reason that Project Closeout phase is neglected is lack of resources, time and budget. Even though most of project-based organizations have a review process formally planned, most of the times “given the pressure of work, project team member found themselves being assigned to new projects as soon as a current project is completed” (Newell, 2004). Moreover, the senior management often considers the cost of project closeout unnecessary. Sowards (2005) implies this added cost as an effort “in planning, holding and documenting effective post project reviews”. He draws a parallel between reviews and investments because both require a start-up expenditure but they can also pay dividends in the future.

Human nature avoids accountability for serious defects. Therefore, members of project teams and especially the project manager who has the overall responsibility, will unsurprisingly avoid such a critique of their work if they can. As Kerzner (2001, p110) observe, “documenting successes is easy. Documenting mistakes is more troublesome because people do not want their names attached to mistakes for fear of retribution”. Thomset (2002, p260) compares project reviews with the ‘witch hunts’ saying that they can be “one of the most political and cynical of all organizational practices where the victims (the project manager and the team) are blamed by senior management”. While he identifies top management as the main responsible party for a failure, Murray (2001) suggest that the project manager “must accept ultimate responsibility, regardless of the factors involved”. A fair-minded stance on these different viewpoints would evoke that the purpose of the project review is not to find a scapegoat but to learn from the mistakes. After all, “the only true project failures are those from which nothing is learned” (Kerzner, 2004, p303).

Analysis

When the project is finished, the closeout phase must be implemented as planned. “A general rule is that project closing should take no more than 2% of the total effort required for the project” (Crawford, 2002, p163). The project management literature has many different sets of actions for the last phase of the project life cycle. Maylor (2005, p345) groups the necessary activities into a six step procedure, which can differ depending on the size and the scope of the project:

1. Completion

First of all, the project manager must ensure the project is 100% complete. Young (2003, p256) noticed that in the closeout phase “it is quite common to find a number of outstanding minor tasks from early key stages still unfinished. They are not critical and have not impeded progress, yet they must be completed”. Furthermore, some projects need continuing service and support even after they are finished, such as IT projects. While it is helpful when this demand is part of the original statement of requirements, it is often part of the contract closeout. Rosenau and Githens (2005, p300) suggest that “the contractor should view continuing service and support as an opportunity and not merely as an obligation” since they can both learn from each other by exchanging ideas.

2. Documentation

Mooz et. al (2003, p160) defines documentation as “any text or pictorial information that describe project deliverables”. The importance of documentation is emphasized by Pinkerton (2003, p329) who notes that “it is imperative that everything learned during the project, from conception through initial operations, should be captured and become an asset”. A detailed documentation will allow future changes to be made without extraordinary effort since all the aspects of the project are written down. Documentation is the key for well-organized change of the project owner, i.e. for a new investor that takes over the project after it is finished. Lecky-Thompson (2005, p26) makes a distinction between the documentation requirements of the internal and the external clients since the external party usually needs the documents for audit purposes only. Despite the uninteresting nature of documenting historical data, the person responsible for this task must engage actively with his assignment.

3. Project Systems Closure

All project systems must close down at the closeout phase. This includes the financial systems, i.e. all payments must be completed to external suppliers or providers and all work orders must terminate (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2004, p13). “In closing project files, the project manager should bring records up to date and make sure all original documents are in the project files and at one location” (Arora, 1995). Maylor (2005, 347) suggest that “a formal notice of closure should be issued to inform other staff and support systems that there are no further activities to be carried out or charges to be made”. As a result, unnecessary charges can be avoided by unauthorized expenditure and clients will understand that they can not receive additional services at no cost.

4. Project Reviews

The project review comes usually comes after all the project systems are closed. It is a bridge that connects two projects that come one after another. Project reviews transfer not only tangible knowledge such as numerical data of cost and time but also the tacit knowledge which is hard to document. ‘Know-how’ and more important ‘know-why’ are passed on to future projects in order to eliminate the need for project managers to ‘invent the wheel’ from scratch every time they start a new project. The reuse of existing tools and experience can be expanded to different project teams of the same organization in order to enhance project results (Bucero, 2005). Reviews have a holistic nature which investigate the impact of the project on the environment as a whole. Audits can also be helpful but they are focused on the internal of the organization. Planning the reviews should include the appropriate time and place for the workshops and most important the people that will be invited. Choosing the right people for the review will enhance the value of the meeting and help the learning process while having an objective critique not only by the team members but also from a neutral external auditor. The outcome of this review should be a final report which will be presented to the senior management and the project sponsor. Whitten (2003) also notices that “often just preparing a review presentation forces a project team to think through and solve many of the problems publicly exposing the state of their work”.

5. Disband the project team

Before reallocating the staff amongst other resources, closeout phase provides an excellent opportunity to assess the effort, the commitment and the results of each team member individually. Extra-ordinary performance should be complemented in public and symbolic rewards could be granted for innovation and creativity (Gannon, 1994). This process can be vital for team satisfaction and can improve commitment for future projects (Reed, 2001). Reviewing a project can be in the form of a reflective process, as illustrated in the next figure, where project managers “record and critically reflect upon their own work with the aim of improving their management skills and performance” (Loo, 2002). It can also be applied in problematic project teams in order to identify the roots of possible conflicts and bring them into an open discussion.

Ignoring the established point of view of disbanding the project team as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary overheads, Meredith and Mandel (2003, p660) imply that it’s best to wait as much as you can for two main reasons. First it helps to minimize the frustration that might generate a team member’s reassignment with unfavourable prospects. Second it keeps the interest and the professionalism of the team members high as it is common ground that during the closing stages, some slacking is likely to appear.

6. Stakeholder satisfaction

PMI’s PMBoK (2004, p102) defines that “actions and activities are necessary to confirm that the project has met all the sponsor, customer and other stakeholders’ requirements”. Such actions can be a final presentation of the project review which includes all the important information that should be published to the stakeholders. This information can include a timeline showing the progress of the project from the beginning until the end, the milestones that were met or missed, the problems encountered and a brief financial presentation. A well prepared presentation which is focused on the strong aspects of the projects can cover some flaws from the stakeholders and make a failure look like an unexpected success.

Next Steps

Even when the client accepts the delivery of the final product or service with a formal sign-off (Dvir, 2005), the closeout phase should not be seen as an effort to get rid of a project. Instead, the key issue in this phase is “finding follow-up business development potential from the project deliverable” (Barkley & Saylor, 2001, p214). Thus, the project can produce valuable customer partnerships that will expand the business opportunities of the organization. Being the last phase, the project closeout plays a crucial role in sponsor satisfaction since it is a common ground that the last impression is the one that eventually stays in people’s mind.

Continuous improvement is a notion that we often hear the last decade and review workshops should be involved in it. The idea behind this theory is that companies have to find new ways to sustain their competitive advantage in order to be amongst the market leaders. To do so, they must have a well-structured approach to organizational learning which in project-based corporations is materialized in the project review. Garratt (1987 in Kempster, 2005) highlighted the significance of organizational learning saying that “it is not a luxury, it is how organizations discover their future”. Linking organizational learning with Kerzner’s (2001, p111) five factors for continuous improvement we can a define a structured approach for understanding projects.

This approach can be implemented in the closeout phase, with systematic reviews for each of the above factors. Doing so, project closure could receive the attention it deserves and be a truly powerful method for continuous improvement within an organization. Finally, project closeout phase should be linked with PMI’s Organizational Project Management Maturity (OPM3) model where the lessons learned from one project are extremely valuable to other projects of the same program in order to achieve the highest project management maturity height.

References

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