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Topics: PMO, Using PMI Standards
Lesson's Learned
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I am working on identifying a repository for Lessons Learned. Does anyone store lessons learned in a searchable database? I'd be interested to hear about your solution.

Since mine needs to be "no-cost", I am considering building something in Quick Base or in Microsoft Access.
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Everyone has incredible suggestions. And all are incredible professionals. All I have to recommend is to think about live situations that you are in, and remember what steps took the longest. Not what others teach for 10 years or those who haven't been in live situations. Not that its a bad thing. But lessons learned are like the military and intel for frontline use. Before technology, you still called in for intel on areas you were going towards. File folder 18,000 miles away was opened, and SWOT (obviously SWOT may not have been called that), Risk Assessments, and anything else done, was in that folder; Then it was faxed to your S-2 field office.
Now think on that. What you might want is not ONENOTE, but something that retains the ENTIRE DOCUMENT in the computer. Then you can either create your own simple database of document lists that will be searchable thru text parsing, and a library or two that simply stores the file name and abstract, and that can retrieve the document with a click of a button.. Save it to the cloud. Share it on google drive. Nothing has to so complicated that we need to keep creating lesson plans on how to save lesson plans! Im not a guru, but I am a geek from the old days.
One real over-looked feature in all of MS products is the document info. You can ADD user-defined fields for even more searchable information. Like simply a checkbox for SUCCESS- FAIL. Also ask the little people who have to actually do this, and see what their ideas are! You might be surprised! Someone could already be doing it.
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I would ask one additional question: do you have a Project Management Information System (PMIS)? Most of them have a Lessons Learned module. So if you have one, there you go, and if you don't, you may want to ask yourself if it's the right time to implement one and hit two birds with one stone? (most SaaS solutions are low cost and easy to get started with)
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I have never really come across an app or piece of software that is solely for recording Lessons Learned. I think the one thing I have taken from previous projects is that Lesson Learned Logs need to be accessible to all or a chosen few.
I have created one in Excel before and have also used OneNote as I believe another poster also mentioned, but a collaborative tool such as SharePoint is a good place to log these for others to see and learn from.
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I was building before a data base on MS Excel with aid of Pivot tables functions at excel features and I am fully satisfied from this tool and technique. Hoping to help you with the best tool and with my best wishes for you to reach the ultimate success.
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Interesting discussion, i still believe no cost is understatement, anything involving data/data processing actually has price tags on it right ;-)??
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May 10, 2016 1:28 PM
Replying to Samuel Vaddi
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Kristin, I used SharePoint for storing the searchable database. Since this may not be an option for you, the software you mentioned (and perhaps Excel as well - depending on the numbers) may be the way to go. The one recommendation I have would be to ensure your metadata is very strong... I think this is how you can ensure quality search results. Examples of metadata could be: Functional area, Methodology, Time frame (recent vs. older), Type of lesson (disaster vs. positive etc.). You can figure out what the relevant search criteria for your organization would be and organize the metadata to support it.

You can also do a search on 'Lessons Learned Database' on this site. There seems to be some information that could be useful to you.
I agree. SharePoint is a valuable resource when it comes to logging a repository. I love ours and it is easy to find what you are looking for.
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It's not enough to RECORD lessons learned. You have to INCORPORATE lessons learned.

A lesson isn't learned unless it changes behavior. Don't just record them. Change things!

Change your standard operating procedures, project management templates, guidelines, policies, training programs, checklists, and so on so that you avoid problems experienced on previous projects. Embed what you learn into the organization's culture & practices. Don't just come up with a fancy way of storing them and making them searchable.
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1 reply by Henry Hattenrath
Jul 01, 2019 5:27 PM
Henry Hattenrath
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Implementing the suggested changes for maximizing the added value of Lessons Learned should be part of the Project Management Organization or the organization's management oversight responsibilities.
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One drawback from putting lessons learned into any database is that the information and knowledge will stale very quick i.e. the actual lesson learned will only make sense to the person populating the database information and the description that they provide. One approach I would take to lessons learned is to the distill the information in to a high level guiding principle that that use in any and all projects going forward e.g. if a piece of information from a lesson learned is based on local knowledge such as Supplier A of car part does not keep to the exact delivery dates setting back the project, then distill the lesson learned as ensure Suppliers will be fined if they do not keep to contracted deliver dates.
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Jul 01, 2019 1:02 PM
Replying to Eric Isom
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It's not enough to RECORD lessons learned. You have to INCORPORATE lessons learned.

A lesson isn't learned unless it changes behavior. Don't just record them. Change things!

Change your standard operating procedures, project management templates, guidelines, policies, training programs, checklists, and so on so that you avoid problems experienced on previous projects. Embed what you learn into the organization's culture & practices. Don't just come up with a fancy way of storing them and making them searchable.
Implementing the suggested changes for maximizing the added value of Lessons Learned should be part of the Project Management Organization or the organization's management oversight responsibilities.
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