Higher Education Innovation In Action

Project Management for Registrars

Natalie Spooner, Sales Consultant Apr 26, 2017

Earlier this month I wrote a blog post about building strong collegial relationships, which are key to your success as a registrar. This is especially true when you’re looking to rally support for your projects – effective teamwork is just as critical to project management as day-to-day implementation.

Although each project is unique, they all share some basic requirements, like clear objectives and a solid plan. With that in mind, this post will present a high-level overview of project management in the registrar’s office along with practical tips you can use in your own work. 

Stakeholder Buy-In

Back when I was a registrar, I led an 18-month document imaging project from concept to completion. It cut across several departments, including the registrar’s office, IT, the admissions office, facilities, and records management.

Multiple departments meant multiple stakeholders, which brings me to the first consideration in any project plan: Involve stakeholders in the decision-making process as early as possible to avoid roadblocks. 

In addition to registrar staff, the stakeholders for an imaging project might include:

  • IT department
  • Admissions director
  • Facilities (i.e., paper disposal)
  • VP of Enrollment (or whatever division your office reports to)
  • Grant writers
  • Records managers from each department
  • An academic VP representative for guidance on record access    

Project Planning

Once you’ve established your stakeholders and their roles, schedule a kick-off meeting to discuss the project’s scope and vision. Share your mission statement with the entire team, for example: “The mission of the XYZ imaging implementation is to provide a secure, accurate, environmentally friendly, and efficient recordkeeping solution for ABC University.”

Next, create and distribute a communication plan with instructions on:

  • Who receives reports and how often
  • Resolution of issues and challenges
  • Accessing project data/information
  • Email distribution lists and communication schedules

Prior to grant submission, which also happens during the initial planning stages, develop a project wish list with each department that you can use to write your proposal. The grant submission and approval process is beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to say that after you’re awarded the grant, the real work begins. 

You should also meet with stakeholders individually to plot out development timelines, and remember that even the best laid plans can go awry. Be flexible and willing to take a different path to get to the end without compromising results.


Depending on a project’s size and scope, the implementation phase may need to be split up into several parts. In an imaging project, you’ll need to consider the following tasks and when and how they will be implemented:

  • Behind-the-scenes programming and security profiles
  • Imaging procedures for archived documents
  • Imaging procedures for new incoming paper records
  • Removing paper files from storage cabinets
  • Repurposing filing rooms once they’re vacated

It’s sometimes easy to lose continuity during the project lifecycle because each subcommittee is focused on individual tasks. To keep things running smoothly, analyze your project goals at each stage and be sure to plan goal achievement celebrations that include the entire team. This allows the team members to interact a few times throughout the project.


After the project is complete, schedule a debriefing with your team to discuss what went well and what needed improvement. For example, you may have experienced project delays due to miscommunication or unforeseen circumstances. At the same time, you may have also benefitted from exceptional commitment among team leaders who kept project delays from becoming too costly.

Use the debrief to discuss any outstanding tasks, and also consider developing an ongoing evaluation plan to track outcomes. When budget season rolls around, you can point to your project successes to support future proposals.

Finally, plan a gathering to celebrate your team and its accomplishments. This can be as simple as having a lunch together to socialize and honor everyone’s hard work – with no shop talk.

Registrars, if you have any project management advice to share, please leave a comment below.