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Risk and Assumptions Expand / Collapse
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Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 7:24 AM


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Ok - Risk. I like it. Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.

So, how do you know what you are doing if you have never done it before? You have to take the risk and do it once in order to understand the full consequence of doing the project. Then the next time you repeat this project, there should in an ideal situation be no risk factor.

Risk is needed. Risk is good. Risk is fun.

The amount of risk that you take on needs to be determined. This is called calculated risk.
It is difficult to calculate risk properly. People generally have their own agendas and do not factor in risk properly. You don't always want a low-risk situation, and you don't always want a high-risk situation. You want to calculate how much risk that you can handle and go for it.

People who are contractors or own their own business live at a higher risk level than people who do the daily grind. This does not mean that when the market shrinks, they should be running around looking for that full-time permanent job. This may mean that they will have to dip into their savings for a bit and end up taking more vacation this year. If they don't have any savings, then they have been red-lining their risk and should have calculated their situation better.

They probably didn't know what they were doing, but next time the market dries up, they will have that safety net in place.


Mia

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Post #641702
Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 8:26 AM
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My experience with software projects is that minimizing risk, or conversely, maximizing the possibility of success, is possible in the following ways.

1. Make sure, as an IT professional, that you have counterparts in the organization who have a vested interest and deep understanding of the business need. Of course, you must be able to communicate with them and understand as much as possible about the business, but they are the ones who will use and benefit from the project. They will also help to explain the project to other key players in the organization.

2. Strive to organize projects into incremental pieces. Whenever I been have involved in "big bang" projects that try to solve many problems with one large stroke, we have come in over budget and behind schedule. You must keep the big picture in mind so that the pieces you build will eventually all work together, but build it from the bottom up.

3. Get the best people you can. If you or someone involved in the project don't have the skills required, find a consultant who has been through the cycle before with the technology you are using.

4. Be flexible and willing to change course. This doesn't mean changing on a whim, but if you learn something today that would better the outcome of the project, then don't be afraid to bring it to the other key players for consideration.

Risk in itself is not good or bad, it's how we manage it that determines whether we move forward or back.
Post #641759
Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 8:33 AM
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In my experience, most of the inefficiencies in technology projects take place during the requirements gathering phase. DBAs aren't typically involved in that stage, but for those of us in smaller, jack-of-all-trade shops, we need some basic training in requirements gathering. For example:

1. Eliminate the middleman and deal with the end users (frequently easier said than done).

2. Don't involve end users in usability issues. They'll have strong opinions, but they're not experts, and so you'll never get out of that infinite loop. Develop an expertise in usability and apply tried and true principles (requested feedback should be limited to "lipstick on a pig" issues such as colors, logos, ...).

3. Limit your questions to end users to the information needed for the end result--for example, either information to be contained in a report or the information to be displayed on a website. Again, don't discuss layout, and other usability issues. What information do they need?

4. Limit the database design to tables/fields holding data needed for the information defined in #3 above.

5. Do not involve end users in the design of input forms. Again, they're not usability experts. The design of input forms are a function of usability principles and the data defined in #4 above.
Post #641768
Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 8:35 AM
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I promise that I didn't see dld's post before writing mine. Great minds and all that...
Post #641771
Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 8:42 AM


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Chris (1/22/2009)
2. Don't involve end users in usability issues. They'll have strong opinions, but they're not experts, and so you'll never get out of that infinite loop. Develop an expertise in usability and apply tried and true principles (requested feedback should be limited to "lipstick on a pig" issues such as colors, logos, ...).


Yeah Chris, don't involve end users in useability issues. They are only the people that are going to end up using the product every day after it is shipped out. They shouldn't have anything to say about the useability of it. Nice one. Then when they come back and say that the UI sucks and it makes no business sense to them, you can charge them again to change it to what they want.

Chris, you are a smart and savvy business man. ;)


Mia

I have come to the conclusion that the top man has one principle responsibility: to provide an atmosphere in which creative mavericks can do useful work.
-- David M. Ogilvy
Post #641777
Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 9:02 AM
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Mia-- Thanks for disagreeing without being disagreeable.
Post #641805
Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 9:06 AM


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Chris (1/22/2009)
Mia-- Thanks for disagreeing without being disagreeable.


It was a calculated risk. :D


Mia

I have come to the conclusion that the top man has one principle responsibility: to provide an atmosphere in which creative mavericks can do useful work.
-- David M. Ogilvy
Post #641809
Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 9:16 AM


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I have to disagree with the comment about not involving users in usability design. I've seen both ends of that spectrum, and the one that involved users a lot was a much better piece of software than the one that didn't. And I'm not talking about one project vs one project, I'm talking about all the projects at one business vs all the projects at another.

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Post #641820
Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 9:23 AM


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On the subject of risk coming from not knowing what you're doing, I'll have to go with "it depends" on that one.

Yes, not knowing what you're doing definitely increases risk. If you try to drive to work, and you don't know how the brakes work, you're more likely to end up injured/dead than to end up safely at work.

On the other hand, there just simply are no valid ways to know some things that can tremendously increase risk. Not knowing a small meteor is about to land where you're standing right now definitely increases your risk, but there is simply no valid way to know that's going to happen.

Also, as mentioned, there's no way to learn new things without taking some risks. You just have to do your best to mitigate the risk and maximize the gain, but the only way you'll ever expand your horizons in any way, is to take some amount of risk.

The worst risks, however, generally come from people who think they know what they're doing, but really don't.

Honestly, I like to periodically do things that are crazy risky, just to push myself. If what you're doing is free-style cliff climbing, no matter how much you know about it, no matter how much experience you've got at it, you are still at risk every time you practice that skill. I think that's a necessary part of life - taking risks just for the gain of knowing that you faced a risk, openly, knowingly, and went, "sometimes, you just have to say, 'what the @$%^'".


- Gus "GSquared", RSVP, OODA, MAP, NMVP, FAQ, SAT, SQL, DNA, RNA, UOI, IOU, AM, PM, AD, BC, BCE, USA, UN, CF, ROFL, LOL, ETC
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Post #641827
Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 9:37 AM


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As an adrenaline junkie (skydiving, motorcycles, competition shooting, angel investor in startup companies, etc), I just want to say that: "What you don't know WILL hurt you." Anybody who says different is selling something.
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Post #641841
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