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23 signs your cloud project may be in trouble

David Taber | Feb. 6, 2014
On many an old map, unknown territories were marked, 'Here be dragons!' Sure, it's actionable, but it's not very informative. Centuries later, do we have the same problem with software project management? Here's how to slay the dragons that threaten to set your cloud projects aflame.

12 Cloud Project Problems You Must Head Off at the Pass
This final category includes serious, pernicious issues that must be identified and corrected before the project beings. Many pertain to "soft issues," especially those surrounding communication, politics and business process.

  • Lack of understanding about the quality and meaning of existing data sources. Since the cost of data cleansing, transformation and integration can easily swing by an order of magnitude or more, it's disastrous to do cost or schedule estimates without having access to some real data and people who can interpret it.
  • Incorrect assumptions about access to external systems or data. This can get political (and costly) fast.
  • An inability or unwillingness of security and other systems review committees to approve what you want. This adds to dithering, delay and, sometimes, nonsensical requirements.
  • Management's unwillingness to involve the right users in the design, prototyping, implementation or deployment phases. This first-order no-no happens with surprising frequency - often accompanied by my-way-or-the-highway thinking.
  • Weak or fake management championship. Executives tend to behave as if granting the budget is the end of their responsibility, when in fact it's just the beginning of a process spanning many quarters. An inattentive budget holder is about as dangerous as a distracted driver.
  • An inability or unwillingness to face facts or communicate bad news early enough to make a difference. Say "Yes" or "No problem" too many times and you'll have a huge issue offshore.
  • Expecting to manage a software project like a hardware deployment. That will just blow up.
  • Maintaining long-running projects with large, interdependent teams and Big Bang deliverables. Keep things small, simple and separable.
  • Writing ill-stated requirements or stating needs with false precision.
  • Writing requirements that simply don't matter - often because they were added to a document out of expediency.
  • Business process that evolve rapidly, particularly if there's a big organizational change. This goes double for M&A or divestitures; during such tumultuous times, only undertake projects for reconstitution, system survival and business continuity.
  • Business processes that are unknown or incorrectly mandated. We've seen cases where executives stipulated business processes that haven't been true for years - or that never existed in the first place.

Look to Van Halen's Brown M&Ms For Problem-Solving Strategies
You probably think I'm going to harp on endlessly about agile. (Me? Never!) Instead, I'll take a tactic from, of all things, public relations.

As a project leader, you have to look for each of the 23 issues listed here. But you can't afford to nail them all. You've got to prioritize. Wargaming is a PR tool that gives the most actionable form of "sensitivity analysis" - the ultimate triage.

The first part of the exercise identifies the top five things that you know could kill your project and comes up with a contingency or corrective measure should it occur. The second part finds the top three things that might come out of the blue to hurt you. With that second list, you set up some canaries in the coal mine to act as an early warning system. (For a non-IT example, think of Van Halen and brown M&Ms.)


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