Monday, June 18, 2007

June 19, 2007 - Where's the Finish Line?

One summer at camp we had a big foot race. It went from the archery range down to the beach and up a steep trail before ending on the main lawn. Knowing the finish was at the top of the hill I sprinted and was in first place coming off the trail. Having reached the summit I fell to the ground, glad to be done. Looking up I saw the finish line another 50 feet in front of me. Needless to say, I didn’t finish anywhere near first.

Fewer things are more frustrating than getting to the end and finding the finish line isn’t where you thought it was. As a project manager, if you don’t reach the goal it can result in having to seek employment elsewhere. To finish strong you need to know who is holding the tape at the end of the race. Usually we think of the project sponsor and forget others like the corporate architects, security, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) auditors and the project office. Since these groups can bring your project to a halt it is important to seek them out up front. It puts a new twist on the old saying “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know.”

Architecture Committee. My project was going quite well. We were cloning an existing concept and the company stood to make a bunch of money selling the new product. You can imagine my surprise when I presented the project to the Architecture Committee prior to implementation and they said it didn’t meet the new technology direction. It didn’t matter that the requirements were never published, I just should have known.

Take the time to present your project’s concept to the architecture group early on. In addition to keeping you from going down the wrong path they can suggest improvements and point out design flaws.

Head of Security. Security is a thankless job. Protect the company for years but have one little laptop disappear or a couple thousand account numbers go missing and everyone is breathing down your neck. It is no wonder they say “NO” so often. Get them to help you design the system security in right from the Business Requirements phase. Too often we try to tack it on at the end and it doesn’t meet company standards.

Security funds are a great place to find additional funding for your projects, too. When the safety of the company is at risk money can be found. If there is an aspect to your project that enhances the security of the company you may be able to utilize a separate budget.

SOX Auditors. Auditors are generally avoided at all costs. Rather than hiding anxiously in your cube, go introduce yourself. Find out what the latest killer audit questions are and make sure your project is covered. Understand the rules and then consult with them before deviating from them. They may be able to help you find the path of least resistance to compliance. If you really want to blow their minds, ask them to perform a review of your project early on. This gives you a first hand look at what they are looking for and allows you to start off on track.

Project Office. The Project Office is the compliance police for development and management policies. Their directives may come from either the Program Management Office in charge of the enterprise or the Project Management Office set up for a specific endeavor. Like the SOX Auditors, they know the standards and can either be your source of information or source of pain. Many of them were project managers before they turned to the dark side and may be able to mentor you through the processes.

Starting off right with these people will allow your project to get the finish line without collapsing 50 feet from the end.

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