What I learnt working on IT projects

Don’t build solutions on assumptions, ambiguity and ignorance #HoskWisdom

IT projects are a challenge, a good deal of fail and all of them are difficult. IT project can need lots of people, time, ideas and hard work.

Projects face obstacles, problems and changes of priorities, these changes can defeat you or you look at them as opportunities to make the solution better, the quote below sums it up.

“The obstacle becomes the path” Ryan Holiday

Challenging projects help you see the best in people, you can’t deliver a project by yourself and at certain times different people will shine, save the day and do something that helps you. Your team will be there to help you when you need it and you will be there to help them.

The better you can work as a team, the better the project will go.

Projects have taught me about myself, about technology and how to work with a group of people to make a team.

IT projects are about people not technology

There is a lot of noise and focus on technology on IT projects but ask yourself these questions

  • People builds the solution
  • People use the solution
  • People make decisions
  • People sign off requirements on the project

People are at the heart of the project and they are reason it for its success or failure.

Slow down to speed up

More people, working hard feels like it would speed up delivery but it can slow things down, when work is half finished, changes conflict.

Why adding more people to a project doesn’t make it go faster

Focus on quality rather than speed of output, fewer mistakes and consistent delivery will create releases, the successful process builds confidence and creates momentum.

Surprises on a project are never welcome because problems and delays follow. Focusing on quality, reducing mistakes and keeping momentum raises confidence in the team, it will reduce the chance of unexpected surprises..

Understand the business goals

Before you start with the technology and solution, understand the business, it’s goals, it’s language and how the business wins.

The purpose of the solution is to create a tool to support users do their job and the business to achieve its goals.

All requirements, features and user stories should focus on business needs and purpose. What is the user doing? why are they doing it? and how does this help the business.

Ask questions

Ask questions, to understand the business, clarify assumptions and work out the goals of the business.

If you have a question, ask it, it’s likely if you are thinking this then others in the room will be thinking it. Question help understand and clarify assumptions. Avoid building the solution on assumptions because these are weak foundations that could crumble later.

Don’t remake the old system

Everyone is influenced by the existing system and they will try and recreate the old system with new technology. People are use to the current system, they understand how it works and resisting change is the comfortable 

Focus on the business goals and what the purpose of the business. The old system will be aligned to the functionality of the old system. When creating a new system it’s a chance to align the process with the out of the box functionality of the software it’s being built with e.g. Dynamics 365 and Power Platform.

Don’t be constrained by the existing system, focus on the goals of the business and how best to deliver those and make it easier for people to do their jobs.

Warning — it will be difficult because people don’t like change and will keep referring back to how the current system works.

The best way to learn is through questions, reframe questions to look at work from the perspective of the teams and persona’s doing the work, understand the goals of the teams and how they fit together as a whole.

Clarify assumptions

Assumptions lead to problems, bugs and changes. You need to clarify the assumptions and get the facts otherwise you will be building a solution on ambiguity and ignorance.

Clarify the assumptions as soon as you can because these are logic bugs and can embed themselves in key parts of a process, which can be difficult to change later.

Focus on what matters

In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks. — Warren Buffett

People devote energy to unimportant and unproductive areas. Work out the key areas and focus on getting those right, focus the energy and stop wasting time on the other areas.

Most areas on a project are unimportant and not worth arguing and discussing.

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” Greg McKeown

People will try to create meetings for everything and demand your time. If you are not needed in a meeting, don’t attend and spend that time doing productive activities.

Keep it simple

Show the users how Dynamics 365 works, start with a simple solution and then get users to try it before thinking about any complex solutions.

When you give users a blank canvas and ask them what they would like, they will come up with ideas that sound good but aren’t what they need and aren’t easy to build or maintain.

Align the requirements to the out of the box functionality.

Don’t panic, don’t blame

Panicking causes you to make bad decisions, blaming doesn’t achieve anything and lowers morale.

Be prepared for things to go wrong, mistakes to be made. Projects involve getting out of your comfort zone and trying things we haven’t done before. Take this small knock backs on the chin, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try again.

You can’t guarantee to get everything right, particularly when you do something for the first time. Trust the team, trust yourself, don’t lose faith and keep going.

It will be difficult but you will overcome all the problems in your path. You will do it as a team.

Projects can be difficult but Don’t quit

IT projects are difficult, there will be tough periods but keep going and do not quit.

There will be times when you think the project won’t succeed, the deadlines are too tight, requirements aren’t defined, too many bugs, priorities changing, people leaving, technology failing, super bugs making everyone working from home.

Keep going, don’t quit, you will get there.

Relationships are key

Relationship with the customer and users is important because you want build trust. The customer pays the bills and makes the decisions, you have to influence as the technical export.

Build a good reputation and relationship with the client. This means listening, giving information and building trust. Avoid things which can reduce confidence in your ability, things like

  • Bugs
  • Not replying quickly
  • Hiding information
  • Talking in technical jargon they don’t understand
  • Raising problems without solutions

The customers in an IT Project is not the enemy, they are the partner. You will work together to create a solution

Conclusion

IT projects often start slowly which is fine, as long as you keep improving, fixing problems and build momentum.

Projects are not the same and there is no template to deliver a successful project. You have to adapt to situation, people and requirements. Build relationships, gain trust and find a way to progress.

As relationships grow, the project team can work quicker and the work becomes more rewarding.

Projects are about people, they will be the reason for success.

How will IT projects change when the lockdown ends

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. Alan Watts

After much of the world has been in lockdown for the last month or more, the curve has been flattened and plans are being made to reduce the lockdown, go back to work and restart the economy.

What will it be like? Can we go back to normal until everyone is vaccinated or we get to herd to immunity.

Let’s imagine

The government will ease the lock down and non-essential work as long as

  • you can social distance at work
  • Anyone with symptoms will self isolate
  • if your job needs to close contact, you will need PPE or other protective measures

There is a probability that there won’t be a vaccine, there is no vaccine for SAR’s. Reading Bill Gates article What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine. The fastest ever vaccine was created in 5 years. They hope to save time by removing red tape, starting building manufacturing capacity now and with more projects it increases the chances of one or more being successful.

People are optimistic, but what is the outside view The outside view — how long will it take to create a vaccine for Covid-19?.

We might have to live and work with the coronavirus for the foreseeable future.

IT Projects

It’s likely the guidance will be if you can work from home, you should. Many industries have shown they can cope with everyone working remotely. This will be the safest way to work and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

We can deliver IT projects,

Understanding the As IS

  • Screen shares of using existing software
  • Process maps can be created
  • Online work shops to discuss existing functionality

Gathering requirements

  • High level requirements are created for bid process
  • Workshops can be done via online meetings
  • User stories created, assessed and signed off by both customer and supplier

Development

  • User stories can be developed
  • Meetings and progress done via teams/slack or alternative
  • Test scripts written based on stories and tested when development finished
  • Demo the functionality at the end of the sprint
  • User can try the system and give feedback

Setting up environments

  • Configuration of IT systems is already done remotely
  • Environments are commonly cloud services or configured on Azure/AWS or Google.
  • Remote access can be setup and infrastructure is configured

The difficulties working remotely will be creating the relationship with the customer and collaborating is more difficult. Projects can and will be delivered remotely or with reduced contact.

Remotely working has been on the increase, Covid-19 has accelerated companies digitisation plans to the point they are no longer plans and are now a reality.

Effects of lockdown

Businesses will open up, but they will need to implement social distancing. This will reduce the capacity of many businesses.

Shops can open with a reduced number of people in the shop at the same time. If you are a pub, you can do takeout and maybe you could have a quarter capacity with table service.

Airlines will be severely hit, people won’t feel comfortable travelling and would need to reduce capacity to a half or a quarter. Will this make enough money for airlines?

The businesses that can work remotely will work remotely.

Will schools go back? it will be difficult for the economy to restart if parents have to stay at home to look after their children. This isn’t just availability of schools and nurseries because many parents will be worried to send their children to school.

Governments will say the economy is back open but there will still be many people who will be scared and won’t embrace the working with the virus.

The new normal

If we assume that 2019 was normal then we won’t get back to the 2019 levels of normal for potentially years. The world will have to learn to live with Coronavirus for the next year(s).

The world will go at half speed for much of the economy. It will drive with the handbrake on. This will cause many businesses to reduce their wage bill and reduce staff. The unknown will cause business to conserve cash and reduce spending on recruitment, marketing and other expenditure. This will add further pressure on the economy.

Talent

There will be many people made redundant because companies need to cut costs and staff are one of the biggest costs.

This is an opportunity to hire good people for the companies who flourish in this environment. The recruitment process will mostly done remotely and face-to-face interviews could be cancelled for some time. This makes hiring more difficult because body language plays an important part in creating a positive relationship.

Talented people who would usually be unavailable might consider moving if you can offer excellent opportunities and more safety.

An interesting article — now is an unprecedented opportunity to hire great talent

IT Projects

IT projects can be delivered remotely and many companies will need to upgrade their existing system to enable staff to work more effectively remotely. So there will be opportunities with companies speeding up their digital strategies but on the flip side there will be many companies conserving cash and reducing expenditure.

IT Projects could be stopped without warning and budgets will be tight. There will be opportunities for digitisation and in industries that are thriving in the new society that will need to leave with Covid-19.