This is a continuation of a new blog series that I started last week, which will run over the next couple of months.  As a brief refresher, my goal is to write a blog on one habit per week, so technically we should get through all 7 habits in just shy of 2 months.  The content for this series has been developed over many years and hundreds of client projects.  In fact, in addition to applying the habits to all of our client projects, we often speak on these habits as part of a larger session we call “CPR”, where we discuss project rescue and how projects can avoid having to be rescued.  The ultimate goal here is to present these habits in a short and succinct manner, so that you can have clear takeaways to immediately put into practice on your projects. 

If you arrived here and have not yet read the first blog in this series, I would encourage you to start there.  I have provided a link below to the first habit that we looked at last week.

Habit 1: Chart Your Journey

Habit 2: Stay The Course

So, without further ado, let’s jump in to the third habit. 

Habit 3: Invest In The Unseen


As you probably remember, in Habit 1 and Habit 2, I used the analogies of a road trip.  As I move from the trip itself to the individual components of the trip, this habit will take a look a some of the aspects of the trip that will determine success or failure.  I realize that this is stating the obvious , but trips (or projects) do not complete themselves.  It takes “unseen” things to make it all happen, and that is where this habit will focus.

On a road trip, there are items that will be critical to the success of your trip, but are not always items that are seen or that you pay a lot of attention to (but you should).  Two quick examples would be the engine and tires for your vehicle.  The engine is what powers your entire trip. Without it, you are dead in the water.  If you haven’t taken care of your engine, failed to changed the oil, are running low on antifreeze, or have an engine with 200,000 miles on it, you are taking a risk by venturing on a cross-country trip with this engine.  In addition, it is just as important for your tires to be in good shape, before you venture out on your journey.  We could find many more of these “unseen” factor that will literally make-or-break your trip.  The same is true of projects.

Now, let’s move from the road trip to the project, and take a look at two ways that you can dramatically increase your chances of success:

  1. Spend time on the team.  This one is vitally important and if you are anything like C5 Insight, people, not technology or process, are the reason for our success and the success of our clients.  Here are a few quick things you can do to ensure you have the best team possible for your project.
    • Learn before you leap.  This simply means, if you are heading into unchartered territory, make sure the team knows how the technology works, what it can do, and what pitfalls to avoid along the way.  Experience will teach some of this, but you can certainly lower your risk dramatically by having a team that fully understands the tools they are using and how to best use them.
    • Make sure the right people are on the team.  Unless the project is 100% for the IT department, a project should never be composed of 100% IT staff.  Ensure that you have a good mix of business and non-business, technical and non-technical, and always have one or two individuals who are true champions of what you are doing and the technology you are using.  A well-rounded team, one who can be objective and look at the project from multiple angles, will always be more successful.
    • Developers are not Administrators, and Administrators are not Developers.  What this simply means is most developers do not want to be the system administrator and I can assure you, most system administrators do not want to be developers.  These are different roles and individuals. Realize this up-front, and you will save yourself a lot of heartache and pushback. 
    • Never forget that one of the goals for your team and your people is to put them into roles that maximize their opportunity for success.  After all, we do know that individuals in the right role are not only personally and professionally more successful, but they make everything they touch more successful as well…right?!

  2. The secret is what’s under the hood.  As we saw with the engine example above, the irony is obvious - spending little to no time on one of the most critical success factors of your trip.  After all, it should “just work”, right?  We have seen this one time after time in our rescue projects.  Here are a few practical ways to ensure you build your project on a solid foundation.
    • Build on concrete, not sand.  Put another way, the foundation is always more important than the structure itself.  After all, many a building has been rebuild time and time again on the very same foundation.  Practically stated, from a technology standpoint, make sure your infrastructure is ready, and can fully support, for the technology you are implementing.  If you invest a lot of money into a solution that immediately starts cracking at the seams, then you have not been a good steward of that money and have used it in the wrong places.
    • Don’t skimp on your server(s).  This is best equated to the car engine.  Don’t start a project with a server that is 10 years old.  Don’t start a server that is grossly underpowered because it’s “enough for now.”  It may very well be enough for now, but as soon as you want to grow (you do want to grow, right?), it may not be enough to sustain your growth, and if your entire solution is built on this server, it could take some re-architecture, or could lead to an unacceptable amount of downtime.  There are many pitfalls to not investing a little up-front.  Note: I realize there are many other ways to mitigate this such as virtualization, etc., but to avoid significant rabbit trails, we will not go into that at this time.  The point here is to take a little time to understand what it will take to sustain what you want to do over the next 1, 2, 3 years.  You did chart your journey, right?

At the end of the day, there are many factors to the success of a project, but I truly believe spending a little more time on the people, process and platform is one of the most important things you can do to set yourself up for success.  I hope this third habit has been helpful and relevant.  Again, the goal is to keep these short and sweet, so my desire is that you will be able to take away a few nuggets of wisdom and experience from this series.  Stay tuned for habit four next week!

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