Perspectives from the *other side* on Software, Management and Life

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What I've learn from failed projects

This is an open ended discussion, as a project can fail for a billion reasons. There are a number of books that discuss this topic, but I'll refrain from doing a book summary and just list a couple of takeaways from the offshored projects that I've seen fail. They are (in descending order of importance):

  1. Expectations management. Its easy to say "yes", "will do", "ok", even when its feared that meeting the committed items is going to be difficult. Not being candid with your feedback and sometimes not forcing your opinions back on customers or client PMs is a weakness. Today's aggressive business environment requires technical leads/offshore PMs to be vocal and understand the end objectives of the business through the use of corporate goal buzz words in their arguments know, the fluffy statements like "customers first", "quick time to market", "Return on Investment", "Strategic advantage" the end decisions get made based on how well an argument is presented rather than just on its merits.
  2. Poor project planning. The usuals tracking progress, managing scope, being on top of client emails etc etc
  3. Technical impotence. Managing a technical team has always been a pain in the .... All organizations I've consulted with or managed have had business screaming down on the IT/technical teams. So first of, come to terms with the fact that you're likely working with engineers with deep flaws (unless you work at Sun, Google etc etc). You need to ensure you setup an environment where their flaws are reduced over time and their faulty coding does not become a source of embarrassment for you. For this, an environment where they are able to flourish and grow is needed, while making sure you're able to weed out the bad. Emphasis on weeding out! By not taking out bad engineers, you are creating an dis-incentive for other engineers to work hard. If thats not a possibility, raise it with senior management so you're not seen trying to play blame games when things go south.
  4. Communication. Most offshore managers have bad english. This may not seem like a disadvantage, but if an escalation happens - you'd much rather not have an executive scratching his/her head just to figure out what you're saying. By the time you're able to get one thought across, the incompetent moron with a good grasp on the language may have fired out 10 thoughts, increasing the everprobability of having his side of the story being sold.
  5. Relationship management. Try to figure out something to have a conversation about that is outside work. F1 racing, Football, cricket etc. It makes a big difference in how you're perceived by others and their attitudes towards you (specially if they're sitting on the other side of the world). Perceptions help greatly as it allows for better flexibility, specially during crunch time.



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