Getting the Sponsor You Need
Rule 8 - "Beam us out of here, Scotty"
This Rule is so important and is so poorly understood in most organisations that we have worked with. It really deals with risk management.
However, just as Rules 1 & 2 stated many executives operate in an information vacuum. In 1998, studies by both Andersen Consulting and the Uni of xxx revealed that 2/3 of business executives did not understand the issues of risk management when IT projects were involved. Worse, of the 1/3 that did understand the risk management issues with IT projects, 50% said that they were not satisfied with the risk management processes that they had in place!
It constantly amazes us that organisations, we are aware of, would use "best practice" due diligence and corporate governance procedures when faced with a low risk acquisition of a company for $50,000,000 and yet approve an high risk IT project of $50,000,000 with no formal business or project risk assessment. More interestingly, the same organisation appoints an inexperienced project sponsor who has multiple projects to oversee as well as managing a functional business unit.
While this situation will be familiar to many project managers (this situation is mentioned by people on every project management workshop our group conducts), it provides the framework for a powerful Rule.
You should never undertake a project (especially a high risk one) without a formal, written and public contingency plan agreed to by your project sponsor. This is your "beam me up Scotty" position.
If you have a formal IT project risk management process, this will already be part of the risk management process. However, for those of you who haven't got access to such a process, it involves two key considerations:
What are the situations that could arise in your project that would place your project at risk of total failure?
Should these situations arise and your attempts to solve the situation directly and by asking for assistance fail, what are you entitled to do as a fall-back?
Clearly, the best time to negotiate your fall-back position is at the beginning of the project (when you have full control over all your faculties).
For example, you have been asked to undertake a project and you are already aware that the project sponsor is too busy and is going to delegate their responsibility to one of their "minions" (see previous rules). You should have already figured out that Rules 1 and 2 are likely to be in play as a result.
Simply document that, as a result of the decisions being made by the real sponsor, the impact on the project and the consequences of those impacts as discussed in Rule 7. However, you should also document clearly that if no action is taken or the actions taken fail to resolve the impact of the risk, then, there is a point in the project plan where a fall-back strategy will be put into place.
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