In my (work) bookshelf there is a book called “Project Secrets – Making Things Happen” by Donald Davies, co-founder of Donald Davies & Partners and project / program manager with over 50 years of experience from the IT industry. I have met him in person and even discussed becoming a partner of Donald Davies & Partners a few years ago, but I had other plans at the time (such as leaving Stockholm). Anyway, his book contains a lot of thoughtful reflections, experiences and valuable advice from his incredible long career and I particularly like his advice “Avoid three new things at one”, which goes like this:
“It is difficult to:
- be a new and unknown company
- enter a new market
- introduce new product
If all three occur at the same time the chance of success is low, so entrepreneurs should not attempt it unless they have plenty of cash, enough experience and knowledge to make it happen, and time enough to meet the window of opportunity.”
I find this to be very true. The advice made me think about what needs to be fulfilled to start an IT project and here is what I came up with:
Don’t start or accept to be assigned responsibility of a project when you are in a situation where you have to answer no to all of the following questions:
- Are you familiar with the customer and/or their business?
- Are you setting together a team with known people?
- Are you planning to use a known and proven technology?
I certainly have managed a few projects where I would have had to answer no to all of these questions if someone would have asked me. I am also completely sure that these projects made me go (almost) bold. Fortunately, I have learned a lot from these projects, such as simply not accepting responsibility for a project where I cannot answer yes to at least one of the three questions above. But was losing my hair a feasible price for learning that lesson? No.