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Project Requests Can Be Tough to Turn Down

At times, being agile simply means having the ability to speak freely. For example, a senior executive may make what appears to her to be a simple request, for example, a software application to track customer purchases. You have all the data, how tough can it be?

Enterprise-scale software is always tough. You need a powerful database, an application server (or logic engine of some kind), a graphical front end, security controls, appropriate hardware, network bandwidth, etc.

Senior executives cannot be expected to think about all these details for every request they make. That’s your job.

But there’s a bigger problem. Too often, when you begin to explain the constraints and inter-dependencies involved, you are called negative and unsupportive. It’s no wonder that so many software projects fail.

Never say no. Never shoot down an idea as infeasible or worse — impossible.

Every problem can be solved. The real questions are — What will it take? How much will it cost? How much time is needed?

So when you’re on the receiving end of one of these executive requests, keep the following points in mind:

  1. Ask clarifying questions. Seek to fully understand what is needed.
  2. Re-state the problem and seek agreement on the revised problem statement.
  3. Quickly brainstorm possible approaches, constraints and risks.
  4. Pull together a high-level project plan.
  5. Obtain commitment for the people, equipment, costs, etc. that will be needed.
Updated: January 4, 2011 — 11:10 pm
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