Risk and Assumptions

Today’s editorial was originally released on Jan 22, 2009. It is being re-published as Steve is on vacation.

I was reading Buck Woody’s blog the other day and he had a post on Risk where he quoted Warren Buffet: “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” I think that’s true and that’s part of the reason we’d had issues in our financial markets over the last couple of years. It’s also the reason that we have issues in many of the systems that we build.

Often the people building IT systems go through an extensive evaluation to determine the needs and wants of their users. It’s an attempt to identify exactly what to build so that the user is pleased, a good estimation can be made, and everyone finishes the project happy.

And that almost never happens.

There are people that are better at this than others, but the overall state of the software development process is pretty poor. That means that any project you undertake, or that your customers or clients ask you to undertake is fraught with risk. I can see why there are plenty of people that don’t want to hire contractors to get software built, or that our management doesn’t want to start new projects with their IT departments.

I don’t have a solution, and I’m not completely sure where the problems lie, but I do know that as the economy slows, people have less tolerance for risk. That means less IT projects, and potentially the need for less IT staff and contractors. Which then contributes to the slowdown of the economy as there are less people at work.

If I were working in IT or consulting right now, I would be working to lower risk as much as possible. Adopting techniques that you are confident in, learning new skills and then applying them, even in side projects, can help grow your skills, increase the chances of projects being completed that the client is happy with, and keeping you employed. Now is the time to reassess the way you work, and find ways to show that you can work with your clients to meet their needs in an efficient manner.

Efficient in their eyes, not yours.

Steve Jones

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