Articles

Project Governance

Project Governance

Project governance is a waste of time. That’s what I used to think. Rules for the sake of rules, and no practical point to them. Governance just gets in the way of project delivery. That’s what I thought.

And in a small company with limited oversight, and a tiny IT department with only a handful of stakeholders, it was possible to implement projects with only basic governance as long as the plans were sound, and properly communicated. And there’s the rub. Once you start to work in a larger organisation with complex reporting and many stakeholders, as well as a requirement to prove that the project has been run under proper control, it becomes patently clear that the “small company” way of doing things simply cannot work. Worse that that, these “light touch” processes are scarily dangerous in a large organisation, putting the organisation and the project at risk – and by extension, the project delivery organisation too. Yes, I am a convert to proper governance processes.

So, it I have changed my tune over the past few years, what in particular do I now do differently?

  • Documentation: In a big, geographically diverse organisation, effective communication is not possible without proper documentation. The spoken word gets lost, or mis-heard, or misinterpreted. Or forgotten. Or ignored. You need to write down what you want, what you need, what you have done, and why you did it. And make sure you are not the only person who can find the documentation!
  • Formal reporting: In a big company, the management tiers are far more extensive than in a small one. Consequently, you can’t rely on “bumping into the bosses in the corridor” to let them know how the project is going. Write it down, and pass it on.
  • Proper change management: It’s not enough to agree to a change, because if you do, and you have not kept all of the stakeholders informed, some of them won’t know about the agreement. And they will therefore continue on their merry way, in blissful ignorance. That’s bad enough if you are the instigator of the change. But what about those occasions when the change is done to you, rather than by you, and you don’t hear about it until you have wasted days or weeks of your time following the wrong track? Not a pleasant thought, so do as you would be done by!
  • Scope of work: This applies to the total scope of the project, and each person or team’s individual role within it. All too often, scope grows without control, or responsibilities are not clearly defined and “willing horses” end up agreeing to take on actions that should lie with others. Either way, good quality governance processes protect the project from uncontrolled bloat – and hence cost and time overruns – or from blame being levelled at the wrong people when things go wrong. I’m not advocating the “blame game” – far from it – but I am all in favour of protecting the innocent and ensuring that each person knows what he or she is responsible for.

So, these are just my basic reasons for using proper governance, and they make perfect sense to me, now that I have worked in teams of more than a handful of people. So, in a small company, should I ever find myself in that environment again, would I do things differently? Oh yes. Most certainly. Governance would certainly be improved, and so would a lot of the planning and control that tended to be done almost as an afterthought.

Oh dear… how the last three years in the bank have changed me!

Iain Millar, 02 December 2014

Barcelona!

Barcelona!

My wife and I recently visited Barcelona for a short pre-winter break. It was the first time that either of us had been there, and we really didn’t know what to expect. What we found was a delightful city: confident, vibrant, friendly, and cheerful.

There are two aspects of the city that I want to consider in this article. One is predictable: Antoni Gaudi’s famous – yet incomplete – basilica, the Sagrada Familia. This is as astonishing for its design and decoration as for the fact that it has been under construction since the 1880s and is likely to remain so for many a long year yet. The other is a section of the city called Eixample, designed in the 19th century by an architect called Ildefons Cerda, and built more or less to his design… but with some interesting deviations from the original concept.

Let’s think about the Gaudi piece first. The architect took over the design following the death of the previous architect, when the foundations had been established and the crypt was in place, beneath what would become this massive cathedral. Gaudi was given free rein to build a monument that would reflect his deep Catholic faith, and according to anything that I have read or heard about the building, every single aspect of the design was influenced by his religious beliefs. One of the visually stunning aspects of the building is that while it is relatively traditional in layout (possibly because the basic shape was fixed by the previous architect), Gaudi chose to make each facade of the building completely different. For example, the East facade represents the nativity, with organic shapes, plants, and animals carved into every available piece of stone, while the West facade is much more angular and stark, representing the final days of the life of Jesus. The contrast is profound.

The building is now a working church, although the roof was only completed in 2010, some 130 or so years after the work was started. Much has been written elsewhere about the design, the symbolism, and the complex construction of this incredible edifice. Look it up if you are interested – or even better, go to Barcelona and visit it! What I do want to say here is that this was a project like very few others. It started with a design that was fuelled by one man’s passion for his work. The breadth of that vision was breathtaking, yet he could also work at a level of detail that allowed him to direct every single aspect of the work during his life. He also inspired sufficient other people to allow the work to continue after his death, and even now, the pride and commitment shown by the people who work there, as builders or tourist guides or ticket sellers or, I dare say, clergy, is testament to the designer. How many other projects would still be under development a hundred and thirty years after inception, and how many other projects would still have the same relevance after all these generations? It is humbling to compare the average project with the grand designs of a true visionary.

The other bit of Barcelona that caught my imagination is the Eixample – literally “the Extension” in the Catalan language. This is a large part of the city designed on a regular grid system, with very specific design principles including the shape of each city block, the distribution of hospitals, schools, and churches within the grid, and the height and construction of every building. The design was intended to have one or two sides of each block left unbuilt, to allow parks and gardens to bring light and space.

Sadly, the Eixample’s design has been at least partly corrupted. The general layout has been preserved, but the gardens and parks were largely lost when landlords chose to ignore the dictat about leaving unconstructed sites. Height restrictions have also been ignored, and there are some very odd combinations of buildings sitting side-by-side. While the overall effect is very pleasant and functional, it does not have the impact that the architect originally envisioned.

So, why is it that Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia has remained absolutely true to its original concept, while the Eixample has not? At least one reason will be commercial pressures to make the city work efficiently, but I think there is another, deeper reason. The vision that the architect of the Sagrada Familia was able to create and communicate caught the attention of the people of the city, and they protected that vision, worked to maintain the integrity of what he was trying to achieve, and will continue to do so for as long as it takes to complete what many would consider a fool’s errand. On the other hand, although the architect of the Eixample was a highly capable and competent man, I suspect he did not capture the imagination of the city to allow his design to be completed without being corrupted and compromised.

Every project has to follow some sort of guiding principles. Which of these models more closely represents your projects: the one that everyone talks about, despite its shortcomings, or the one that (more or less) delivered, and is now largely forgotten? If these were the only two options, which would you prefer? And if you want the remarkable, high profile, big picture project, how will you get everyone who works with you to understand, buy into, and take the project forward according to your vision?

Oh… and one more thing… maybe Gaudi’s planning wasn’t so great, but no-one seems to care that his project is already decades late. I’m not sure what that says about the man, the city, or the project sponsors, but maybe there’s a lesson there too!

Iain Millar, 18 November 2012

Holidays

Holidays

My holidays define how I am feeling about my work. It’s something that I have long understood, and this year has re-affirmed my view. So, what do I mean by that? Surely holidays are holidays, and work is work, and never the twain should meet? That is true up to a point, but what I mean is that if I do think about work when I am on holiday, my feelings at that time are a very good indicator of how I am enjoying my work.

Being self-employed means that I cannot switch off from work entirely, but I do try to take time off at regular intervals throughout the year to recharge my batteries, spend time with my family, and just catch up with things that need to be done. I agreed with my client that I could take time off, made sure that someone else was available to cover my project, handed over the work to that person in a proper manner, and walked out of the client’s office without a backward glance. I will walk back into the office next Monday morning, feeling refreshed and ready to pick up the reins again. I don’t look forward to the stack of emails that will be waiting for me, but that’s just one of the inevitable downsides of taking time off from any job. But I won’t have feelings of dread as I approach the front door.

Compare and contrast this with holidays that I have taken in the past, when my work has not been as enjoyable or fulfilling as at present. It is not so many years ago that I would spend the first half-week of a two week holiday worrying about the work that I had left behind, and the final half-week with my heart in my mouth, wondering what I would go back to. That was not a healthy situation, and yet it occurred for several years running. Not good. Not good at all.

So why did I feel like that? I think it had a lot to do with the job I was in. Looking back, I can see that I was in a role that I did not really feel comfortable about. I did not really understand the organisation’s expectations of me, and therefore I never truly felt in control of the job. That meant that I was always expecting issues to arise that I perhaps should have anticipated, but seldom did. I was in a role that was wrong for me. And the interesting thing is that the whole management team went through some psychometric analysis, which actually confirmed that I had to adapt my own natural working style to such an extent that I was never going to be comfortable in that role. The role that I was most closely aligned to was project and programme management, where I could focus on delivery, measurement, and logic, rather than the more intangible aspects of pure relationship management, but that job was not available. Basically, I am delivery focused: always have been, and always will be. It is part of who I am. So I moved on, and set up Praefectus Consulting.

Did I enjoy this year’s holiday? Yes, I did. Have I thought about work? Yes, of course. Have I worried about it? No, I have not. Am I looking forward to going back? Yes, and hopefully my stand-in will have made some progress in my absence.

What does all of this tell me? Well, I think it is saying that I am now doing the type of work that best suits me, and which actually aligns with the sort of work that I have done in the past, when I have had similarly positive feelings about work when I have been on holiday. And that’s got to be a good thing.

Iain Millar, 20 July 2012

Social Media as a tool

Social Media as a tool

My daughter has just spent a weekend organising a big social event that will be at the heart of her University’s “Rag Week”, along with half a dozen other students. I have to say that I was highly impressed with her commitment, her practical approach, and the amount of attention to detail that has gone into the event. If her customers – the other students who will attend the event – don’t enjoy it, it won’t be for lack of effort by the organising committee.

This project – and make no mistake, it is a reasonably sized project for a bunch of students to manage – has been run almost entirely using social media to share ideas, let each other know about progress, ask (and answer) questions, and generally make sure that everything is going as it should. There have been no communication breakdowns, no lost documents, and no gaps in the information flow. And very few phone calls, and even fewer meetings. Yet everything is being done, and the leader of the group knows exactly what stage everything has reached, what the financial picture looks like, and is confident that the deadline will be met. Let’s face it, there’s no point in being a day late with the words that will be projected onto the walls for the singalong numbers…!

I have been involved in project management for a lot of years, and I have seldom seen a better run project. There are a few reasons for this, not least of which is the fact the entire teams wants to be part of the project. However, one of the key contributing factors has been their creation of a Facebook group that they use for pretty well everything to do with the project. No matter where they are, they can be in touch through the group, using their laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. No-one else has access to the group, and they can – and do – access it at any time. Most companies would bite your hand off if you could offer them the level of commitment and effectiveness that my daughter and her friends have achieved. But what stops them? Well, I would say that one factor is that companies don’t make it easy for their employees to interact. When in the office, there may be collaboration tools and communication facilities, but no-one wants to have to log into a company’s secure area to pass on an idea that occurred to you during News at Ten. Far better to be able to use the tools that you were already using to discuss the football scores with your non-work mates, and just flip between pages on screen. And there’s the rub.

Until companies can be convinced that social media is sufficiently secure, they won’t allow employees to use these systems. And even if they can be convinced about the security, there is still the matter of trust. They need to trust their employees to use the facilities responsibly, without wasting their working time chatting with their leisure-time friends and relations. And employees, in return, need to be prepared to commit to acting responsibly, and to avoid abusing the freedom that they are being granted – and that’s not going to be a given for everyone. So there are big issues to be overcome to let most companies benefit from the facilities that already exist “out there” in consumer-land.

I have seen the way that a bunch of students, children of the communications age, have used social media, in ways that I would not have envisaged even a couple of years ago. They do it instinctively, and even then they are probably only scratching the surface of what is possible. The key, as I see it, is that they are able to work and play using the same tools, without having to really think about which they are doing at any given time. Those of us who are a little older should take a lesson from these kids, and find ways to make it possible for them to work in their unstructured, collaborative, innovative ways as they move out of student life and into working life. Because if we don’t, our competitors will, and that’s where the talent will migrate to. Clever people have been saying this for a while now, but I have now seen the future, and it is nearly here.

Iain Millar, 12 February 2012

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs changed the World. Most people seem to agree with that sentiment, and I will not disagree.

I’m not a great fan of Apple products. I’m not against them: I just don’t love them the way that some people do. I have an old iPod and use it most days, but my phone isn’t an iPhone, I have hardly ever used an Apple computer, and I still don’t know whether I want an iPad. However, I do admire great design, and I truly admire those people who can create it, and think outside the box, and follow their dreams. Steve Jobs was such a person.

I picked up the following quote from an old Apple advert:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

I don’t know whether Steve Jobs realised in 1997 that he was describing himself. However there is no doubt in my mind that he was crazy enough to think he could change the world. And so he did.

Iain Millar, 08 October 2011

Spreadsheets – Love / Hate Relationship

Spreadsheets – Love / Hate Relationship

I’m not sure whether I love spreadsheets or hate them.

On the one hand, as the person responsible for data security in a number of organisations in the past, they gave me some real worries about data being misused, abused, or misplaced. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who extract data from live systems, dump it into spreadsheets, and then use that data for months without ever checking that it remains current. Others would happily drop personal data into spreadsheets without ever thinking of the implications of data protection legislation.

On the other hand, though, despite the downsides, I imagine there are very few companies that don’t use spreadsheets very widely indeed. And there’s the rub. Many people who use them don’t really know much about their full capabilities, or understand how to develop them for maximum business benefit. That’s a sweeping statement, and I know that there are some real experts around. But I stand by my assertion that they are in the minority, based on my observations over a long time.

Confession time now. I actually enjoy developing spreadsheets, and over the years I have created some that I have been rather proud of. Some have been deceptively simple in concept but have been really tricky to put together, while others have been very impressive to look at, but really quite trivial to develop. Either way, I always try to think of the design and the usabilty as well as the functionality of the finished product, and I also like to make the spreadsheets “bulletproof” so that they are difficult to break. I did produce one recently where I didn’t follow that last principle, as it evolved over time, and I never intended it to be used by others, but the inevitable happened. I finished my part of the project and had to hand the spreadsheet over to someone else. I did explain the consequences of “fiddling” with it, and to date there has been no comeback…

Now the commercial: If you need a spreadsheet developed in Excel, but don’t have the time, the skills, or the inclination to do it yourself, give me a call. I’d be happy to consider your needs and discuss what it would take to build a solid, reliable solution to solve a business problem. If I don’t think that a spreadsheet would be the right way to proceed, I will be honest with you, and even suggest alternatives. Give me a call or send me an email. My contact details areĀ on the “Contacts” page of this site!

Iain Millar, 7 October 2011

Performances or projects?

Performances or projects?

The 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival is drawing to a close as I write this. If you’ve been to Edinburgh in August, you will have experienced the incredible vibrancy, lunacy, and energy that is the Fringe Festival. With thousands of shows, street theatre (even in the rain), tens of thousands of visitors, and every nook and cranny turned into a performance venue, there can be few events anywhere in the world to match it. Some people go to just a couple of shows, while I know of one person who was in the audience for one hundred and thirty five different shows – comedy, theatre, and music – during the 2011 festival. That’s commitment!

I think I went to eight or nine shows this year, including an excellent musical tribute to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Junior – the Rat Pack. Apart from the three leading performers, there were three backing vocalists, and at least twelve on-stage musicians. No doubt there were also several people backstage to keep everything together.

It may be obvious, but shows like this don’t just “happen”. They have to be planned, coordinated, organised, developed, rehearsed, and then presented every night for a month. The cast and crew may have come from Edinburgh, but in all probablity they did not, so someone had to arrange travel, transport, a venue, and accommodation for the cast. Publicity had to be arranged. Leaflets had to be designed and printed. Money had to be raised to get the show to Edinburgh, and to pay for the venue, and to fund the publicity, and no doubt to fund all sorts of other expenses that I can’t imagine. All of this is undertaken with no guarantee of a return on the investment: every show stands and falls on its own merits.

I reckon there are great similarities between producing a show and running a business project. I doubt whether many producers would classify themselves as project managers, but perhaps they should. Perhaps the theatre could learn from professional project managers about planning, risk management, progress monitoring, and organisation. But what about the other way round? What could the theatre teach the project manager? Well, let’s start with drive, commitment, and enthusiasm. Then we’ll move onto deadlines: you’ll never hear anyone saying “Sorry, this year’s Christmas Panto has been delayed until January because we found a few lines that didn’t work in rehearsal and had to rewrite them”! Budgetary control? – essential! Motivation? – absolutely. A common purpose? Well, it would be a bit of a problem if some of the cast thought the show should resemble a Noel Coward comedy while others were expecting something more like a Shakespearean tragedy. So yes, I would argue that the theatre could indeed teach the professional project manager a thing or two.

Should we be surprised about this? I don’t think so. The best ideas have always been shared and developed between different groups of people. The Disney organisation are experts in managing queues of people, so they teach their techniques to other industries. I’ve also heard that airlines have learned from boatbuilders about making best use of space in their first class cabins, as small boats need to make efficient use of very limited areas.

I guess that what I’m trying to say is that if we get too narrow minded about our own specialisms, if we turn up our noses at lessons learned elsewhere, or if we are simply too arrogant to recognise that we don’t always have all the answers, we will lose out and other people will take away our work.

But what I’m also saying, and what I passionately believe, is that you should never write someone off as being incapable of doing a job just because he or she has never done it before. Look behind the specific experience and try to see the capability and general abilities that the person has. You may just find a whole new talent pool to tap into!

Iain Millar, 29 August 2011

A simple model for change

A simple model for change

Business Models can help or hinder. Some are so impenetrable that they defy all efforts to understand them. Some are so trivial that they don’t increase understanding at all. I picked up a simple yet helpful one a number of years ago, which is great for covering the important factors when getting started with a change initiative. At that time it was called the four box model, but a colleague subsequently added a fifth box (thanks Jim!) Now, there’s a bargain: 25% extra, at no extra cost!

The first four boxes are essential if you are to drive change forward. They are:

  • clear need for change. This is a strong statement of what’s wrong with the way things are, expressed in terms that can be understood by anyone who is involved in the change;
  • An unambiguous, common, shared vision of the future. This is the target that you are aiming for. It should be powerfully expressed in terms that all interested parties can understand, and state the benefits that will be realised;
  • Sufficient resources to allow the change to be managed. These resources could be any or all of people, money, equipment, skills, time, or facilities, or anything else that you might need to make the change happen. (Note that this is not the same as having the required resources to operate after the change has been implemented – that’s a different thing entirely.)
  • A realistic, achievable plan. It may be only a plan for a plan, or it could be a full plan for the entire change project. Either way, it needs to be clear, easily understood, and at an appropriate level of detail.

If any one of these is missing, the change will not happen as you intend.

  • Without the strong need for change, the doubters will be able to say “Why bother?”, and the doubt will spread.
  • Without a single, shared vision, you may have the commitment to change, but you won’t have a direction. Different people will end up either pulling against each other or dragging the project into areas that it should not go.
  • Without resources, people may want to change, but they will either try and then fail, or they won’t even try because they are too busy doing their day jobs.
  • Finally, without a plan, people will do “something”, but probably the wrong “something”. Think of headless chickens running around in all directions.

So, where does the fifth box sit? The fifth box is resistance to change, and it sits on the opposite side of the scales from the other four. There is always resistance, and the fifth box can be a very large box indeed. For the change to take place, the total size of the first four boxes must be bigger than the fifth box. The strange thing is that as you make the first four boxes bigger and stronger, the fifth box will automatically and inevitably shrink. If you can make a sufficiently compelling case for a change, then resistance will fade away.

This model does not tell you how to make change happen, but I find that it helps me to focus on the things that really matter when trying to instigate business (or any other) changes. If I’m struggling to get sufficient buy-in, I inevitably find that one of the first four boxes is inadequate, and it is usually easy to identify which one needs work. This also avoids wasted effort on areas that are already strong: for example, there’s no point in improving a plan that is already excellent, if what’s holding you back is poor communication of the vision!

Here is a practical example that has nothing to do with work. Imagine you want to go to France on holiday, rather than to your usual villa in Spain, but your partner isn’t convinced.

  • Box 1: You want to change your holiday destination because the villa is getting shabby, is surrounded by new high-rise hotels, and the price has risen massively since last year.
  • Box 2: The place in France will give you a pool on the premises, easy access to a quiet beach, is on a bus route into town, and has several highly rated restaurants within walking distance.
  • Box 3: Your local travel agent knows the area, has several brochures that list suitable premises, and reviews of most of these are available on the internet. You and your partner have time to study these and come to a decision.
  • Box 4: You plan to collect some brochures and have set aside a couple of hours to do an initial review of these, and then let your partner see what you have been doing. You also have a friend who loves France, and you have invited him round to the house for a drink.., and some holiday discussions. Sounds like a cunning plan to me!

But don’t forget:

  • Box 5: Your partner likes to return to familiar surroundings, loves to browse round the local markets in Spain, speaks some Spanish, and doesn’t speak any French. That’s the French resistance!

Is Box 5 so big that you won’t make the change, or are the other boxes big enough to make the change happen? Are the other four boxes sufficient to persuade your partner to try a new destination? If the answer is “no”, you need to create a stronger case to go to La Belle France. If the answer is “yes”, then Bon Voyage!

Iain Millar, 1 June 2011

Old lessons for a modern World

Old lessons for a modern World

How can a 500 year old book possibly be relevant in today’s society? A fair question, but many religious texts are far older, and they still mean a great deal to the faithful of their respective beliefs. I’m actually referring to “The Prince”, Nicolo Machiavelli’s best known book, written in the early years of the 16th century.

Machiavelli was a civic official and diplomat from Florence, who wrote “The Price” as a study into how people gain, retain, and, in many cases lose, the right to rule. It was all about conflicts, and power, and devious behaviour, and winning hearts and minds. Hang on… doesn’t that sound like some aspects of modern business? Yes, of course it does, although I have not knowingly met anyone who kills his would-be opponents, thankfully.

What I took from the book was the view that if you substitute “businessman” for “prince”, most of old Nicolo’s observations remain remarkably acute in today’s business environment. This is, I suppose, why I’ve seen this old book referenced in a number of modern business guides. If you want people to like you, don’t follow the advice in the book, but if you want to be successful, maybe there are some lessons there that you should follow. And if Machiavelli is to be believed, being liked and being successful are probably not compatible in the long run!

See what you make of these pieces of wisdom, selected from the many worthy comments in the book:

  • “An able statesman out of work, like a huge whale, will endeavour to overturn the ship unless he has an empty cask to play with.” Do you have any able statesmen who get up to mischief if they are not kept busy? What are you doing about it?
  • “Men will not look at things as they really are, but as they wish them to be – and are ruined. In politics there are no perfectly safe courses; prudence consists in choosing the least dangerous ones.” Sound advice?
  • “In the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure.” In other words, look for problems and nip them in the bud. Seems like good advice to me.
  • “It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, then to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.” Probably Machiavelli’s best known quote, and deservedly so.
  • And finally, two quotations that should be considered together: “Every prince ought to desire to be considered clement and not cruel.” and “It is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.” Tough choices!

Iain Millar, 24 March 2011

The law of Unintended Consequences

The law of Unintended Consequences

Suitcases with wheels are killing the planet, or so one theory says. How? Well, wheeled suitcases tend to be bigger than the ones that have to be carried, so people put more in them, so not only are they bigger, they are heavier. Aircraft have to be bigger and heavier to carry the extra load, so they consume more fuel. The same goes for the cars that people use to get to the airport. More fuel equals more pollution, and more pollution equals more global warming. On that basis, the first person to strap a skateboard to a Samsonite has consigned the Earth to a terrible fate. And that, my friends, is the Law of Unintended Consequences in action.

It’s not really important whether you accept that particular theory or not, but what is important is that Unintended Consequences are everywhere. Politicians make policy decisions every day with the intention of solving one problem, but they don’t think enough about the Unintended Consequences, and end up creating a new (sometimes bigger) problem. One suggestion is that specialist tobacconists will have to put frosted glass in their shop windows, so that children can’t see anyone buying tobacco products. Makes sense? – probably. But as one tobacconist pointed out, if the shop is robbed, no-one will see the thieves at work, thereby increasing the likelihood of such crimes increasing.

Unintended Consequences can come into play in business too. If your company decides to host its IT systems off-site, that can make a very significant positive impact on quality of service, cost, and flexibility. Just be sure to think about the wider aspects: if your data network is inadequate or unreliable or insufficiently robust, and you rely on these systems being available at all times, what would happen to your business if you lost the network? Don’t think for a moment that I’m against cloud computing or off-site hosting: far from it. But what I am against is relying on good luck to ensure that your business stays in business. Think about the bigger picture, the unplanned interruptions, and the Unintended Consequences. Get advice. Understand the risks. Put in place the necessary work-arounds. Then make the change, and enjoy the benefits!

Iain Millar, 10 March 2011

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