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Managing Project Risk–The Easy Way
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By Curt Finch

Question: How can you spot profitability leaks and cost overruns in technology projects–and then fix them?

Answer: You can do it the hard way or the easy way. The path you choose depends to some degree on the consequences of failure and on your budget.

The Hard Way and the Easy Way

Standard risk assessment methodology requires you to first identify threats – human, operational, “reputational,” financial, technical, political, etc. The next step is to estimate the likelihood of each of those events happening and develop early warning systems to notify you to launch your backup plans for each.

That sounds really hard, especially for small businesses with constrained resources.

Most of the projects with which I’ve been involved have been finished before we could have identified, estimated and planned for all of those risks. If your project is extremely large and complicated, that kind of planning probably makes sense. If, however, you’re hoping to get the project delivered in six months or so, then there is an easier way.

Through the magic of Internet survey technology (available from companies such as Zoomerang.com and Inquisite.com) Journyx recently received survey responses from about 250 customers, many of whom were small to medium sized services companies that sell to other businesses. These are companies such as software consultancies, management consultancies and marketing firms. A portion of the questionnaire inquired about estimating project risk. Customers responded that about 12 percent of projects were broken, late or otherwise in the ditch.

The best way to measure that risk is to track employee time spent on projects, while simultaneously estimating how much of the project is complete. If the project budget is 1000 person-hours and 50 percent (i.e. 500 hours) is used up—but the project is only 15 percent complete—then you know you have a high risk project, and a big problem. Luckily the Internet has made tracking employee time easy. Companies such as Journyx supply this technology on demand and you need install nothing to use it. All you need is a web-browser. Per-person per-project profitability data is just a few steps away.

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Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Bruce A. McGraw is the CEO of Cognitive Technologies.
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