9 Signs You Are on A Titanic Project?

Written by Carl B. Johnson

Compliance and Information Governance Expert, Speaker, Author

July 8, 2019

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re on a titanic project, they are having the same warning signs. I’ve worked on a few, but 1 sticks out the most. It was an interesting position. Instead of being in a position of management and change prompt change, I was SME with little to no ability to steer the ship away from a certain ice burg. On this project, you had a client that did not understand basic SDLC or Scrum processes and was not open to any sort of criticism. Like the Titanic, everyone around the client is warning their is an iceberg ahead. Instead of coming up with a better plan, the team is told “full speed ahead”. Here are some of the signs you are on a Titanic project:

  1. No or very little senior or executive stakeholders – Big or small, every project needs an executive or senior stakeholder.
  2. Everyone is afraid of the client. – If bringing challenges to the client’s attention can earn you a pink slip, you are on a Titanic project. Communication is essential to understanding the changes and challenges. Without the ability to address issues openly and honestly you are heading for certain failed
  3. So much gold plating you can build a mountain full of gold. – This is connected to #3. You say “Yes” to whatever the client asks for, even if it has nothing to do what’s currently on your planned backlog.
  4. No clear direction of the product – If it takes 4 paragraphs to explain what the product should do you are on a titanic project.
  5. Endless budget – Some organizations, especially in Federal tend to have larger budgets which also means very little oversight. This is a disaster. The advantage of having an oversight committee is making sure the budget doesn’t get out of hand and for teams to focus more on releasing a usable product.
  6. No clear titles – Who is the Product Owner? If the answer is “We don’t have one” You are on a titanic project.
  7. The client too close to the scrum team and product. – The client role should be an SME. If your client is acting like a developer and making page layout changes on the fly, developing workflows and filters and asking you to push it to products, you are on a titanic project. Granted, your client’s feedback is important, but that doesn’t mean they can make changes outside of backlogs and whenever they have a new idea.
  8. No set and respected milestones – One thing Lean teaches is to launch quickly and with customer value in mind. If you’re being asked to develop without setting up milestones, your own a titanic project.
  9. No documentation – Documentation is required for everything. If your project has little to no documentation it’s the same as traveling without a GPS.

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