Monthly Archives: November 2016

The number one problem with Waterfall.

Waterfall is a driver-less car circa 1930. You have a list of tick box items that check to ensure you have followed the process correctly. If you follow the process, your organisation will be safe from rogue projects and bad investments. It will protect you from risks on your IT Investment.

First thing I thought of when Uber announced they were going with driverless cars

And this is the number one problem with Waterfall. Passengers on the driver-less car can absolve themselves of responsibility for risk. They can blame the creators of the driver-less car if it fails because it encounters a context that wasn’t anticipated by its creators.

The alternative to the driver-less car is a normal car with a Instrument Panel, Steering Wheel, Cruise Control and a SatNav. One in which different people take responsibility for overlapping risks. The executive ensures the investment is going in the right direction and that it is effectively managing all risks. The executive is like the passenger trying to reach a destination. The product organisation are responsible for picking the right destination and the right route. The delivery organisation are the driver and the engineers who drive and look after the car. Each manages a set of risks that overlap. Each has responsibility… including the executives. In order to manage those risks, the organisation needs a framework to help them ensure they understand the risks, and appropriate processes and instrumentation to ensure the risks are visible and managed effectively.

Rather than rely on the framework to manage the risk on an IT Investment, an IT Risk Management Framework specifies the constraints that allow the risk on an IT Investment to be managed by the Operators, namely all the people involved, including the executives. As well as managing known risks, everyone is responsible for identifying new risks ( or risk leadership as I call it ). This allows the IT Investment eco-system to respond to shifting contexts and emergent risks.

The average “Scaled Agile” project is probably like a normal car without Instrument Panel, Steering Wheel, Cruise Control and a SatNav. Or rather bits but not the whole thing, and with a dodgy steering wheel.

So instead of relying on the creators of your Waterfall to provide you with a “circa 1930s driver-less car” to provide your risk management, opt for a top of the range vehicle with trained drivers, mechanics, logistics team and executive who can adapt to the context and risks that your organisation faces.

Renounce risk averse, and embrace risk management.

Footnote for Execs: During the second world war a study was performed to see which role was most stressful. It turned out the barrage balloon spotters had the most stressful role. This was because they could easily be killed by enemy pilots but they had no control over their situation. The average executive responsible for a Waterfall Project has the same level of control as the barrage balloon spotter because they are blind and can rarely identify opportunities to intervene in a timely manner. They are like a passenger in a car traveling at ninety miles an hour down a motorway with no steering wheel, instruments and a blacked out windscreen. The IT Risk Management Framework cleans the windscreen, and installs instrumentation and SatNav. More importantly the timeliness of the information arrival process provides them with options to intervene… they get a steering wheel.

Just like Arnold, its time to take control of your IT investment vehicles before Start Ups and Fintechs catch up with you.


Dear UK Energy Minister…

Dear UK Energy Minister,

I would like to make you aware of an interesting option that is about to expire. This option was discovered after almost five minutes of research and several discussions over coffee with David Stoughton, Nick Coutts, Graham Oakes and Tony Grout. If your expensive advisors have not made you aware of this option, you may want to consider replacing them with David, Nick and Graham.

The UK is engaged in building a new £18 bn power station at Hinkley Point. We need to produce enough energy to handle peak demand. If we look at the seasonal and daily variation in energy need, from Chart 2 we see that the difference between average and peak load is about 10% to 20%. According to Wikipedia, we have about 80 power stations in the UK. So if we could plan for average demand instead of peak demand, the UK could reduce its generation needs by 10% or several power stations. We can only do that if we find a way to store electricity to balance demand and supply over time rather than instantaneously. Storing electricity is notoriously difficult with solutions ranging from pumping water between two reservoirs and using trains on steep hills, both to store potential energy. And this is where the option exists, and its an option that is about to expire. The problem with storing electricity is that the generators are looking for big electricity stores. The human body doesn’t store energy in one place, it stores a little bit in each and every cell. And that is where the UK should store electricity too… In every household. We should install Tesla Powerwalls in every UK home. For the cost of one £18bn power station we could buy 5.5 million Powerwalls ( Assuming £10,000 retail and £3,333 wholesale price ). That is one fifth of all UK homes or 20% of demand. Furthermore it would be a much less risky investment than building a power station.

Battery technology is the future of energy. It will spawn a massive industry to research and supply the batteries. An industry consisting of valuable jobs for areas of Britain needing more than McJobs and Call Centers. Real Engineering jobs. Britain could be a leader in battery technology and production. And that’s before we even think about the jobs generated by making and installing solar panels that look like roof tiles.

So why is the option about to expire? Because the Germans, French and every other country in Europe are probably thinking the same thing. So you have a short period of time before one of them calls Elon Musk to buy a chunk of Tesla.

Call 001-555-Battery. Good luck. The UK is depending on you.

P.S. It will help you with your climate change PR as you can switch from Coal to Nuclear as we all know the problem with Nuclear is it takes a long time to change supply. Batteries also facilitate the use of local green energy production… Solar*, Wind and bio-digestors

* Thank you Richard Warner for reminding me of the obvious. Doh!