Don't let gray areas delay your projects

We've all been there--we're set to start a project when a gray area brings everything to a pause. Jay Rollins talks about how it's best to face the gray areas head on.

When I started writing this blog, the goal was to provide real tools for IT leaders based upon my  experiences, the mistakes I made, and the lessons I learned in order for you to make decisions faster and with more confidence. One of these lessons, in hindsight, is pushing past the decision making paralysis that can ensue when you're ramping up a big project.

I've had a few instances where we have had a big project coming up and anything related to that project was placed on an implicit hold status. No decision is made or there is excessive decision foot-dragging. When I look back, I determined that the root cause was figuring out how to deal with the gray areas.

Here is an example. At one company, we did an analysis of the help desk tickets and found that printing was one of the top three issues that the IT staff had to deal with. Toner, non-standard, old printers, paper jams, you name it, it happened. Early on, we decided to standardize on one type of general purpose laser printer so we could stock parts. We eliminated shared computers and stopped the proliferation of inkJet printers in every office.

As we got the money to replace these printers, we started finding areas where one size does not necessarily fit all. We began having a difficult time getting printers out of individual offices. Phrases like "You can pry my inkJet out of my cold dead fingers" were uttered jokingly, but the point of the joke was that they preferred we skip right over them. Basically, there was a printer almost every five feet in the offices.

Also, there were some concerns about security in regard to the use of central printers. Users would claim that they had to print sensitive information that could not be viewed by someone standing near a printer.

We ended up leasing document stations with fax and scan capabilities--I won't go into detail--but the part that is pertinent to this post is what happened during the project approval and project implementation.

We built the business case and it was pretty appealing from a cost savings side. At about the same time the business case was complete, a printer used by a senior executive crapped out. I tried to set the expectation that a brand new uber-printer was going to be installed as soon as the project was approved. One thing lead to another and the approval was delayed two days and implementation was set to begin a week or so later. Meanwhile, this customer was suffering with a bad printer. In hindsight, and what I use as foresight today, I would satisfy the issue right away. You never know what kind of minor delay you will need to work through and all to save the company $500.

My new black-and-white definition is that if it's under $1,000 to solve an immediate need, do it unless the equipment and the resources to install the new project equipment are on the premises and ready to start implementation that day. You can always eBay the equipment later.