|Author : DAOUDI Samir | Context : MSc Software Engineering – Professional issues in computing
In today’s world, companies are in perpetual concurrence for more parts of the markets, to enhance their productivity, to win more contracts, enlarge and improve their external image. Hence, these companies are undertaking different projects and trying new methods continuously. In a project, companies do not focus only on the possible gain that can be generated but also any risks and its possible effects on the project and the whole company. Depending on the type of project, the risks may differ and their consequences also.
Firstly, what are risks?
Based on the contexts, the definitions of risks are different, here are some of them:
A risk is a fundamental element that influent the financial behaviour (Michel.C, Dan.G & Robert.M 2001). A risk consists of a notion of uncertainty of outcomes that can possibly be unfavourable (Glenda.H 1991).
Risk management are a set of rules, best practices and methods to follow in order to anticipate, avoid and deal with unattended situations and try to keep the project scope.
What distinguish the modern economies from those of the past are the ability to identify risks, deal with their consequences, measure them and react accordingly (Michel.C, Dan.G & Robert.M 2004).
This ability to deal with risks is a key factor for the successes of projects, companies have to train and build strong project management teams that can be able to predict and face any unattended situations and react positively.
The lack of experience, knowledge or methods to face risks can ends up with unexpected factors that might ruin the project or the whole company, especially if we talk about large projects that have a big impact on the financial side of the company and its marketing and external image.
We had a huge project to deploy a new SharePoint environment to replace the old content management system Documentum. The old system was widely used by the different teams in different locations and for all types of documents (technical, plans, financial, production report, projects, ITC documents, procedures, policies …etc) and we had around 2 million documents archived, referenced with their properties, version history ….etc.
The heart of the company and its whole business was stored in that old application, it was constructed upon a NAS (used as file storage) and Database Server (Oracle, to store all the metadata related to the documents).
The project team members were aware about the importance of this data, transferring everything to a new unfamiliar system was a real challenge. We prepared the SharePoint environment with the appropriate services and applications developed especially for this purpose installed and tested, We were ready to move.
The project manager proposed to keep both environment up and running and cut any modifications to the old one (Read only access) while the new environment was available only for ITC staff and the external support company for the old system (that was trying to copy the content from their file storage servers and export the database content to another format, easily readable by the new one).
We made an outage of 12 hours, but during that time we had a lot of problems mainly dealing with the files names, as the Linux servers allowed some special characters and certain filenames length which was not allowed on Windows Servers. We had thousands of files that were not copied, their metadata was exported and the links to the file storage was broken, it was a real catastrophe. We attended the deadline and still have not sorted out the issue. We were blamed by many managers and a lot of pressure was over, finally the upgrade project was down. We stopped the process and re--activate the old system.
It was a real failure of a huge project, just because we did not anticipate this detail. After 8 months, we did another in depth analyse of the system and the project, we discussed all the possible issues and analysed the different parts and component of both systems and restarted the project. We finished successfully the migration process in 5 hours the new system was up and running perfectly.
This is an example of risks that were not estimated and ended with the failure of whole project and efforts.
Michel.C, Dan.G & Robert.M (2001), Risk Management. McGraw--Hill, ISBN: 978--0--07--137867--3.
Michel.C, Dan.G & Robert.M (2004), The essentials of risk management. McGraw--Hill, ISBN: 978--0--07--148332--2.
Glenda.H (1991), Outdoor Pursuits, Programming: Legal liability and risk management. University of Alberta Press, ISBN: 0--88864--205--9