IT Obstacles: Dealing With Problem Sponsors – Stevie the "Informed" Executive

It is an IT developers dream. The sponsor who wants to try all the new and exciting technologies as soon as they come out or look at new methodologies to streamline the processes that guide day to day business. Or is it a nightmare?

A seasoned project manager or developer may be cautious when a sponsor is always looking at the latest and greatest, or worse, talking tech they do not understand. All too often, however, our next sponsor, Stevie, attempts to speak to the uninformed, or manipulate the meek with new and exciting ideas that sound too good to be true, but often are exactly that, too good to be true.

Our technology savvy sponsor, Stevie, is not really the horror he appears to be. Stevie is a free-thinker and probably has more ideas than any 10 people. A quick study, Stevie picks up on items as they are presented and holds on to key words, often adding in previous experience or “oversized” words like “paradigm” to accentuate his position, and in doing so is a great speaker and a fantastic salesperson. Unfortunately those qualities that give Stevie vision beyond his knowledge often create points of failure for technology development and even simple project management. Stevie will assume that his vision is crystal clear and will over-simplify thinking he can translate. Often Stevie will use very poor tools to develop concepts, like PowerPoint to create a web page, or Microsoft Excel to demonstrate database functionality. Stevie may say the immortal words “I have done all the work for you, this should be simple” and rely on uninformed estimates from a follower or acquaintance that is trying to gain money or interest.

As a side, Stevie is often easily manipulated by more savvy technology companies that are flashy or show him a “sparkly object” not realizing that it may not function. With so many sources of information Stevie may often discount his employees in favor of external sources, even when the employees are the creators of his vision.

To handle Stevie continuing education and strong interpersonal skills represent a good solution for controlling success. Stevie has a strong desire to be right and to achieve notoriety and does not want to fail. Stevie’s creative visions often cloud projects and do not give him the ability to see the truth. A strong project manager will consistently define requirements and methodologies to keep Stevie’s vision moving forward while ensuring communication stays constant with Stevie, and ensures he understands the risks of his project. Previous publications have pointed out that sponsors like Stevie may “ask for a Porsche when a skateboard will do… ” and in doing so jeopardize the overall vision of the project. The project managers and developers need to over communicate rather than under communicate every vision and issue.

Education can also be an effective deterrent for failure with the heavily creative Stevie. By continuing to educate internal resources and invite Stevie credibility can be added to internal staff while allowing Stevie to see more informed ideas. As long as Stevie is striving for success, both project manager and developer can be successful as well.

Source by Andrew Allen Smith

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