In the wake of my two-part article earlier this month, Systems Security – Service, Success and Longevity; and its follow-on, Systems Security, Part II: Social Security Administration meets the real world, comes word of another government project with lessons for us all.
I truly don’t mean to pick on the Federal Government (they’re bigger than me). However, Government projects provide nice lessons for several reasons: The projects are projected on the maximum screen of national import, reporting, and observation. Further, they are projects that affect us all.
And being that we pay for them, we should benefit from them – we should demand benefit – that is our rightful expectation. However, even in the event of failures, we can perhaps yet realize a benefit: We can learn what to avoid from their mistake(s), and look to the legitimate paths for forward progressions and true solutions.
Just within the past few days, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is abandoning the present project to emplace a virtual security fence along our border with Mexico. The Secure Border Initiative (SBINet) is now a $3 billion program failure, and that is the huge, and sad, milestone. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced, “SBINet cannot meet its original objective of providing a single, integrated, border security technology solution.”
This specific virtual fence was to seal our nation’s border through use of cameras and sensors. As being crafted by Boeing, the system was to alert the U.S. Border Patrol as well as law enforcement authorities.
The project ran into technical difficulties. As the timeline stretched and technical problems increased, it was discovered that other companies had viable technology that was already available on the commercial market.
The conditions represented a failure of the Government’s to know exactly where it was. We’ve said before: Before plotting any project’s path and destination (it’s activities, deliveries and solutions), you must know where you are. You cannot possibly plot a destination – a solution – without a true begin-point.
Tell me how to get to Chicago; right now, in the Comments section to this blog. What is your ultimate question before advising me? “Where are you now?” In other words, from where am I departing?
Amazingly, the Federal Government could not have known, could not have surveyed effectively, “where it was.” If it did, it would have planned a project that leveraged readily available products and solutions, in supporting the ultimate solution.
At present, the plan is to use commercially available drones, thermal imaging devices, mobile surveillance systems, tower-based surveillance, and a measure of Boeing’s elements from the original project.
It’s interesting to note that the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), said that he hoped the “new route” chosen by DHS will be an improvement. Me too.
But consider “new route” – yes, this phrase reinforces our take on reaching a project destination: it involves a route, comprising a valid starting point, and a realistic destination. Properly mounted and managed projects have valid, known, beginning points, routes to destination, and the final arrival of a go-live: A serving solution. All, hopefully, done according to empirical measures, timely milestones, and monitored progression within an agreed budget.
Before mounting any major initiative in your organization, be certain to know:
Where You Are: Includes buy-in from all stakeholders; survey of what’s available in supporting solutions, what’s needed, what’s affordable, and what will be supported by governance.
Where You’re Going and How: An agreed project progression, with empirical measures, supported by tools and systems, along with the sanctioned “who” for doing “what.” All done with appropriate exposure and total agreements.
The Destination: Ensure the project delivers what is truly needed. Pin down stakeholders, Business and IT. Understand governance, and guidance, thoroughly. Reach the destination in a timely way: according to the project management plan; hit the go-live date.
Doing that requires a true project, true management of it, and the originating understanding of exactly where you were, and thorough understanding of where you’re going (where you need to go, according to the organization’s needs and aims).
DHS didn’t know where it was (by virtue alone of failing to make robust use of existing products – survey where you are by understanding the total swim you’re in). DHS didn’t craft a valid route to destination, and this particular version of the project will never arrive. DHS has started over.
Learn. In the next days, I’ll further outline some “Where We Are” factors, and more considerations in “Where We’re Going” when mounting projects.
NP: Herbie Hancock, Sextant. Original LP. Weird album.