The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world
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Disaster Planning

It’s a funny thing how life continues again and again to give us pause for thought.

In industry, we know that the unemployment rate is going up. The valley seems to be weathering the storm and the financial press is full of speculation that there will be more jobs created next year: me?: Personally after the last year of roller coaster rides in the housing and financial market: I do not believe that anyone can predict what will happen next month let alone next year on just about anything from the price of gas to the price of a pound of rice.

As an example I had a very interesting time a few weeks back.

My wife called me on Monday morning at 11am to tell me that she had just been caught up in the recent downsizing at Starbucks. Being a fairly well organized person all data was stored on her computer which she duly handed over along with the passwords. How true of that is the valley?

I have known a few colleagues in the industry that kept all data on their laptops, and in general dispense their files and data as “part sections” as if the data were the Holy Grail. In a previous company requests for data to the QA section were duly delivered as hard copy!!!! No request for source data was ever addressed or delivered.

As managers our first duty is to ensure that the companies we work for are protected from either mini or major disasters. Most companies have data back up systems, but these only work if the data is available to the data back up software, and not tucked away in some encrypted secret file in an obscure place on a laptop computer..

So our first thoughts on being handed a new project out to be primarily about where and how to store the files, and make sure that all parties understand and buy into the system: if you don’t, people’s natural tendencies to squirrel away key data on the basis that it is protecting their job will take over with (sometimes) disastrous results.

The plan can be a shared folder on a network drive with folders divided into different departments in the case of a small start up (Excel spreadsheet land) or a much more sophisticated system in the case of a larger company. Either way ensure that it is done or face the issues of a data nightmare at some point in the future, if a key player if downsized, the laptop crashes or some other non planned for event takes place.

As another example, on Tuesday of the same week, I was not feeling too good. I went called the doctor, who sent me to emergency care because they have “better equipment” to do the analysis work. By that Friday and a battery of CAT scans later I sat in a consultants office and was told that I would need an operation in the next few weeks that would keep me out of work for at least 3 weeks.

You can never tell what is going to happen. Key players can move jobs, be downsized as a part of a larger corporate re-shuffle, move departments, take sick leave, or be run over by a truck.

The mindset for information storage to be transparent at that time becomes obviously clear. I would encourage you to look at the projects that you work on, and the people that work on them, and try out a few “what if” scenarios: it might just make you take a deeper look at the way that the company addresses databstorage and management.

John Burke

john@RoHSUSA.com

 

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About the Author

John Burke founded the UK based Surface Mounted and Related Technologies (SMART) Group in 1984, and has worked in the area of advanced manufacturing for many years. Has taught at various universities on technology, including university of Dundee, University of Hull, and University of Cambridge. John has been involved with the generation of IPC 1752 as a part of the 2-18 committees. He's been dealing with reporting standards for hazardous materials. John has also for many years been involved in the drive towards environmentally sound electronics assemblies, and has been heavily involved in trying to aid engineers caught up in the drive towards RoHS and JIG compliance. John is currently employed as Operations Director for a fabless semiconductor startup in the valley. Contact John at john@rohsusa.com.
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One Response to “Disaster Planning”

  1. Great post John! This applies not only to disaster planning and unexpected events….what about the day when a business analyst is on vacation, and a fire drill develops that requires some data on that BA’s laptop? Even if the machine is physically present, I don’t think anyone wants to have to rope IT into letting us crack into it, etc.

    John’s call for centralized storage gets around this. Multiple people have to know where to find the data…it has to be clearly labeled or tagged in some way so the attributes are known….when was it updated? Who update it? People should be able to do a search and come up with the data they need, even when the content owners are M.I.A. Excel spreadsheet land can become 17 confusing versions of the same thing unless the data is managed properly.

    Josh Nankivel
    http://pmStudent.com

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