The Enemy Within

Critical to the success of your portal project and the foundation of The PORTAL Method is your strategy phase, the P, O, and R. The problem is that most managers (especially senior managers) don’t take the time to plan or find out how decisions affect everyone down the chain. While some are good at planning, senior managers are typically doers that have made a career and built their reputation on getting “things” done. These managers can pose a serious risk to your ability to follow a comprehensive methodology, like The PORTAL Method, if this risk is not addressed early. The most important thing you can do on this front is to identify and neutralize any threats posed by enemies looking to sabotage your success.

Keep in mind that a portal implementation project is organization-wide and everyone is a stakeholder. As practitioners of the PORTAL method, – we understand this, which is why we focus so strongly on user needs, expectations, and experience. Also, keep in mind that the money allocated to your project probably resulted in someone else’s project being rejected (or put on hold). When this is an influential or overly-vocal senior manager who may have a grudge, there is a potential for bad press that can put your success at risk. The scenario I’ve seen over and over looks like this:

You are in a full-blown strategy phase: you have established your team, you have your top-level requirements from management, you are polling your users, and you are reviewing feedback and getting things mapped out. All of the sudden, you catch wind that some manager (who got his project rejected in favor of yours) is being vocal wondering out loud and to anyone that will listen why nobody has seen anything, yet. “Geez, we spent all this money, where’s the portal already?” Pretty soon, your boss is pressuring you (possibly from pressure of his boss, or the big cheese) to start building even though you know your team hasn’t gotten to that step yet. Your team is then pressured to get moving and so you start neglecting your users’ recommendations…your chance of being a rock star and a hero drifts away.

The solution is defining clear expectations up front, and then identifying anyone who has the influence and desire (whom I call the enemy within ) to put undue pressure on the timeline of your project. I would identify them as project risks on a project risk mitigation plan and, if possible, meet with them (or have your executive sponsor meet with them). In this conversation just frankly tell them that you think they are a risk and want to address any issues that they might have throughout the project cycle. Mind your tone. The purpose of this conversation is to neutralize them as a threat and you need to be as diplomatic as possible.

This may seem a bit cheeky, but you’d be surprised how many would-be detractors are glad you think so highly of their ability, to influence others. Having this conversation will also reduce the likelihood that they will try any sneaky tactics later to sabotage your success, knowing that you aren’t scared of them and won’t be bullied. If you don’t think your conversation with the enemy within has neutralized the threat, escalate, escalate, escalate! If you don’t handle this situation early, you will end up on your heels for the entire project. Trust me. It happens every time, even with relatively innocuous threats.

Obviously, positive pressures to move quickly and get the job done are good. Any pressures that drive you to quality and user satisfaction are good pressures to have. It shows people are interested and improves your chance of being a hero. It’s is the negative Nellie’s that you need to identify and disarm early and often.

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