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IT Project Lessons Learned From Burning Rubber

“I like to go fast. Who doesn’t?” Outside of my job as a Software Asset Management (SAM) practice manager for COMPAREX Canada, I’m also an amateur racer. Very little puts a bigger smile on my face than the building and racing my own vehicle, constantly improving it, and shaving seconds off my final lap time. I basically own my own rollercoaster.

You are always on the run

Timed solo racing, performance driving schools and lapping events all provide an incredible thrill. You’re racing against the clock, against your past time. You’re in an ever-improving race with yourself.

Your IT is always on the run

Modern IT is a bit like that. Continuously seeking to improve its value to the organization (while, admittedly, the business competes with others at today’s break-neck pace of the market.)

In the seven years I’ve been performance driving, one truth has become abundantly clear: like any project, to have the speed and agility when it matters takes a lot of up-front time and investment.

Ultimately, for every minute on the track you are spending hours, days and weeks - even years - behind the scenes.

It’s a matter of a good preparation

To understand, let’s look at the evolution of my rather complex pastime. My first two years were spent just building the vehicle with my father, and the third getting it working properly. We didn’t care about times, speeds or outcomes - just making sure it didn’t break.

Then we started to break it. I pushed its limits and poked holes in all its weaknesses. This iterative process of break-fix provided a continual cycle of refinement and improvement. (Beginning to sound like IT?)

Master the challenges of IT projects

There are even more parallels between IT projects and racing, and they provide some valuable lessons learned. For example:

Planning comes first

In racing safety comes first, but that ultimately comes down to planning. Evaluate what you want to do, and how to best spend your time doing it. I learned early on that a proper short- and long-term plan helps save you time and resources during every phase from the build to the track.

Budget challenges are commonplace

This is crucial in amateur racing. You need to find the funds for everything from tires, fuel, trailer rentals, track fees and more. (You may need “C-level approval” from spouses, as I get from my wonderfully understanding one.)

How to save money and transform your IT in the long run

This budget crunch makes me think of the state of SAM practices across North America, where maturity is still growing. Many are being asked to build out the practice - and it will save money and help transform IT in the long run -  but without the necessary funds being freed up for it.

The importance of early wins

Payout is important. It’s difficult to describe the joy that came when my car was finished, I turned the key and revved up that engine. All projects need that early win to demonstrate their value, to motivate teams and stakeholders, and keep the project progressing (and funded!)

These early wins are built on through the same iterative process as the race car. They must be re-evaluated, deconstructed and refined. SAM is especially like that. You get the practice working and then spend the rest of the time continuously tweaking and turning the dials to perfect it and getting even greater return from it.

The value of partnering

One of the most important things that helps me achieve my dreams of high performance driving is belonging to a performance driving club. The Sport Performance Driving Association or "SPDA" has helped in so many ways. The members have been there before, they know the shortcuts, pitfalls and can prepare me for the problems I will come across.
You can always avoid a lot of additional expense and pains just by talking with those who’ve done it before. Partners also help on the financial front. It’s not unlike turning to a global services company, there’s strength in numbers. We can group buy tires, be informed of special offers and take advantage of sponsorships.

It takes some expertise to make a real impact

Although this hobby can be hard on the budget, one thing I have learned is that throwing money at a problem isn’t always the best approach. You can have the most expensive car on the line, but if your own driving skills aren’t there, no amount of horse power or fancy suspension tricks will help you. Just like IT, the best systems and software aren’t the only piece of the puzzle, you need experts behind the wheel to make a real impact.

Lessons learned

Ultimately, the biggest lesson from racing is one that affects all aspects of life: The only way to ultimately excel at something is to be willing to struggle with it at first, perhaps embarrassingly. I didn’t know how bad a driver I was until my first time on a track.

In the realm of SAM and software compliance, everyone similarly thinks they are masters at it. Or that it’s in good hands (with someone else). You don’t learn how bad it is until an audit comes along, and the rubber hits the road.

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Leipzig, 06 / 21 / 2018


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