Why You Should Never Assume Your Data’s Accuracy

June 11, 2012

It’s amazing how information delivery has changed over the last 20 years. Data is everywhere, and it is easy to take this data for granted and assume too much accuracy. This can be a pitfall for managing a project. Let’s look at an example.

Take something like navigating your vehicle. You probably remember as a kid riding in the back seat of your parent’s car headed off on vacation. There were maps and road atlases to guide you on your way, and Mom and Dad would check every so often to ensure they were still on the right path. If you were old enough, they let you take a look at the map as well. Inevitably, a wrong turn was taken here and there and a course correction had to be made.

Today, with Global Positioning Service (GPS) in virtually every phone and sub-$100 prices for vehicle-based units, the road map and atlas have become all but extinct. We just turn on these devices, punch in the destination address, and the system does the rest. Maps are pre-loaded into these devices that overlay onto our current location. Based on what the system knows about the streets, it attempts to calculate the best route to our destination.

However, these units aren’t failsafe. They aren’t aware of road construction and those systems that do know about traffic are sometimes inaccurate. Maybe the turn that the system wants you to take points you the wrong way on a one-way street. Or, just maybe the map is wrong. Either way, putting all of your faith in the knowledge of this system can sometimes lead to those inevitable words “turn around when possible.”

In project management, things can also go off track when we gather all of our requirements on the front end and forge ahead without checking where we are. Traditional project management does all of the requirements gathering on the front end, all of the product development in the middle, and all of the review and testing on the back end. No matter how well you think you’ve identified your requirements, this process creates a certain amount of risk and rework to meet the customer’s needs. And by waiting till the end to test and evaluate your product, the cost of the rework is much higher than if it had been caught earlier. This sounds a lot like punching in the GPS destination and trusting it alone to get you to your destination.

That’s where the Agile methodology has an advantage over the traditional method. By running your project in short iterations known as sprints, your team delivers a potentially shippable product at the end of each sprint. This product is reviewed with the product owner and stakeholders to get feedback, and the team holds a retrospective meeting to understand what they can do better. This is kind of like checking your map often to see where you are and making any necessary course corrections. It takes constant feedback and review to deliver a world-class product that your customer would be proud of.

While it’s a commonly-held belief that data rules all, I’d like to add this qualifier – accurate data rules all. And that often entails constant data gathering and checking during a project to ensure that you’re exceeding your customer’s expectations.

If you’re ready to take a look at Agile, or to learn more about the methodology, Braintrust Consulting is here to help. We offer training and coaching on the Agile methodology leading to such certifications for your team as Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner. We have public classes or we can bring the training to you, customized to fit your needs. Our course offerings and services can be found in the Services link or click the Contact link to find out more.



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