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The Project Assassin - Hiding Value

Whilst intervention at the sponsorship level is the most deadly weapon in the Project Assassin's armoury, hiding value is the easiest to use.

Some have argued that this strategy should be reclassified as assisted suicide, but that purist approach undervalues defensive skills akin to those of the goalkeeper in a football match. The Project Assassin may be called on at any time to parry best practice "over the bar" into shelf-ware.

Obscuring a business case

Often all that is needed to obscure a business case is vigilance to prevent any unwanted thoughts of company profitability or benefit quantification from creeping in. When the business case is unclear on value, the likelihood of a project succeeding is greatly diminished.

Profuse documentation

Before considering which documentation is most effectively ignored, the advantages of excessive documentation should be noted. The more material produced the lower the chances of any document being read, facilitating damaging inconsistency and concealment of critical information.

Projects with as few as a hundred documents probably contain a significant discrepancy within their documentation set. When there are many more documents, fatal weaknesses become virtually certain.

Profuse documentation is the method of choice when dealing with external customers and is particularly successful where organizations measure "depth of documentation" in inches.

Lack of documentation

By contrast, lack of documentation should be favoured for in-house projects where no contractual arrangements exist and where the internal resource is free and unlimited.

The simplest approach is to avoid the definition of benefits altogether but, if benefits are insisted on, several equally deadly lines may be followed.

Quantification of benefits

Avoiding quantification gives the pretence of having determined benefits without the inconvenience of actual understanding. Useful words and phrases include "an improvement in", "better", "faster", "more accurate" and the ever popular "increased customer satisfaction".

Timing of benefits

Ensuring that the timing of benefits is vague can keep a project in a state of "living death" even when benefits are manifestly not being accrued ("not being accrued YET" is another handy phrase).

Ownership of benefits

Preventing anyone from being tasked with the achievement of benefits is a good way to overcome unfortunate specificity in benefits or their timing, and almost guarantees that they will never accrue.

Manipulating costs

The cost side of the business case is a more difficult target.

Cost precision

Tying down costs too tightly, by demanding precise estimates before sufficient information is available, ensures that planning takes longer and makes estimates more defensive and less realistic.

Cost invariance

Excluding risk from cost calculations also has merit. Suggestions that a range of costs is possible, depending on whether specific risks mature, should be countered by rumours of indecision and lack of control.

Filing the business case

Even when forced to prepare a decent business case, all is not lost. Generations of Project Assassins have found the filing cabinet to be their best friend.

The business case that is filed and never again referred to is the next best thing to having no business case at all. It will not be followed and some vital detail will be overlooked.

Changing the business case

If all else fails, ensure that the Business Case keeps changing.

The Project Assassin should ensure that "cut-off" dates for changes are never published (their existence unpublished is obviously OK) and then encourage as much input as possible late (timing is everything) in the project life-cycle. Coupling this approach with poor (or non-existent) Change Control and Configuration Management produces delightfully toxic potions.