Gold plating in project management

Innovation is the critical success element for gaining competitive advantage in knowledge based economy. Out-of-box thinking, fusion of existing attributes and experimentation are considered as some of the building blocks of innovation.
There is no doubt in my mind that innovation is a must to build an excellent institution and ensure sustained business growth in the current scenario. But, it is not an easy option, in fact, if not managed strategically right, it is could be counter productive.
I would like to share my experience of not dealing best possible way..
Case I
It was the development of an e-Governance portal and contract was to develop a Content Management System and dynamic website being rendered from a secure database. The project had to go for security audit in next couple of days. We were working hard beyond office hours.

One day late evening, Subhendu, my colleague came to me with an idea of capturing the IP address of the browsing machine so that a location based analytics may be developed. His face was full of excitement and I too got excited and asked him “How long this will take”.

He in his own optimistic style responded “one and half person day”. Instantly, I multiplied it by 2 as I had clear idea that 100% padding is required for his optimism.

The idea was great and agreed by all stakeholders and subsequently implemented. After a couple of days, the project was submitted for auditing and the initial audit report came with two pages of summary substantiated with 100 page of possible security vulnerability and most of them are on the module that was dealing with capturing of the IP address.

The subsequent processes were followed to address the issue, which took couple of sleepless nights to resolve. One day, after the project was completed, I was standing on the roof top of our office and was asking myself

  • Capturing of the IP was not a part of the scope so why we did it?
  • If I would have said that this is not a part of the scope and we should not do it… than what would have been impact on his motivation..
  • Was there a better way to deal with this?

Case II
It was a small research project to understand the impact of funding on the living condition of organic cotton farmer. We had been to Kalahandi, one of the beautiful and green places of Orissa, which is globally known to everybody for all wrong reasons. Thanks to emerging media reporting.

We interacted with the farmer community and took the video of all possible things ranging from peeing of a small child in a bucket to the ginning factory. On return, we completed the reporting in two weeks.

On the date of submission, we saw the edited video having nice cotton tree, women plucking cotton, cultural programme and ginning factory. The team was quite happy with the work and we sent it to the sponsor of the project with a delayed deadline. At the date of submission, we had the third reminder from the our finance manager to submit the report soon so that he can raise the invoice.

After two days, we received an email from project sponsor

———————Email Starts here————————-
Hi Team,
Great work done. The impact study is very well captured.

Need a small clarification.. is the ginning process that you have shown is certified by a textile engineer. Would appreciate an acknowledgement from an engineer working there.

Best regards,

————————email ends here ———————
We were taken aback. At that point of time, we had no option to say that this was not a part of the Term of Reference (ToR). We were very sure that, it will not be appreciated internally as it is going to delay the payment.

We started contacting the engineer at the ginning factory. The chief engineer was in a marriage ceremony of his sister-in-law and was supposed to be back after seven days. His juniors were not willing to say either “Yes or No” as they were very much aware of the implication of this.

Finally the engineer came after seven days and saw the presentation. He said

“very good video” and requested to courier his video interview in particular.

On asking specifically about the technical appropriateness, he responded saying

“Perfect Sir”.

I was returning from the office in the late evening after sending the final email to our finance manager. Word that were hitting me were “Scope Management”, “Gold Plating” , “Innovation in Emerging Economy” and “prioritising Deadlines”…

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