I spent last week crossing the Alps. It was beautiful, exhausting and inspiring all at once.
We had bad luck with the weather – lots of rain, even snow. Thanks to good equipment and experience, we stayed dry and safe.
It reminded me of many IT projects I’ve done over the years: like mountains, they look really inviting and majestic from afar. Sure, there might be some puffy clouds, but nothing to worry about.
But you never know what you will find once you’re up there.
Above 2000 meters, the mountains are not so nice anymore: they are desolate and dangerous places.
Much like IT projects: they are hardly ever “a walk in the park”.
In both cases, it is up to your skill and preparation to make sure you arrive safely on the other end.
We did arrive safely and were rewarded with a beautiful lake and new perspective on the mountains we had just crossed. We gained skill and experience, and know which preparation was useful, and what we could have left at home.
In hiking as well as in IT projects, experience matters: only when you have hiked in a snow storm, only when you have completed projects that turned out completely different than you expected – only then will you know how many unexpected things can come your way.
Having completed hundreds of project means I have a pretty good idea what to expect. And as when hiking, having the right equipment matters less when the sun is shining, but becomes essential once it starts to rain.
In IT projects, software is your equipment. You should choose it with the worst case in mind. Only then is there a chance that you will still use it in a few years’ time, when your requirements have changed beyond recognition.
After all, you wouldn’t embark on an Alpine crossing without proper hiking boots, would you?