Friend or Foe?

Technological Innovation is Not Always Progressive

By Margaret Vaughan

My father was the smartest person I’ve ever known, and he shared with me the aphorisms that defined and guided his life:
• Exercise kills.
• Don’t look back, always look forward.
• There are no coincidences in life.
• You can find pretty much everything you need to know in life if you just read Shakespeare.
• Sell the sizzle, not the steak.
• Single malt Scotch every day.

But the one that has guided me the most in my life is: Anticipation is 90 percent of any game and everything is a game.

One of the single most important aspects of working in projects is planning: anticipating where the work is, how to access the site, what needs to be done, what could go wrong, and what remediation plans can be put into place to mitigate potential complications.

Project planning requires that we look at both the big picture and the small details; and that we look at past events, current conditions, and future possibilities. We must anticipate global, regional, cultural and personal concerns and how they will affect the project in the areas of supply chain, port access, inland transportation, site access, personnel security, and so on. This is not new, it has been done since the beginning of time when the first-ever project was started, just that nowadays we have better tools.

The last 40 years have seen the development and escalation in technological advancements which have had a tremendous impact on project performance. Innovations in information technology, software applications, and telecommunications have greatly improved our ability to keep up with all aspects of project planning – mapping them, as it were – which has increased our ability to anticipate problems.

However, everything comes with a flip side and we need to try and anticipate what that could be. The benefits of rapid exchange of information, documents and communication comes with the hazard of hacking, industrial espionage, malware, identity theft, eavesdropping, and security breaches. How much of our project planning anticipates IT difficulties beyond normal computer failures?

When drone technology became widely accessible, it was exciting to think of all of the possibilities for its use in the project world and especially in transportation and logistics. It could be, in many ways, a game changer. But after the benefits come the thoughts: “How soon will they become militarized and what dangers do we need to anticipate?”

The recent drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities have opened that Pandora’s Box. Will the benefits of drone technology be overshadowed by the hazards? Formation of a strategy to deal with potential sabotage by drone attack will now become something for which projects must both plan for and mitigate.

There is no crystal ball to predict what will happen in the future, making it difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate potential problems. But it is critical that we try. As Benjamin Franklin said: “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”
Or in the words of James Vaughan: “Anticipation is 90 percent of any game and everything is a game.”  

Margaret J. Vaughan has more than 30 years’ experience in all facets of supply chain management, serving most recently as logistics manager for Wood PLC where she worked for
12 years.

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