Research, Research, Research
Dad always said, "When it comes to real estate, it's location, location, location." Okay, he didn't always say that, but the point is, when it comes to projects, it is "research, research, research." Once you've got the vision for the end result of the project you need to begin your research, you can complete your research from a number of different sources:
Internet (such as InformIT.com)
Books and magazines (Speaking of books, here's a shameless book plug: Buy my new book...IT Project Management: On Track From Start to Finish. Osborne McGraw Hill, 2002. ISBN: 0072223499)
Experiences of others
Live investigation and experimentation
Research has many different goals, including the following:
To learn as much as you can about the problem you'll be solving
To discover a solution (or solutions) to reach a project's vision
To learn how to implement the discovered solution
To discover an affordable investment versus a cheap fix
Research is like a first date: You wish it could go on forever, or you can't wait until it's over. On any project you're working on, big or small, you must allot a viable amount of time to research the project.
Back to billable hours.
This is where you joined me in my project. My client knew its network was a mess and had a vision for the deliverables. I then took the vision and applied technology to it. Now I was completing the research phase of this long, massive project.
As I was sayin', I was examining the physical structure of the network when I see two red dots and then it kicks inthose are eyeballs. And those eyeballs are attached to a rat! And then I can see its hairy, nasty body. Ewww! Fortunately, this rat's a few yards away and not breathing on me. Then it occurs to me, if there's one rat hanging out up here, how many more rats are there?
And then it occurs to me again: Guess who'll be moving all over this drop ceiling to pull out the old network cable and properly install the new? You guessed it! My talented cable installer, David. Well, he always makes me help.
In the research phase of this project, I had to check several different areas of the office. This, of course, required me to open several different panels and poke my head into the plenum. I thumped on each panel, quickly slid it out of the way, and then pushed my head into the abyss. All I could think of was that FOX-TV special: "When Rats Attack!"