A candy company gets complaints from consumers because occasionally a package is produced and sold with no candy in it. Management hires an engineering company to come up with a solution that will prevent this from happening. The engineering company’s project manager assembles his or her team to work out a proposed solution. The most experienced engineers come up with a design that will weigh every package and have an arm that will mechanically reject empty packages before they are boxed and shipped. The project will take 10 months and cost the client about $1 million dollars (with a respectable profit for the engineering company.) The client will be ecstatic because complaints on this issue will fall to zero and enhance their market share.At the end of the design meeting, a new engineer just out of school approaches the project manager and says, “Couldn’t the client get the same result by installing a fan on the line after the packages are filled to blow away any empty packages before they are boxed and shipped?”
After several weeks of brainstorming, we discovered that there was an almost empty commercial data center less than a quarter of a mile from the plant site. We decided to build our test systems in the rented data center and produce our tests for licensing. The plan was to take the test systems out of commission when the real data center was ready. The cost allocated for the plant’s data center was approximately 12 million euros. In an offhand conversation with the commercial data center manager, I discovered that the owners were willing to sell this data center for 1 million euros. Because ground had not even been broken on the plant site for the Data Center, I recommended that my client buy the commercial space and save millions of Euro and many months on the schedule. In doing this, I was undercutting my own fees by a substantial margin, reducing my company’s profit and denying local firms employment. In my opinion, it was the correct recommendation. I also made the suggestion, as an alternative, that the commercial space could be purchased as a redundant data center providing failover capability. Ultimately, the client chose a middle ground and retained the commercial space but as rented and not purchased. For me, I saw my responsibility, as an ethical PM, to present all options for the client.
The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.
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