What is a sensitive project and how do you manage it?

What is a sensitive project and how do you manage it?

Posted by David Galiana, on Wednesday 20 April 2022, updated on Tuesday 12 July 2022
Any project manager has to manage one or more sensitive projects at some point in his career. Managing such a project can be a real challenge, and it is better to be well prepared to guarantee its success.

Find out what qualifies as a sensitive project as well as some tips to ensure its smooth running and success.

What is a sensitive project?

Larousse gives two acceptable definitions of the word “sensitive” in the context of project management:

  • that one must treat it with particular attention and vigilance;
  • which is subject to enhanced surveillance for security reasons.

A sensitive project is therefore either a project which must remain confidential, or a project concerning a delicate subject, which provokes tension or has important political or strategic issues, for example.

There are essentially two categories of sensitive projects:

  • Sensitive internal projects: they concern the company’s internal strategy and directly impact the company’s employees, such as the relocation of a part or whole of the company, the switch to a new IT system, staff reduction following a social plan etc.
  • Externally sensitive projects: this type of project is mainly related to a company’s external strategy, its market position compared to its competition, its reputation. For example, an M&A, the launch of a new product, a radical change in strategy, the treatment of toxic waste, etc.

Often, a sensitive project will trigger a restructuring of the company, a change in its mission, which will have more or less important consequences on the entirety of the internal organization, as well as the external. Hence the need to manage this type of project with the utmost care and to do everything to ensure they remain confidential to avoid information leaks, rumours, overreactions from staff, tainting the company’s image, etc.

Note that the human factor is very often the main cause of failure for this type of project. For example, employees who vigorously oppose your project risk delaying it, and even jeopardizing it.

A sensitive project combines relational difficulties with technical complexities. It creates an irrational environment in which the project leader isn’t accustomed, and which makes him lose his bearings. He is then more likely to make mistakes.

How do you manage a sensitive project?

You don’t manage a sensitive project in the same was you manage a more traditional project. Managing a sensitive project can be a real challenge for the uninitiated.

Here are 5 tips to help you effectively manage your most sensitive projects.

1. A trusted team

If you’ve just been assigned a sensitive project, start by carefully selecting the members of your team. To maintain the confidentiality of the project, only a small number of people need to be involved. Your colleagues should be trustworthy and have particular skills such as discretion, diplomacy, perseverance, etc.

2. Careful yet essential communication

Of course, a sensitive project essentially requires maintain the confidentiality of the information processed to a small group of people. However, communication is essential to the success of every project.

The members of your team should communicate regularly with each other to maintain effective collaboration, but also with the various stakeholders to keep them informed of the project’s progression.

If the project directly affects employees, avoid surprises and not involving employees as you risk seeing your project delayed or even cancelled.

Even if, over time, certain data lose their confidentiality, you must remain attentive to the information that you disclose to avoid compromising the smooth running of the project and its success.

To make things easier for you, assign a person responsible for communication with stakeholders and/or other audiences.

3. Fool proof confidentiality

They key to the success of a sensitive project lies in the confidentiality of its data. Your team should fully understand the critical issues of maintaining the security and confidentiality of key project information. What information can you share? Conversely, which one should you keep secret?

The members of your team working daily with confidential data must use a structured methodology to store, share, update, or even destroy securely processed data and thus avoid information leaks.

4. Secured tools

How can you guarantee the confidentiality of information if the tools you use don’t make it their priority? You must therefore work with secured tools and software to manage your sensitive projects.

For example, Wimi Armoured is a highly secured collaborative platform which guarantees security, confidentiality and sovereignty of your project’s data.

This collaborative solution offers you all the features essential for efficient management of your projects (instant messaging system, Gantt chant, calendar, etc.), while offering end-to-end encryption, a reinforced authentication system and a hosting of your data in mainland France.

5. Knowledge of risk management

Even with the greatest precautions, zero risk doesn’t exist. To anticipate potential risks, mitigate them, even prevent them altogether, or where applicable, prepare yourself to tackle them head on and deal with them effectively, you must put risk management in place from the outset of your project.

For efficient risk management, follow these different steps:

  • identify the risks;
  • evaluate and prioritize them;
  • estimate the probability that they arise;
  • evaluate their impacts on the project;
  • define an action plan to eliminate the risks or limit their impacts;
  • determine indicators to monitor and control risks.

To summarise:

Due to its delicate and confidential nature, a sensitive project requires attention, a skilled team, carefully balanced communication, unwavering confidentiality, adapted and secured tools, and an effective risk management.

Now you know how to manage your sensitive projects! It’s your turn!

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