Staggering toward the project goal

I’m working on a collection of patterns for early releases with Niklas Bjørnerstedt. Here are some of my thoughts based on this work.

In a few different projects, I’ve noticed that the idea of “where are we going” seems to go though a familiar pattern:

  1. “The old system is the requirement document, just make the new one do the same things”. After a while, someone will realize that it’s rather pointless to replace a system with a new one that does the same thing, which leads to…
  2. “Analyze the business processes and make the new system automate all decisions that a human used to make.” After a while, people start realizing that business rules are interpreted slightly different by different users and finding a consensus approach is hard. Besides, some of the decisions require human judgment. On top of this, progress towards implementing the business processes is much slower than expected. As a matter of fact, people are panicking as the project gets increasingly delayed, which leads to…
  3. “Just do whatever the old system did, with whatever improvements are dead easy. Just get this damned thing out the door.” Even reducing the scope to just the “bare bones of the current system with minimal improvements” doesn’t seem to give sufficient progress. Or sufficient value to justify the project. So, finally, we arrive at…
  4. “Can we just add a new piece of software that makes an existing business process easier. And repeat until the budget is spent.”

The sad conclusion is that the original goal of replacing the old system begins to appear further into the future. At the same time, the new system will realize some value to some stakeholder pretty soon thereafter. Maybe the first step towards a successful replacement project is giving up replacing the old system?

The good news is that with an iterative approach to the requirement process, my current project was able to go through all these steps in a couple of months. Which beats my previous record of a year of full burn rate in stage 1.

Copyright © 2009 Johannes Brodwall. All Rights Reserved.

About Johannes Brodwall

Johannes is Principal Software Engineer in SopraSteria. In his spare time he likes to coach teams and developers on better coding, collaboration, planning and product understanding.
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