When Dan got to the Oak Room on Friday, Tim was already there, looking over the packet from Wednesday. Dan noticed that the coffee was also made, so he tried a cup. Knowing that Tim was not a coffee drinker, Dan was pleasantly surprised to find that the coffee actually tasted pretty good. "Thanks for the coffee, Tim."
"Well, after being late on Wednesday, I figured I'd better get some brownie points today," Tim said with a grin. "Of course, I had some help."
Dan looked up, surprised, as Marta came into the room with the other coffeepot in her hand. Marta looked at him and smiled slightly as she crossed to the coffee maker. "So did we both get enough points to at least be back at zero, or do we have to make coffee for a month, Dan?"
"I'll need to double-check the figures on my brownie-point chart, but I think you are both well in the positive range." Dan took another sip of coffee. "Of course, another meeting like the last one, and I'll skip the coffee and go straight to the embalming fluid."
Tim and Marta both laughed, and Marta came over and sat down across from Dan. "I'm sorry, Dan. I was feeling both trapped and unsure of myself; trapped into a project that I just didn't think was going to make it, and unsure whether I could keep up technically. I overreacted, and I'm sorry."
"Apology accepted, Marta," Dan paused and then said, "What can we do to help you feel better about RMS?"
Just as she was about to answer, the other three members of the RMS team entered the conference room. Marilou and Bill were arguing. Dan looked at Jane, who wore a knowing smile. "Seems that Development and User Education are already interacting on the users' behalf. I'm glad to see such a highly professional discussion." At that moment Marilou shouted "Web-based!" to which Bill replied, equally loud, "Windows-based!" Jane just shrugged and smiled even more.
"Here, you two, stuff a doughnut in it and sit down," said Dan as he shoved the doughnut box across the table. Marilou, Bill, and Jane took their places, and Dan continued, "Before we hit the agenda, would you two like to tell us what you were arguing about? Marilou?"
Marilou put down her doughnut. "When I realized that I was responsible for representing the users of RMS throughout the process, I decided to talk to a few of them to see what they were thinking. You know, just some of the people I've had in my classes. Well, a number of them are on the road a lot, and they all said they wanted some way to put their time in over the Internet. So I told Bill that we needed RMS to be Web-based."
"And I told her she's nuts," Bill replied, half to Marilou and half to Dan. "It would mean we'd have to build two applications: one for the Web, one for the desktop. We'd have security issues, authentication issues, access issues—it's a development nightmare! I say a Windows app only, and they'll just have to come in on Saturday to fill out their time sheets." He turned back to Dan. "So, which one of us is wrong?" he asked with a smug look.
"You both are." Marilou and Bill looked shocked, and Jane laughed.
"See?" she said, pointing at them both. "I said you were jumping the gun. We don't make final technology decisions until the Planning Phase, isn't that right?"
"You've been reading ahead, Jane," said Dan. He turned to Bill and Marilou. "I'm glad you're uncovering these issues, but Jane's right—it's much too soon to decide on a front-end technology. Doing so will limit our vision." Addressing the group, he continued, "And vision is what we're about today. Let's move to the agenda.
"As you can see, we have a full plate today. Since we cut our meeting short on Wednesday, we didn't draft the vision statement as I had planned. So, under Agenda Building, I'd like to add that as our first item for today. Is that acceptable to everyone?"
The rest of the team nodded and began writing in the new item. "Does anyone else have something to change on the agenda?" Dan asked.
Marta raised her hand. "It doesn't warrant an agenda item, but I would like to take this moment to apologize to the group for my departure Wednesday. It was immature and unprofessional, and I'm sorry I handled it that way."
Smiles and nods came from the members of the team, and Dan said, "Marta and I talked later, and I think we've addressed her concerns about iterative processes. In fact, Marta, the argument that Bill and Marilou were having is a good example of why we do iterative designing. By gradually working through the iterations, we 'home in' on the best solution using real implementations and real test data from our own environment. Basically, we 'circle the drain,' finally getting to an agreeable solution that meets all our needs. Does that make sense to you?"
Marta nodded and then smiled. "And it's my testing work that ensures we don't go down the drain, right?"
"Exactly. That's why we're all glad you're still part of the team." He waited a moment to see if there were any other comments, and then went on. "Alright, let's begin work on the Vision Document." He put a transparency on the projector. "Here are the six parts of the document, which you should already know from your reading. Who is supposed to be driving right now?"
"Jane is," said Tim. "Product Management is the owner of the Envisioning Phase and drives the Vision Document."
"Right, Tim," Dan said, rising from his chair. "So, Ms. Product Management, you get to sit at the head of the table and run the show."
"Jane Clayton, come on down!" said Marilou, as the rest of the team applauded and laughed. Jane laughed, too, but determination was in her eyes. She put some notes in front of her and then looked at the group. "Alright, folks, let's look at this Vision Document. First, what's the problem we're trying to solve?"
Dan nodded approvingly as Jane moved the group through the discussion. "She might not know a lot about software design," he thought, "but she sure knows how to run a meeting."
The group agreed fairly quickly on the problem statement, which centered on replacing the manual time keeping system and improving the process of assigning resources to projects. The vision statement was harder because Bill, Tim, and Marilou wanted to describe the product using specific technologies and products. Finally, Jane turned to Marta. "Can you describe a fundamental goal for the RMS product?"
"Sure. How about this: 'RMS will allow supervisors to assign resources to projects based on the resource's ability and availability, and will allow all users to enter time into a common data store so that analysis, reporting, and billing can be done from that single store.'"
"But that's so generic, so broad!" Bill spluttered.
"That's the point," Jane answered." The Vision Document and all of its parts are supposed to be high-level. We don't get to the specifics until the Planning Phase. As long as we agree that Marta's statement describes what we want RMS to be, we can use that for now. So, do we think her statement describe what we want RMS to be?"
After more discussion, the team agreed that Marta's single sentence did a good job of laying out the goals of RMS, and they adopted it as the vision statement. Jane then jumped to the user profiles. "What about the solution concept?" Bill asked. Jane replied, "Let's move through the user profiles and business goals first, because I think the solution will become clearer if we do." Bill frowned, but nodded, and Jane went on.
"I've prepared some profiles of the potential users of RMS, which I'd like you all to look at. Marilou helped me with them, since she has already taught many of the folks in my area. The rest of you need to tell me if you think these profiles are accurate."
Jane's profiles were short but succinct. Across the top of a table, she had outlined four types of users: Resources, Supervisors, Clerks, and Admin. Then, down the left side of the table, she had listed two subtypes: Mobile and Fixed. In the cells of the table, she had listed the standard computer available to each user type, the average skill level of each type, and each type's basic RMS needs.
"Jane, why is there an NA in the Mobile Clerks cell of the table?" Dan asked.
"Because we don't have clerks working from motels or from home," replied Jane. "And we won't. Those job classifications are not allowed to work off-site."
"Nice work, Jane," said Dan. "We need to keep these ability ratings in mind as we think through the design later." Jane nodded, and proceeded to lead the group in a discussion of possible business goals.
She began by writing $412,000 on the board and asking the group, "Does anyone know what this figure means?" No one spoke until Tim said, "The total of my student loans?" After everyone finished laughing, Jane said, "That may be, but I was thinking of something RMS could help with. It's actually the figure Jim Stewart and I came up with for the savings we would generate by moving to weekly billing."
"That looks like a pretty good business goal to me," said Bill.
"Yes, but what if we don't make that goal? Are there other business goals or business needs that would be met by RMS even if we stay with our current billing cycle? Let's brainstorm for a minute." Jane picked up a marker and wrote on the whiteboard as various members of the team called out ideas. She then led the group through the process of combining some and discarding others, until they had a short list of significant business goals.
"Now," she said, "keeping in mind everything we've done so far—the problem statement, the vision statement, the user profiles, and the business goals—tell me in two or three sentences what your concept of a solution is."
Again she worked at the whiteboard, and again some of the group kept trying to cast the solution in terms of products and technology. Finally Dan intervened. "Look, folks, quit trying to describe something only another developer would understand. Describe it so that someone who thinks "You've got mail!" comes from a cassette tape in the computer can understand it. After that, the business solution statement came together quickly.
"Now," said Jane, "What are our design goals for RMS? What do we think, at this point, it has to fit with, and are there any constraints we want to identify at this time?"
"Well, for starters, we can't add any network capacity to accommodate it," said Tim emphatically. "Why not?" Marilou asked. "Because, we just spent buckets of money last year to move everyone to 100-meg Ethernet and give them Internet access, and I don't want to go to that well again this year! I want to save my asking power for other things next year," Tim replied.
"Along with that," Dan added, "I'd say that RMS has to fit in with our current technologies. We can't change network software or messaging software, for example. I don't think there's enough business value to justify that."
"Well, I've got a selfish goal, "said Bill gruffly. "Y'see, I've got these new code slingers that are just itching to try out some of the new stuff they've been learning. I understand some of it, and it sounds like it might work. So, I guess I'd like us to turn them loose on this design stuff to see if these new distributed application techniques fit the bill like my programmers think they will."
"That's not selfish, Bill," said Dan, "that's just taking care of your folks. Any good manager wants his people to have the opportunity to grow and branch out. The question, of course, is whether these technologies can do the job we need. I think everyone here will leave that up to your judgement, because we know that ultimately you'll do what's right." Everyone agreed, and Bill just nodded his thanks.
"Okay, then," said Jane, "I think we've got a draft Vision Document. I'll type it up and distribute it via e-mail later this morning. Everyone feel free to e-mail me back with any changes you think of, so we can discuss them on Monday." She turned to Dan. "Anything else from me, boss?"
"One other thing, Jane. Be sure you send a copy of the draft over to Jim Stewart for his review. He's coming to our meeting on Monday, and I want him to see the draft before then. Remember, he is the customer for this project, and he has to sign off on the Vision Document as well." Jane nodded and started to move out of the head chair, but Dan motioned for her to stay seated. "Just stay there while we draft the risk assessment document, Jane. You did such a good job leading us through the vision process, I'd like you to facilitate our first look at risks." He slid a manila folder across the table. "Here are the transparencies you need."
Jane looked though the transparencies in the folder until she found the one showing the five-step risk management process. She put it on the projector and said, "Well, it looks to me like the first thing we have to do is identify risks." She erased the whiteboard, picked up a marker, and said, "Who's got a risk to start us off?"
The group brainstormed for a while and then spent some time organizing the list of risks they had come up with. Finally, Dan said, "That's good enough for today. I'll put these into a matrix and send it to you. You'll need to fill in your opinion of probability and impact for each one and come to the meeting Monday prepared to discuss them." He stood up and looked at Jane. "Since we've drafted the vision statement, Jane, it's time to start the conceptual design process. How are you coming on those use cases we discussed?"
Jane pulled out a stack of papers out of her bag. "Looking good," she said. "It wasn't that hard, once you showed me what we needed."
"Excellent." Dan moved to the head of the table and began marking on his copy of the agenda. "Okay, time for Q&A and Path-Forward Assignments. Does anyone have any questions? No? Let's do the assignments, then. Bill, you and your folks are on for Monday. Will you have something to show us by then?"
"Absolutely. Sam and Beth are already working on it, and they've got some good ideas. I'll take the draft Vision Document back to them so they can make sure they're on the right track. They'll have to do some work this weekend, but they understand the schedule we're working on, and they both said they could pull the extra time."
"Remember, Bill, this first prototype doesn't have to be especially high fidelity," Dan cautioned. "Storyboard, flow charts, maybe a drawing of the interface—nothing fancy."
Bill nodded. "I know we said that, but Sam is so quick at Visual Basic, I think he may have some screen shots ready. Beth is already working on a first cut at program flow, so that will probably be ready also."
"Wow, that's great, Bill. More than I had hoped, with such short notice." Dan looked at his notes and continued. "Jane, you're going to make sure the draft Vision Document gets to Jim Stewart for his review before Monday. I'm going to send out the risks matrix, and each of you is going to fill in your own opinion of the probability and impact for each one. Jane's going to send each of you the draft Vision Document for you to review and edit over the weekend. You'll e-mail both your risk work and your edits of the Vision Document to me by Sunday at 6:00 P.M.
"On Monday morning, we're going to see the first prototypes, try to wrap up the risk assessment, finalize the Vision Document, and meet with our customer, Jim Stewart, to see how he feels about where we're going with the project. Is that it, everyone?"
"Who's bringing the coffee and munchies?" Tim asked, as he finished off the last doughnut.
"I guess it's my turn," Bill growled. "I sure wouldn't want you to waste away, Tim." He punched Tim lightly in the stomach, and Tim fell across the table, as if mortally injured. While everyone was laughing, Jane said, "Forget it, Bill—you've got enough to do this weekend. I'll bring the goods on Monday. Besides, the last time you made the coffee it tasted like something you'd find on a ship."
"Yeah, in the bilge!" yelled Tim, as he ran from the room with the Chief in hot pursuit. Marilou turned to Jane and Marta. "Come, girls, let us leave these boys to their childish pursuits," she said, wryly.
Dan smiled to himself. "Certainly is nice when meetings are both productive and pleasant," he thought as he gathered up his things. "Of course, sometimes the best work comes out of conflict." He turned out the lights and went to his office, already looking forward to the meeting on Monday.