Monday morning dawned clear and early—too early for Dan, who had just gotten to sleep, it seemed, when the alarm went off. "At least I've got everything ready so I can just grab it and go," he thought as he stumbled toward the shower.
Forty-five minutes later he pulled into the parking garage, grabbed his bag, and headed for his office. A sudden growl from his stomach reminded him he hadn't eaten yet. "I sure hope Jane remembers the food," he thought as he picked up the packets of material he had run off the night before and headed for the Oak Room.
Ahead of him he saw Bill and two younger workers heading for the conference room, one with a laptop under his arm, and all three engaged in an intense discussion. Dan heard references to "COM" and "Visual Modeler" and realized that the people with Bill were Sam and Beth, the two programmers working on the prototype.
Dan quickened his pace so he could catch up, and asked, "So, guys, you got something good for us today?" Sam and Beth both nodded and smiled, and then looked at Bill. "Absolutely! Dan, these two are wonders when it comes to this stuff. I'm amazed at what they've been able to do since last Wednesday." Bill shook his head ruefully and said, "I dunno, Dan. Looks like us old COBOL cowboys are getting left behind."
"Don't let him kid you, Mr. Shelly," Sam said as they turned into the conference room. "He was right there with us, turning out screens and cleaning up our work as we went along. In fact, when Beth showed him the program flow chart, he made some really good suggestions. He knows his databases, that's for sure."
"I already told you, Sam, no money left for raises this year, so quit your brown-nosing," Bill growled. Dan could tell, though, that he was pleased at the compliments from this hotshot programmer.
Grabbing a doughnut and coffee as he moved to the front of the room, Dan offered a silent prayer of thanks for Jane's memory. He piled the packets of new material on the credenza, put the meeting's agenda on the projector, and then turned to the group. "Good morning, all."
As the murmurs of "G'morning" died down, Marilou added, "My, we're chipper this morning!"
Dan smiled. "All an act, Marilou. I'm actually just running on nervous energy and excitement." He looked over the agenda. "Is everybody ready to begin?"
"Hey, where's Mr. Stewart?" Tim asked. "I thought he was joining us."
"He's coming later, Tim," Dan said as he handed out the packets he had prepared the night before. "I thought we could knock out the risk assessment fairly quickly, so I asked him to join us around 8:45." Dan replaced the agenda with another transparency.
"I appreciate all of the hard work you people did on the risk matrix I sent you. The opinions of probability and impact were surprisingly similar across the group. I've averaged them, calculated the exposure, and ranked them. Let's take a look and see if we agree with the group wisdom."
As Dan had expected, "scope creep" was a clear choice for the project's primary risk. Because of the tight schedule, missing the ship date was next. Tim argued strongly that the team needed to consider the project's impact to the network and that concern wound up as the third biggest risk. The risk of exposure ratings dropped substantially, and the remaining seven risks were ranked by only one or two team members.
The group worked through each of the risks, building mitigation plans, contingency plans, and contingency triggers. In most cases, assessing the risks required no further research. When Bill and Tim began to argue about the impact RMS might have on the network, however, the group decided that Tim should do further research on the risk of network saturation before they could adequately address the issue.
They were just wrapping up the risk assessment when Jim Stewart came into the conference room. "Welcome, Mr. CFO!" said Dan. "Pull up a doughnut and have a chair—there's plenty of both to go around."
Jim sat across from Dan and ignored Dan's offer. "I hope I'm on time," he said in a somewhat brisk manner. Something in his tone made Dan eye him closely but he could read nothing on the man's face. Dan thought to himself, "Get a grip! Quit projecting your own exhaustion onto others." He retrieved the doughnut box, moved it to the credenza, and looked squarely at Jim. "You're right on time, as usual. We were just wrapping up the risk assessment document, and we're ready to go through the draft Vision Document with you. I hope you got a copy?" He looked at Jane, and she nodded.
"Yes, I received a copy," Jim replied. He took off his glasses and wiped them slowly. Dan had seen him do this before in management meetings, and it always bode ill for whomever was in the line of fire.
"Yes, I received a copy," Jim repeated. By now, everyone on the project team had picked up the tone in Jim's voice, and they were all looking at him, wondering what it meant. "I have my copy right here, and it seems somewhat incomplete, I must say."
"Here it comes," thought Dan. "Incomplete in what way, Jim?" he asked.
Jim began thumbing through the document. "I see the vision statement, and the user profiles, and the rest. All very interesting. Especially the proposed solution." He put the document back on the table and looked directly at Dan. "I don't see anything in the solution about project management. Not a word. Why are we going to all this trouble, reinventing the entire time and billing system, if we don't give our supervisors a better way to manage projects and control costs?" By this time, he was jabbing his glasses in Dan's direction.
Trying to keep his voice level, Dan answered, "What did you have in mind, Jim? This is a draft document, after all. We asked you here to get your input and feedback, and that's what we want. So, tell us how you think project management should be included in RMS."
"Why, it's as plain as the nose on your face," replied Jim heatedly. He stood up and began pacing as he talked. "We've got projects that go over budget all the time. We have to eat thousands of dollars on some of them because they are fixed-bid projects. Because of the way we do time tracking, most of the project managers complain that they can't get good data on how much time has been spent and how much is left. Before they even realize it, they are over the allotted hours on part of the project, or even on the entire project.
"Now here you are, proposing to put all the time data into a central data store. You've written this nice Vision Document, but there's not one word about giving the project managers a tool to track time by project. How hard can that be? As the person who is authorizing the budget for this, I demand that you add it to the project!"
At that, Bill jumped up and shouted, "That's a load of bull, Jim! Where do you get off coming in here and throwing your weight around! Here we are, busting our tails to get this app out the door in two months—two months!—and you've got the nerve to ask for more! I don't know why your precious project managers can't track project time manually, just like we do. We can manage our projects in IT just fine, thank you, without any extra tools."
Jim glared at Bill. "Yes, I've seen how well you manage development projects, Bill. Just how late were you last time—six months, I believe?"
Bill's face turned red, but before he could say anything else, Dan slammed his hand on the table. "That's enough! Sit down, Bill, and shut up before you say something we'll all regret. And Jim, it's not fair to throw that project back in Bill's face, because it suffered from the very thing we're trying to avoid with this project."
Dan moved to the head of the table and put the risk matrix back on the overhead projector for everyone to see. "Jim, we were working on this before you got here. I want you to look at it for a moment while I explain what happened to the project time-tracking feature."
Dan pointed at the first row of the matrix. "These are risks we've identified for this project. What is the absolute number one risk we identified?"
Jim squinted at the screen and then remembered to put his glasses back on. Reading the first item, he recited, "Scope creep. Sounds like a horror movie disease."
"It is, Jim, it is," said Dan. "Scope creep wrecks more project plans than almost any other risk. It happens when well-meaning customers insist on adding features to the scope of the project, without adjusting anything else." Dan turned to Jane. "Jane, did we identify tracking time by project as a potential feature for RMS?"
"Absolutely, Dan," replied Jane. "In fact, a number of users mentioned it while I was working on the use cases. So we discussed it in our last meeting."
"And what happened to it?" Dan asked, glancing at Jim to see his reaction to her response.
"We decided to delay it until Version 2."
"But why?" Jim exclaimed. "What Version 2? Why not put it in the program this time?"
"Because of the tradeoff triangle," replied Marilou, moving to the whiteboard. She drew the triangle on the board and explained to Jim the relationship of resources, features, and schedule. "So you see, we decided that the only way to include this feature was to slip the ship date, and we don't want to do that. We want to get this version of RMS out on time so that our users will begin to trust our word. Even though the project management feature is important, we didn't feel it was a core feature of the product, so we decided to hold it until Version 2."
"And how do I know there will be a Version 2?" asked Jim, skeptically. "Promises are cheap, but they're sometimes hard to keep."
"You'll know there will be a Version 2 when we deliver Version 1 on time," said Dan, "because you'll see that we keep our word. We'll start on Version 2 immediately after we deliver Version 1 and we'll follow the same process we did for the first version."
Jim thought about all this for a moment and then said, "Dan, you came to us with high recommendations from the law firm. One thing they noted was that almost all of your projects came in on time and on spec." He paused, looked at Bill, then continued. "No offense meant this time, Bill, but I've never seen our development staff deliver either on time or on spec, much less both at once. I guess I'm just skeptical. If you and Dan and all the rest of you can deliver what's in this document within the time frame you've outlined, then I can wait for Version 2 for my project management feature."
The room fell silent for moment, until Tim looked at Dan and said, "So, did we mitigate that risk, or just avoid it?" Everyone froze and looked at Jim, wondering how he would take Tim's comment. Jim stared at Tim for moment, then started laughing, and everyone relaxed.
Jim turned to Bill. "I'm sorry I came on like that. I guess I think I can make software happen just by fiat." He stuck out his hand, and after a pause, Bill slowly took it.
"Yeah, I guess I sorta lost my cool, too. Sorry."
"I hope," said Dan, "that in about seven weeks, you'll both can shake hands again. That will mean we delivered Version 1 on time, and we can all start work on Version 2 with Jim's feature added. To get there, though, we've got to get going on the rest of today's agenda, so let's move forward."
The team worked through the draft Vision Document, making some minor changes, but basically keeping it intact. When they finished, Dan said, "Alright, Bill, show time! Are you guys ready to give us a glimpse of the RMS of the future?"
"Sure," Bill said, as Sam and Beth moved into position. Beth put her flowchart on the easel at the head of the table, while Sam set up a monitor at the other end. "First, we're going to look at Beth's chart of the data flow and program flow for the application. Then, we'll see what Sam's done with the major screens for RMS and get your feedback."
Working through the flowchart didn't take much time at all, as RMS was a fairly simple application. When Sam turned on his monitor and navigated through several well laid out screens. Marilou whistled. "Wow, Sam, you got this done since last Wednesday?"
"Actually, after Bill brought us the draft Vision Document, I didn't like what we had, so I redid most of it over the weekend," Sam replied. He minimized the Visual Basic application that contained the screens. "Watch this."
Sam started up the browser on his laptop, loaded a file from his local hard drive, and suddenly they were looking at a time-entry table inside the browser. "I thought you might like to see what a Web-based client might look like," he said, grinning.
"How'd you get that laid out so quickly, Sam? That's pretty good work." Dan looked at the various tables and links, obviously impressed. "Why, it even looks like the spreadsheet I've seen some of our folks using to calculate their time."
"That's because it's based on that spreadsheet. With Office being so HTML-capable, I simply did a spreadsheet the way I wanted it, saved it as HTML, and then tweaked it a little bit. Didn't take very long at all."
"Yes, but making it actually do something would take a lot longer," said Bill, frowning. "Don't go getting any ideas about your Web-based client, Marilou."
Marilou just grinned. "I'll just save this little demonstration till the Planning Phase, when we get to arm-wrestle over which client to build."
The team took some time to examine each screen in detail, affirming some and making suggestions about others. Sam and Beth both took notes, and Sam promised that the final prototype would be ready by Wednesday's meeting.
Finally, Dan said, "I think we've covered it as well as we need to. Good work, Beth and Sam. I think we've all got a much better feel for what RMS could be." He looked at his watch—almost 10:00 A.M. Time to wrap it up. "Does anyone have any questions? No? Okay, here's the plan for Wednesday.
"Wednesday is our final Envisioning Phase meeting. We'll finalize our Vision Document and our risk assessment document, and look at the revised prototype. By then I'll have finished the project structure document, which is basically a background document about the project and the team. Finally, we'll make a go/no-go decision at that meeting." He picked up one of the thick packets he had passed out earlier. "In here is your reading material for Wednesday. This is the outline of the Planning Phase, including information about the MSF Design Process. It's a lot, I know, but you need to read it between now and Wednesday morning. Once we finish Envisioning, we want to be ready to move right into Planning and start mapping out the design. Everyone understand?" The team nodded, and everyone rose from the table and began to pack up.
As they did so, Tim turned to Jim with the box of doughnuts. "Ready for one of these now?" Jim looked first at the box and then at Tim. Laughing, he took one, and they walked out together, confectioner's sugar dusting the floor as they went.