Case Study 6 -- Planning RMS

"Alright, everyone, confession time. Did you read the material for today?"

Dan was standing at the head of the conference table, sipping a cup of coffee. He had just put a transparency on the overhead projector showing the MSF Development Process Model, with the Planning Phase highlighted. The first meeting of the Planning Phase had started about fifteen minutes earlier, and the team had already worked through Agenda Building and a review of the Envisioning Phase.

After a moment of silence, Tim piped up, "I cannot tell a lie, Dan. I didn't touch it. We had that server go down, and that virus problem in Cleveland, and I just didn't get to it."

Jane grinned at him. "What, you didn't pull one of your patented all-nighters to be ready for today?"

"I could have, but I figured putting all that info in my head wouldn't do any good if my head was on the table all through the meeting."

After the chuckles died down, Marta broke in timidly, "Well, I read all of it, but it was slow going. Frankly, I didn't understand most of it." Across the table, Jane nodded in agreement.

"That's understandable, Marta," said Dan. "After all, application development isn't your area of expertise, nor is it Jane's, or even Tim's. That's why we're going to review some of the information as we go along." He turned to Bill. "On the other hand, Bill, development is your area, so it should have been an easier read for you. Were you able to get through it?"

"Scanned the whole thing Wednesday night," said Bill gruffly, opening his project notebook. "It looks to me like a lot of make-work. Putting out reams of paperwork doesn't make a program appear out of thin air. And another thing: I grant you that RMS is important, but it's not really big as applications go. Why are we doing all this planning work when we could just cut to the chase and crank the thing out?"

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Before Dan could respond, Marilou jumped in. "Oh, you're just grumpy because you're planning on taking off early today, and you're afraid all this planning work is going to cut down on your fishing time." Bill asked how she knew he was leaving early. "Because when I pulled into the parking garage," Marilou answered, "There was your big blue truck with a fishing boat taking up five parking spaces!"

Everyone laughed except Bill, who looked sheepish. Tim leaned over and said, "She got you again, old man."

"That's OK, Bill. If we work hard, we should play hard too." Dan said, "I've seen your car here before mine most mornings, and after mine most evenings. When we get done here, go catch a few for me." He walked to the whiteboard. "Bill has raised some important questions, though, and I think we ought to consider them for a moment before we look at the planning materials." As he drew the MSF Development Process Model on the board, he said, "Bill's right—we could skip some of the MSF work and probably get the RMS application out the door sooner. So why am I insisting we do this project 'by the book'? Because we have some much bigger projects in the pipeline, ones that absolutely require a framework like MSF. I don't want to introduce MSF on one of those because of the risk of failure. I want a high-profile, quick-hit win for MSF so that everyone understands its value and buys into it as the way Ferguson and Bardell does development. This project fits that bill perfectly. So even though it may be overkill, we're going to walk the MSF process step by step, both to learn it ourselves and to sell it to the rest of the organization."

"Like Jim Stewart?" asked Tim, devouring a doughnut.

"Like Jim, and Bill's development team, and the head of engineering, and any number of other people who are watching this project closely. They know what we've promised, and they are watching to see if we make it. I want them to know that they can make a request of the IT department and get a response in a reasonable amount of time. I also want them to understand, through their interactions with Jane, Marilou, and Marta, just what a reasonable time frame truly is. I want this project to have some ROI other than the benefits of the project itself."

Dan turned back to the board and drew a triangle beside the model diagram. "There's another reason we're going to do this exactly by the book, and that is its impact on Ferguson and Bardell's enterprise architecture." He wrote EA inside the triangle and drew a looping arrow between the triangle and the model. "The work we do for this project is based in part on our enterprise architecture. In the end, though, the architecture will be changed by our work. So, the two are interactive in an ongoing, dynamic way." He wrote the word documentation on top of the arrow and turned to Bill. "That's one of the reasons for the paper work. The artifacts we produce during the RMS project will be incorporated into the documentation of our EA."

"I've been hearing about EA," said Marilou. "Someone was saying that that smart-aleck Kevin Kennedy was working on a project to create our enterprise architecture. As if his ego needed any boosting."

Ignoring the personal commentary, Dan replied, "The rumor mill has it only partly right, Marilou. You don't create an enterprise architecture, because it already exists on its own. What Kevin and the others on that team are doing is documenting our existing EA and planning the next revision of it. The RMS project is related to their planning, and they will incorporate the output of our Planning Phase into their work. In addition, we will be coordinating with them later in the process."

Dan moved back to the table and sat down. "There are two keys to not getting bogged down in planning and documentation in MSF. The first is balance. You want to cover all the bases at a level of detail that is appropriate to the scope and importance of the project. The bigger or more important the project, the more planning and documentation you need to do.

"The second key is scheduling. At the beginning, we put together a tentative project schedule showing when we wanted to hit certain major milestones. By keeping our eyes on those deadlines, we keep ourselves from spending too much time on one step. We have to keep moving to hit those deadlines." Dan paused, then asked, "Is everyone OK with this? Do you understand why we have to do all the pieces of the Planning Phase?"

"Makes me feel like the neurotic in the old joke," said Jane. Seeing Dan's puzzlement, she continued, "My husband's a therapist, and he once asked me if I knew the difference between a psychotic and a neurotic. When I said 'No,' he told me that the psychotic says, 'Two plus two is five.' The neurotic says, 'Two plus two is four, but I don't like it!'" After the chuckles died down, Jane continued, "I'm like that neurotic. I understand why we have to do it, but I don't like it. It looks like a lot of work."

"It is, Jane," said Dan with a nod. "The Planning Phase is detailed, sometimes tedious work. It is also the key to the success of the project. The quality of the planning work we do directly affects the quality of the application we deliver."

"And the sooner we get going, the sooner my folks can start building that application," said Bill with a hint of impatience. "We're all convinced, Dan, even me. I'd rather be coding, but I see the need. So let's move to the next agenda item."

"Good idea, Bill," said Dan. They all refocused their attention as he changed the transparency. "Let's take a look, then, at what we've got in front of us."

Microsoft Corporation - Analyzing Requirements and Defining Solutions Architecture. MCSD Training Kit
Microsoft Corporation - Analyzing Requirements and Defining Solutions Architecture. MCSD Training Kit
Year: 1999
Pages: 182 © 2008-2017.
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