Monday, August 08, 2005

Deadlines: drop dead

.. at least they should!

We have set sail together months ago. Seems closer to a lifetime. We knew that the deadline that was set would prove to be impossible to make. There was simply too much to do and explore. But still, we started off and went to our business with an unexpected eager and feel of honor.

So where does the journey leads us to?

Well, as members of the e-business department of an insurance company, we have been given the rewarding task of completely rebuilding the dated current version of the company website. A website that has grown in an natural process: adding bits and pieces every now and then and using better coding along the way. The site nowadays serves its purpose, but is almost impossible to maintain due to its lack of any structure.

So, after the decision was made that we need something new, the decision to build a new structure for the site was pretty obvious. We should also move from old ASP to the newer ASP.NET and we should therefore start working completely Object Oriented. And why not adapt to a new way of working in the same process? (The current "build it and then let me have a look and I will tell you what the functionality should be"-approach was a big PITA for the developers.)

And while we are changing everything, let's bring in a new Content Management System, which we are one of the first in our country to use the way we want it.

And let's all together change our hardware set up for production. We have grown bigger and we need load balancing and lot's of servers in different locations.

Hmmm, I have read a book about this.

We are doing everything wrong here:

  • No project management methodology
  • A very big scope
  • New stuff for the developers (.NET and OO is new or relatively new for the most of us)
  • A completely new framework for the website
  • A new CMS (we are one of the first in our country to use it like we intend to do)
  • New production hardware with load balancing and more magic gadgets
  • New development methodology: we are supposed to use RUP and yes some of us do.
  • Functional designers who only have had training as text and copy writers, so they produce long documents with loads of words and absolutely no diagrams.
  • Probably even more ...

The original deadline was a shot in the dark, not based on the work that had to be done. Someone said a date and others nodded and then it was the Holy Date from then on. And it is still hanging over us. Ready to drop. Soon it will.

Right now our department is decimated because of very long vacations (three or four weeks is normal). Still not all functionality has been defined. All the functional designers are out. (Who cares anyway?) Our architect is out for another two weeks. We are struggling to get our production environment up and running without processors hitting 80% all the time. Soon the new health insurance system will be all over us, before we have really solved all the problems we have now.

Meanwhile, management is not showing any panic (they must have had some very good training for that or are just still optimistic for no apparent reason).

And the Holy Date still stands.

Do we panic? No.

But for some stupid reason we care. I care. I try as an idiot to achieve my unachievable goals and get the stuff ready that has been assigned to me. Most of it self assigned. I try hard and find that it has influence on my private life. That is wrong, so wrong.

I have been down this road before and maybe I just should park my car and shout in the dark.