Monday, May 29, 2006

Project timeline

.. I have never experienced one like this

The insurance company I work for is on the brink of launching it new improved website. I was involved in developing the site in particular the XHTML and CSS are largely my work and I also did some of the C# coding. The bulk of the framework was created by our architect in such a way that developing parts of the website was a breeze.

Now we are about to finish this long running project I can do some reflection (our architects has done enough of that already).

Normally

In a normal world in a normal IT project towards the end of it you will find people working hard making long hours and run around trying to get the highly necessary features in before the deadline. In a normal world this is what makes up the last couple of weeks of the project life cycle. It's part of the fun. It's the final blast before we can open up some bottles and admire the product we created. Then after three seconds of leisure it's onwards to a new challenge.

In a normal world in a normal IT project towards the end of it you will find people working hard making long hours and run around trying to get the highly necessary features in before the deadline.

Note, in a normal world this would be the case.

Are you normal?

Since there are hardly any normal companies or even IT departments a project never really runs as planned.

Our website project never ran as planned, since we never were really sure it was planned. Perhaps someone had the master plan, but he kept it a secret in a very dedicated way. So, in a sense it is possible that everything went according to plan. Hmm, that is a discomforting idea.

So, we are not normal, over here. I knew that, but it is just a confirmation. People who work in projects enjoy confirmation. The need it, constantly. Projects are usually riddled with exceptions and issues and conflicts and a constant factor in a project forms a stable basis for happy, hard working project members.

People who work in projects enjoy confirmation.
Constant factors of projects
Projects are always late
This is something we have successfully achieved. Originally we would go-live on 13 September (luckily no year was mentioned, so we could be several months early). 1309 will always be some special for us.
Scope creep always happens
Yep, been there done that. On the one hand we squeezed in some Flash bits late in the project, on the other hand a wrapper and caching services were created because the CMS could not perform as we would have wanted.
Planning is usually infuenced by something trivial
Well, the content of a website is not something I would call trivial but that was how it was treated in the planning. It turned out that this was what was worked on until the last minute. In fact it is being worked on as I type this and my guess is they will still be doing this after the launch.

So, this makes the project quite normal.

What is worrying me

The thing that is worrying me is that in a the great many projects I have been involved in at different companies in different roles is that there always was the constant factor of the "almost-finished-rush" just before the final milestone of a project. You would find to be converting data, making final changes since the production environment was completely different from what it was designed for or you would find yourself moving boxes or telephones or other heavy stuff.

In this project I am becoming completely disoriented. In the last five to six weeks I have solved maybe seven bugs found by our testers and seven bugs found by myself or the other developers.

I miss that rush. That rush usually prevents you from thinking straight. You have to press on to solve issues and meet the deadline and you hardly have time to think about how to solve them.

Now that rush is absent we have time to go over and over the website and we spot many small issues and also bigger ones. Pages that hardly contain any content and things like that. But still, at most annoying for a visitor but it will not cause errors.