This blog post presents a preliminary version of this chapter of the collaborative Agile BI book. You can access the various sections currently available and you may register to join this collaborative effort to start contributing. I also invite you to comment this content at the bottom of the blog post.
CHAPTER 2 – DEALING WITH THE PROBLEMS
Alessia had woken up early that morning, her head still ringing from the meeting she had the previous day. She decided to work out before going to the office allowing herself some time to put together a plan of action before getting to the office.
On her way in, she stopped by her Director of Project Management’s desk. “Good morning Scott, how are you today?”.
“Pretty good” replied Scott. “Mathew scored 2 goals last night. It was a pretty good game”, boasted Scott.
“You must be proud of your son. Only 11 years-old and potential material for the National league”, added Alessia.
“Scott, would you be available at 10 am this morning?. We need to have a team meeting” said Alessia.
“Sure, my schedule is open this morning. I’ll come to your office”, said Scott.
“Great. See you then”, replied Alessia as she walked away toward the Director of Architecture’s office. Alessia poked her head in the office but Christopher wasn’t in yet. Alessia continued walking toward her desk deciding to leave a voice-mail to her team instead.
As she plugged in her laptop, she dialed her voice-mail and after selecting the options to leave a message to a group she described the purpose of the voice-mail for her team. “Good morning everyone. We need to meet at 10 am in my office this morning. As you all know, yesterday was our management committee meeting and things aren’t looking good so I need all of you to attend. See you all at 10.”, she hung up and walked toward the coffee machine to get a coffee.
A few minutes before 10 am, Nicolas, the Director of Software Development walked in. “Good morning boss” he said jokingly.
“Good morning Nicolas. Have a seat”, replied Alessia. As Nicolas was walking toward a chair, Scott walked in.
“Good morning Nicolas” he said. The 3 of them started chatting about various topics when Christopher walked in around 10:10. “What’s going on this morning? Another rough meeting yesterday?”, he asked as he walked toward a chair.
“We looked pretty bad at the meeting yesterday”, said Alessia. “I’ll spare you the details but our team looks totally dis-organized. I know you guys are working hard and so are your teams but we need to do things differently”, continued Alessia.
“Well, they cut our headcount. What do they expect”, said Nicolas.
“Guys, I’m not blaming anyone here so please don’t get defensive. There are a few things we need to address and I need you guys to think outside the box. We are not talking about adjustments here, I believe we need something bigger.”, said Alessia has she walked toward her whiteboard.
The team stayed quiet while she turned the withe board around on its wheels. The board presented a list of items with the following title: Summary of the post-mortem from our BI projects.
The project team constantly misses deadlines
Most of the releases exceed their budget
The project team do not deliver on the requirements
The end users don’t know what they want
The requirements keep changing and that constantly impacts the project plan
The project team develops software reports and key performace indicators that don’t seem to have any business value
The business users are not satisfied
The project team usually finds problems very late in the development process
The project team does not have the right skills
The project team is tired, nobody is having fun and we are losing good people
I need to wait a long time before the project team gets me the information I need
We need to cut costs
The project team delivers poor quality software
The team looked at the board and remained quiet until Alessia spoke.
“Do these comments look familiar to you? asked Alessia. “I put down on the board the recurring issues I found in the post-mortem documents. I also took the liberty to add a few I have been hearing recently”.
“As you can see, we have many issues to deal with so we need a coherent plan of attack”, said Alessia.
After a few seconds Christopher spoke first, “A few years ago we had started rolling out the development process that … the consultants, I forget their name had developped for us. I remember we spent a lot of money but didn’t fully roll out the process”.
As the Director of Architecture, Christopher had been with the company for over 15 years. He started out as a developer and gradually moved up the ranks. Over the years, he had developed a good understanding of the business and was well recognized for his wall paper. People often teased him about what they called wall paper but was actually large data models covering most of the walls in his office, except for the window.
“It was Cooper & Staton, the well respected technology consultants who worked with our team to develop a detailed development process.”, replied Scott.
“Yes, that’s it. We implemented the architecture processes, some of the requirements gathering steps and the move to production activities but never fully rolled out the development steps”, added Christopher.
“And everyone on my team pursued their PMI certification as a result of their recommendations”, said Scott.
Alessia interrrupted, “I’m not discarding the suggestion but we need to see if this will address most of the issues on the board and as I see it, it would only cover the development process”.
“Looking at this list, it looks like we aren’t doing anything right”, said Nicolas.
“That’s not true”, replied Scott. “Jordan’s project has been doing very weel”.
Indeed, Jordan was the project manager for an e-commerce project that would allow customers to customize their clothes and purchase them online.
“Yes, you’re right Scott. Jordan’s team has been delivering on target and I spoke to Catherine yesterday. The marketing team assigned to the project really likes working with Jordan and his team” said Nicolas.
“OK, not everything is bad but that doesn’t solve our bigger problem. How do we address the items on the board?” asked Alessia.
“Jordan’s team has been using a different development approach for their project after we sent him on the Scrum Master training last Fall” said Scott.
“You’re not implying we follow their weird ritual for our BI project, are you Scott”, asked Christopher.
“It’s true that he doesn’t quite fit the traditional profile of a project manager but I think it might be worth seeing if you can adapt some of the things they do to the BI project” replied Scott.
“Can you trust a guy who wears flip flop to the office?” asked Christopher. “It’s not only Jordan, it’s the entire team. These guys have stand up meeting. You should see how they look standing around the table in the conference room.”
“What are you talking about Christopher?” asked Alessia
Christopher was about to answer but Scott took over wanting to preserve the good reputation of his project manager.
“Christopher is referring to their daily meeting but I don’t think this is the most critical part of my point. All I’m saying is that we may want to share some of the issues we have on the board with Jordan and see if he can think of anything that would be useful to address some of the issues”, said Scott.
“Scott, don’t get me wrong. I respect you. You are a good manager but this isn’t your best idea. Do you know these guys don’t even do documentation for their project? One of my architect told me that team doesn’t even use Microsoft Project…”, Christopher stopped for effect and after a few seconds continued “… no project plan. Do you see how absurd this is? We would ask the only project manager without project plans to provide recommendations on our BI problem. He doesn’t even know what BI is all about”.
The phone rang and Alessia read the call display. “Sorry guys, I need to get this one…” said Alessia. “Hi Dan…. Yes, I’m currently talking to my team about that…” added Alessia as she signaled her reports to leave the room.
“Just a second, Dan” she said on the phone. “Guys, we’ll continue this meeting later this afternoon” said Alessia as the directors got up and left her office.
A few hours passed after the meeting with her direct report and the morning was passing by quickly with additional issues pilling up on her desk. Alessia had temporarily forgotten about the early morning team meeting. She looked outside and decided to get a coffee. She hadn’t even had the chance to finish her first cup of coffee and she felt that now would be a good time to get a warm coffee.
Sh walked over the coffee room next to the photocopier room. She could hear some people talking in the next room while making photocopies. She walked toward the coffee machine and noticed a message on the machine she had never seen before. The company had replaced the old coffee machines with high end specialized espresso and capucino machines in an attempt to demonstrate they cared about employees requests.
“Dregdrawer full” she read out loud. She ignored the message and pressed the middle button to get a medium sized coffee but the machine didn’t react. She pressed again as she realized the message was probably linked to the fact no coffee was coming out of the machine.
Alessia was starting to lose her patience. The day hadn’t started very well and every agravation was increasingly annyoing her.
She heard footsteps coming toward the coffee room and Jordan enterred the room.
“Good morning Alessia” said Jordan. Although people usually dressed in a business casual attire, the organization was fairly informal and people talked to each other on a first name basis.
“Good morning Jordan. Would you know how this machine works” said Alessia.
“I know how to make coffee” said Jordan as he walked closer to the machine. “Ah, the dregdrawer is full” he added. Without even blinking, he carefully pulled the water dispenser tray and emptied it in the sink and then opened the main door and pulled out the drawer that held the used coffee ginds and empty them in the garbage.
“Ah” said Alessia. “That’s the dregdrawer!” she added. “Thank you so much. Not only did I learn how to fix my problem but I can finally have a warm cup of coffee”.
“No problem” replied Jordan. “The machine is still fairly new and only a handful of people know how it works”.
As Jordan started to walk away, Alessia stopped him in his tracks “Hey, Jordan. How’s your project going?”
Jordan was surprised to be asked about his project. The Vice-President seldom asked about that type of details.
“It’s actually going pretty well. We’re finishing our sprint this Friday… the demo is Friday afternoon.” he said.
“Where do you hold the demo” asked Alessia.
Now, Jordan was really surprised. It was unusual to be asked about his project but it was more surprising to be asked about a demo.
“It’s in conference room 26B” he politely answered. “At 2:30 pm”.
“Great. I have a meeting until 2:00 pm. I’ll try to stop by” said Alessia as she walked away with a warm cup of coffee in her hand.
All of a sudden, Jordan was concerned. Why would the V-P be interested in a project demo. Was there something going on that he wasn’t aware of? He decided to go see his manager for clarification.
“Hi Nicolas, can I interrupt you for a minute?” he asked his boss.
“Yes, please come in. I need to talk to you about something” said Nicolas.
“Let me guess. The project is going too well and it is getting cancelled…” replied Jordan.
“No, no. Not at all. I told the management team about your project management approach this morning and some people – including our V-P – were showing interest.” said Nicolas.
“Ah, now I understand. Alessia asked me to attend our demo this coming Friday”, said Jordan. “This is why I was coming to see you”.
“Already! Wow, that’s good.” said Nicolas. “Who will be at the demo?”
“The whole team. The developers, Catherine from Marketing. She’s the product owner and a few people from her team.”, said Jordan. “And now Alessia is also coming. Do you want to join us?” he asked politely.
“Sure. I’ll be a chicken. Usual time? Friday at 2:30 pm, right?”, asked Nicolas.
“Yes. See you there”. said Jordan.