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Perfect Project

Background

The client had developed a large number of manual processes which allowed the organization to grow into a +$800 million business.  The client realized they needed to replace the manual processes and that is where we came into picture.

We had a very short period of time to demonstrate that by creating a rudementary data warehouse and showing the client how to use Excel to access the data in the new data warehouse they would save enough time that they would no longer need an 'army' of temporary workers to enter data from their existing systems into their very manual Excel reports.

Factors that bring about a Perfect Project

The very first thing that happened was when the pursuit team initially went to talk to the client.  At first the client had an expectation that we could provide them with a data warehouse and metrics reporting.  As the pursuit team continued to talk to the client it became apparent that the client and the business users did not have a clear understanding of what information was required to create the metrics they wanted.  At this point the pursuit team set a very realistic expectation with the client that we would only provide them with some key data points that they could then combine to generate their metrics.

The client we were working with wanted us to use an Agile/Scrum approach.  He was familiar with the approach and he also knew the business was familiar with Lean Methodologies, since the client is in a 'manufacturing' type business. The client team became very interested in our Scrum/Agile process and they became invested in the approach.

Successful projects are often about setting expectations.  It is very important to set realistic expectations.  After we gathered our initial set of user stories and story pointed the stories, the team discussed how much work we could get done every two weeks based on the list of stories.  By doing this we came to a concensus on a 'realistic' velocity we needed to maintain which helped set the total story points we would try to get done for the release.

After we explained to the client what story points were and how we used them, the client was more than willing to prioritize the work.  We reprioritized the remaining stories on a regular basis.

Sprint Rhythm

Every two weeks we did our sprint planning on Monday morning and started getting the work done.  It took the first two sprints to get the developers to understand that a successful sprint only happens if we optimize the process of getting a story to a 'done state' (QA tested and passed without bugs).  Many times the developers thought that if they would just "Do y since I am already doing X because it will be more efficient for me and that will make things go faster."  Unfortunately that means the QA team is usually waiting until the last few days of the sprint to do testing.  Which means the sprint has turned into a 2 week waterfall project.

A better approach, as everyone learned, was to get the first user story in the sprint to QA by Tues afternoon or Wed. morning at the latest.  That way QA might have it tested and a list of defects for developers to fix by Thursday sometime.  By that point in time the developers have probably finished user story #2 and QA can start testing that user story.

Tracking and Metrics

In Scrum the most useful tool for tracking release progress is a release burndown chart.  By using a release burndown chart, a required burndown 'line' and median burndown line it is very easy for anyone who gets the chart to know if the project is on or off track with a single glance.

Highly motivated team

When a team really meshes you know it.They anticipate each other's needs and try to help each other out when and whereever possible.  This team had a mixture of very experienced people.and someone who was literal right of school (6 weeks).

Results

The client loved the results they got.  When they started to see the improvements to their daily workflow, the business users wanted more.  Hopefully they will call us back with more work designed to improve the accounting dept. effeciency. 

As a project manager there are three other things that made this the perfect project

  • The projet finished on time
  • Finished 10% under budget
  • Delivered 10% more work than originally planned

 

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