Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Squeezed at both ends

Have you ever been squeezed at both ends? What happens as a software developer/architect/team lead when your requirements pipeline is dysfunctional, your post construction / QA team is chaotic and there is the ever present time based anxiety of the big "B" business lurking?

Often times as the real "delivery" team, developers are given the majority of the pointed fingers when dates slip and not enough of the accolades when actual product hits the market (internally or externally). Even when the development team is pulling off heroic measures, weekends, nights, inefficiencies or even complete anarchy on the front side of requirements and the backside of QA and deployment often translates to "we missed the date" to those who approve project budgets and fund bonus pools.

OK, I'm biased ;-). But is this really fair? And even if it isn't (which I don't think that it is), what can we do about it? especially in a atmosphere that may be politically charged (one where the net energy expended in talking and politiking could be better spent refining requirements and actually inspecting the work progress of the development team).

We have tried SCRUM as a way to manage this on a recent project, with varying degrees of success. On the positive side, it helped to focus the development team on the day to day tasks at hand as well as to get a better grip at chunking activities down to consumable bites. On the negative side, we didnt' get buy in, not from management, not from our stakeholders, sometimes not even from members of the development team.

Why? Sometimes even a proactive measure such as SCRUM can be all too intimidating to those who are set in their ways. Even when SCRUM advocates common sense approaches to software development and project management, the mere fact that it is a "term" outside the comfortable vernacular of those who are required to participate is an obstacle that needs to be overcome.

When asked, I am sure that noone who I would categorize as not having bought into the process would admit to it. But actions speak louder than words, and sometimes as developers and architects, we really are, I am sad to say, taken for granted. The simple realization that it is the developers who actually make the stuff that people buy in order to pay the bills is lost in the shuffle of titles, politics, organizational chart depths, and booking up on the favorite activities of your closest dotted line executive.

more later, I am about to enter the lion's den ;-)