Learning: Process

You might remember how I kept writing how terrible my projects were last year and probably the two years before. I’ve even been in therapy for over half a year, I was thinking about quitting my job and things were pretty bad. I am sure it is not only me suffering from the same symptoms I have heard of others with the same problems, it is pretty common and very sad to see.

On a side note I would like to mention the blogpost about the Manager 2.0. But that is not what I was actually going to write about.

Whatever happened and whoever is responsible … I would like to thank them! Yesterday was a terrible day at work because nothing went the way it should but those days have become an exception. Of course the wonderful days where everything is just perfect are just as well an exception but my current project actually seems under control 90% of the time.

The project is “improve the usability of the tool XYZ because noone is using it but we think it is important …” of course it took some time until I got that description down to such a small thing. At first it was only a “we need to do something about tool XYZ”. Then I had quite a lot of time to get to know the tool. Then I had a couple of meetings to find out from the main stakeholder what he wanted, I was actually told what the goal of the project was and then I made a pretty detailed concept complete with images of the UI I am going to implement. Next was making project plan, a diagram with milestones and even dates on it. Yes I am still working on my projects alone without another developer … anyway I now have this nice little document telling me the next step to go whenever I look at it. Each phase was talked over with the stakeholder of the project. Well anyway even with milestones and dates on them and a fixed end date working with the project becomes much easier somehow.

I haven’t worked on the project now in two days – not my fault really. But I know that because within my project plan I simply see I didn’t get anywhere for two days. My boss knows that as well which is imperative, so it’s not my fault if I don’t make the next milestone on time and we can schedule delay.

I feel much more secure the way the project is proceeding this time and it really helps to know how far I have come and how far I have to go.

Besides my boss taking care to really stick to the process this time, but there are other factors involved in making this project ‘better’ and more fun to work on than it’s predecessors.

  • I think I learned a few things during the last year, f.e. how important communication is (still I don’t alwas get it quite right)
  • I have some experience with this kind of project which made the concept and estimates easier
  • the requirements were rather precise (coming from someone within the software development department) once I thought about asking and keeping asking until I knew what was expected
  • I asked my colleague quite a few things about making concepts for such projects and she was very helpful (I am asking her so many questions all the time I wonder she gets any work done)
  • I am using a variant of an excel sheet my colleague gave me for my project plan, since there is only one resource (me!) working on the project it’s absolutely sufficient. I added in a little function that automatically calculates milestone dates from the estimates
  • very important: I hade enough time for the creation of concepts and estimates and neither were glossed over quickly instead looked over thoroughly and explained and in the end I got an “okay, now: go!”
  • The first time ever I tried to given an estimate that I felt comfortable with and defended it when it was questioned even though I myself was horrified to see it came out to 40+ mandays! (Again I asked my colleague and got the answer: we’re doing something similar right now which takes about the same time!). So I am working with an estimate that I believe will work out! That is actually the most important point I think.

Well so far I have completed the first three of six milestones (testing, bugfixing, documentation and post-project work are extra milestones in the end) and right now I am at a very small milestone which carries a lot of risk because it is rather complex and that is where I stumbled yesterday. I realized when making the concept, that this was a point that might make me stumble. My mistake: I didn’t tell anyone and my estimate was pretty tight for that one. The good thing: I noticed and documented the fact on my project plan so I hope not to repeat the mistake.

Overall this is working out much smoother than all my other projects so far.