Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The project is in temporary limbo. Last week, the plan was to do a pilot test and go live but that did not happen. It didn’t happen because of a software bug and a delay in pushing an important component to production. Originally the plan was to test on Friday afternoon. But the folks at the business wanted an earlier date - on Wednesday and eventually on Thursday. But a patch was delivered on Wednesday and a bug was found which took a day to fix. Thursday afternoon came but the component was not installed yet. It took some back room negotiations to get the remote team to implement the move. All these work via network chat with folks in India. Meanwhile I conducted more tests after frantic phone calls to our Ohio support, having phone conferences and last minute dealings to get tasks done. I particularly like these behind the scenes action when time is of the essence – it’s like clutch play in basketball with the opponent leading and 2 minutes left in the game.

But the damage was done as the deadline was not met. It was Friday afternoon and we could have proceeded if the original schedule was followed. The schedule was changed because the business and other team members cannot leave a proposal as is. Everyone had to venture out an opinion. My mistake was agreeing to the early date. I should have been the voice of caution and restraint but instead followed the crowd. Strangely it became my decision, passed on by the project manager. A resolution I should have rejected. I should have requested a joint judgment so everyone has skin in the game – by being jointly responsible in agreeing to an early date. We were all eager to get off the ground. So the decision just steamrolled ahead with me as the unwitting fall guy.

The situation became worse even with being only a day late. After so many false starts, it gave the impression that we were not ready and the team was not doing thorough testing. I felt particularly guilty because of my missteps in agreeing towards an early deadline and foolishly accepting responsibility. Hence, it can be seen as my fault entirely. But the project is a team effort and everyone is responsible for rushing the decision. We met again on Friday before noon to re-group but the momentum was gone. By noon, although we were finally ready, having fixed the bugs and moved the component to production, the business avoided us. I guess they had eggs on their faces after working directly with the end users. So more testing is advised and we’re floating in limbo, waiting for some spark or new idea to get things moving again.

The blame game is subtly moving along. Some say the software is unstable, or that testing was not extensively done or the developers are not good or responsive. The bottom line: the project is not managed properly. About 3 pilot runs were conducted in the remote site and despite some blocker issues, the tests were successful. The test proved the software works. Like a proof of concept but late in the game as proof of concept are normally done at the start. Anyway tests have shown that it works and one just needs to iron out the blockers and get things moving again. At the end of the day, poor management is the largely due to recent changes in team’s leadership. Significant alteration in the key roles involving the top people, changes in the pilot site and departures of team members have taken their toll. In fact it’s a miracle that the project has reached this stage at all.

It’s a good thing that the pilot runs were completed. Otherwise, the business folks can use this setback as a reason to kill the project. It’s not personal – it’s just that these folks prefer the existing obsolete solution. Change will only bring aggravation and grief before stabilizing. It’s also a good thing that the pilot runs have allowed us to get approval from the big guns to go live. Now it’s too late and there is no turning back because every one has skin in the game. It would look like these folks are incompetent if the decision is reversed. Unfortunately, I am the newest member of the team and maybe the first to go if heads need to roll. But after looking at one’s chances, one can make calculations that the policy of diversity, employee respect and all around good humor will save the day. One just needs to show up for work each day.

The past weekend was another hectic one. The deadline for tax filing is mid-April. So one had to gather all the documents, make sense of the tax software, enter all the information and file the document electronically. But I had to clear my paper clutter, dig in and search for documents needed in the filing. I woke up early on Sunday morning and started sorting the clutter, throwing out spam mail, shredding documents to prevent identity theft, filing folders and putting aside the important ones needing attention. I still need to look for an efficient way to organize myself and de-clutter my life. The paper sorting was tolerable because I listened to the remaining chapters of Thomas Pynchon’s great novel ‘Inherent Vice’. A noir thriller about a dope smoking private eye in late 70’s Los Angeles, during Richard Nixon’s term - a thoroughly enjoyable work.

I spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening working on the tax filing, watching a Japanese movie while working, fighting a virus that attacked my laptop (and forced me to worked on another computer while the protection software waged war on the invader), scrambling to back up my files, eventually settling on Dropbox and doing a backup of important files into the ’cloud’. It’s a good thing that I choose the online option instead of installing the software locally. It would have delayed me for a day. During that hectic weekend, I managed to read 5 magazines that I had to return to the library and watched 2 movies. So despite the debacle at work, I managed to get things done. I also started a new book - Cormac McCarthy’s ‘No Country for Old Men’. Despite having seen the movie, I always enjoy his work as he is probably the greatest American writer of this age, followed closely by Thomas Pynchon.

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