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22 December 2008

2008 retrospective


That was a busy year…

Reflections are something that is as fundamental to the Agile philosophy of software development as iterative development… And regardless of your agility are always good practice. It’s easy when you are busy to just bunker down and get on with the work, but for your professional development and for your future customer’s sake you need to keep an eye on personal continuous improvement.

So, looking back at this year, what did I learn?

I can probably list dozens of things that I discovered but I think I can round it off into three main areas. And being an analytical type I can then plug a couple of sub points into each heading.

1. Requirements are your first priority for software projects
This year I reinforced my already keen knowledge of how important requirements management is to a project’s success.

My view has been and remains that solid requirements are the number one thing to focus on if you want a good project outcome. I believe that issues like executive sponsorship, strategic alignment, poor scope and value management etc are all aspects of poor requirements management.

(Particular nod to that neat IAG report from early this year.)

2. All about Scrum and XP
Nice processes/methods which make a lot of sense. While they have their limitations they also have plenty going for them. In particular they help avoid some of the cost burden of a development team waiting for a business client who keeps changing their mind!

However – both of these frameworks (?) push the concept of requirements management pretty much out of the project team. They push responsibility squarely onto the client.

Given that many clients don’t have much capability in this space, what are they to do? It won’t matter in small system developments, but as you scale up in complexity and size, an integrated and thought through product roadmap, architecture and feature set become more and more important.

See lesson 1.1 above.

3. Strategy is not as hard as people think
Strategic decision making suffers from the same problem as project requirements management. There is something to be said for simple models and seeking information by practically exploring and experiencing scenarios.

Iterative approaches to software development are one way of trialling these ideas. Another can be revealed through clever mechanisms like Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas.

What’s more important is having clear pragmatic goals. If you can visualise it, and can see practically how you’ll get there - it will be fine. If you need to rely on months of consultants’ time to establish your goals – you will be just as lost at the end as you were to begin with.

1. Tyner Blain is a great website
I learned that Tyner Blain is a really good reference source for printing/emailing pages to get short succinct messages across to project team members and stakeholders. Go there. Subscribe to the RSS feed and use the search engine. The chances are the idea you want to present has already been worked into a well though through article by Scott.

2. It's easy to go from trusted advisor to just another grunt
I (re) learned that no matter how much you are regarded in one environment, when you make a substantial industry/geographical switch you are back to zero reputation and virtually zero trust.

3. The BABOK is an exciting endeavour
I reviewed sections of the draft of the IIBA’s BABOK 2.0 and found it falling short of where I wanted it to go. Of course the BABOK committee feels the same way, but version 2.0 is a milestone in a journey, not an end result. And its goals are to improve the quality of requirements work in the industry, which I am sure it will do.

It was rewarding to me to participate in this process as I felt I had something worthwhile to say. It also sparked my interest in the discussions at the IIBA leadership team’s blog.

1. Teaching project management
This year I taught project management in a subject for masters degree students at MIT/Ballarat university and learned a number of details about good practices and why things are the way they are in our industry.

Thanks on that front to both the university for the gig, and to the textbook authors; Kathy Schwalbe, (Information Technology Project Management) and Cliff Gray and Erik Larson (The Project Management Process.) Both these textbooks have a typical dated feel you get in a university textbook, but at the same time focus on the human aspects of project management and so have timeless lessons in them.

The slide presentations from the lectures are here. I hope you enjoyed them.

2. Team blogging
This year I invited readers to join me in blogging here at Better Projects. Chris, Raphael and Andrew all wrote a handful of great posts for me, but dropped off along the way. Janet, however, has stuck with it. And usually her posts have been very popular, sparking posts on other blogs about the topic.

Thank you guys and thank you Janet for contributing.

3. The day job
Well… mixed blessings really, but a lovely bunch of people despite all the heartache.

4. Modern Analyst
Although my contribution has waned, the Modern Analyst site continues to grow in popularity among BAs. Not only do the forums provide lively discussions on a variety of topics, but the article repository just gets deeper and deeper. It was a pleasure to help kick that site off and to see it grow and thrive.

Drop by and say Hi to Adrian and the gang. Tell them I sent you.

5. Henry

Lastly, my little boy learned to sit up, eat food, turned one, and can even walk. What an amazing year it’s been for him and me.

Have a good break and I'll see you next year.

(photo by me, hosted at Flickr)