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Stop the Madness and Frankenstein Projects
By Terry Bunio

During a discussion with a colleague I came up with a perfect metaphor for Waterfall or Traditional projects: A Frankenstein project. Please indulge me:

The Frankenstein Project Body Parts

  • The Torso: The Frankenstein Torso is the project structure itself. Not the business problem or the project objectives but just the overall structure that is required for the Traditional project to function and execute. This can be thought of as the project methodology, processes, and procedures. (yes the excessive meetings are part of this) In general, it is this body that holds the project together for good or evil. (Author’s note: copious foreshadowing)
  • The Left Arm: The Left Arm is the limb closest to the heart of the project and as such is the Business users. This arm defines the business objectives, outcomes, reasons, and rationale for the project being required. Unfortunately this arm has to be connected to the project in some way. Traditional projects have chosen this stitching to be in the form of extremely detailed documentation and business user sign off. Unfortunately this arm was grown in a lab separate from the torso, so the parts don’t match 100%. This is addressed by more detailed documentation and eventually the arm is attached.

  • The Right Arm: The Right Arm is closely connected to the Left Arm and represents the analysis required for the project. (This can be both Business and Systems Analysis) This is the translation of the Business objectives, outcomes, reasons, and rational for the project into Software Development Requirements. This arm is again connected to the torso by the Traditional Project artifact of documentation. Unfortunately the Right Arm was also grown in a lab separate from the Left Arm using mainly the documents used to attach the Left Arm, so the parts don’t match 100%. (Although the Left Arm and Right Arm do look somewhat similar) This is addressed by more detailed documentation to address the inconsistencies and eventually the Right Arm is attached.

  • The Left Leg: The Left Leg is the critical part of Software Development for the project. This represents the Software Development required to translate the Software Development Requirements into actual code. The code deliverable itself is what is used to connect the Left Leg to the torso. It is actually a pretty good stitching job but by this time the Left leg is not looking at all similar to the Left Arm. Oh dear.

  • The Right Leg: The Right Leg represents the critical part of testing on the project. Unfortunately the Right Leg can only be attached after the three other limbs are attached fully. The Right Leg is attached via the test cases that are generated from the documents that were used to attach the Left Arm and Right Arm. The stitching is looking pretty inconsistent with some areas covered quite well and others not so much. The Right Leg is really looking dissimilar to the other limbs. The other major problem is that the Right Leg is only half the length of the left leg as we ran out of material; The Schedule. I believe the project will have a limp.

  • The Head: The Head represents the architecture of the project. It is the Architect that is trying to put together these different parts and produce something that satisfies the understanding of the desired outcome both from a functional and technical point of view. The unfortunate thing is that the Head does not look at all similar to the Left Arm. It is similar in functionality but not intent. Typically the brain that Igor found for the Head is from a brilliant technical person who doesn’t quite understand the business domain. Pity.

  • The Mad Scientist: Ah yes, the Mad scientist. By now you may have surmised this is the Project Manager. :) He or She is trying to understand all the issues that come with piecing the parts together from different parties but at the end of the day there is a fixed budget and thunderstorm coming to bring the beast to life and we need to make that date. He or She feels they need to come up with the solutions and push the team forward. We don’t need collaboration and team problem solving. He or she will solve the problems and then we just need more Igors!

    At the end of User Acceptance Testing when the thunderstorm arrives to bring the beast to life, we really have the ultimate big bang implementation. The beast lumbers to life, crashes through the walls, and pillages the village of business users. The project did not resemble what was intended and the villagers are now rioting demanding the head of the Mad Scientist. Sequestered in his Ivory Tower away from the users, he wonders how it could have gone so very wrong. It seems the business forgot to quantify the non functional requirements.

    Eventually the Mad Scientist and the Business write-up a plethora of Change Requests and a good part of them require the removal and re-attachment of the entire limbs. Some require parts of the limbs to be replaced. An elbow here, a knee there. Oh dear, the project is looking even worse than before.

Finally the tamed project lumbers out and does the base functionality that was intended in a way that is not elegant or satisfactory. But we have produced something and on the date! And the business did sign off after all!

Terry Bunio is currently a Principal Consultant at Protegra. He has managed multiple complex projects and provided Project Management, Architecture and Database leadership for companies such as Manitoba Public Insurance, LPL Financial, Assante Asset Management, Moventum, Government of Manitoba, Investors Group, and London Life. More recently Terry’s focus and passion has been on managing Lean projects and being part of Lean and Agile Project teams. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical book agile and the real world approaches.

www.agilist.ca

Protegra helps organizations in the private and public sectors identify and solve tough business performance challenges. Protegra offers management consulting services focused on operational efficiencies. For organizations that use information technology as a competitive advantage, Protegra offers software services development and solutions.

www.protegra.com

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