Oil and water? Some days, the disconnect between stakeholder expectations and IT capabilities (and sensibilities) seems staggering.
- Must be adaptable to business situation
- Must be able to employ multiple SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle) techniques as the situation dictates
- Must be able to work in a highly parallized (sic!) environment
- Must be able to accept and adapt to last minute scope
- Should have multiple channels for functionality development both in terms of large releases and off cycle enhancements that occur in parallel.
- Must provide the ability to externalize functionality to external teams to quickly develop new functionality
- “This is the way we do it”; it doesn’t matter that the business situation would necessitate a different approach
- Our SDLC dictates that we have to do it this way
- Our work is going to be serial; first we need to do this, then we’ll get around to doing that
- Last minute change just isn’t possible, no matter how necessary
- We’re already working on a large release elsewhere; you’ll have to wait for that to finish for resources to be available to work on your needs
- New functionality must be developed by our core team; we can’t offload that to another group for various reasons
Stakeholders don’t want the glass to be half empty or half full; they want a bigger glass and more liquid for it too.
But the stakeholders are tired of hearing such things. They “think different”, as the old marketing slogan had it. These are people who don’t cheerfully accept the notion of “opportunity cost”. They don’t want their past decisions to automatically limit their future options. They are impatient with the very notion of limits or constraints. They don’t want to be pushed to set priorities, because that means they’ve chosen one thing over another, when they really want both. They don’t want process to get in the way of immediate progress. They’re impatient with things being done serially, rather than in parallel. They know their needs change, legitimately, at the last minute, due to market pressures and other factors beyond their control. They don’t want the glass to be half empty or half full; they want a bigger glass and more liquid for it too.
- Be flexible. Your SDLC is important, but it can’t become absolute or “wall-like”. And while you’re being flexible (within reason, of course), recognize the downsides of doing so. It means there will be some rework. There will be interproject conflicts that could have been prevented had there been better planning and preparation. Roller derby is not ice ballet. Being scrappy will get you scraps and scrapes more often than not, but that’s just sometimes how the game needs to be played.
- Educate, as the opportunity presents. The flip side of Frost’s “something there is that doesn’t love a wall” is “good fences make good neighbors.” Your stakeholders don’t automatically see the value in various IT processes and practices; only targeted discussion will help them do so. Having metering lights on freeway on-ramps seems to slow things down, but it actually speeds things up. Recognizing that isn’t intuitive. Talk them through why your project may need the equivalent of metering lights.
- Emphasize collaboration and teamwork. In Frost’s poem, it can be argued, the actual process of working on the wall together (rather than the wall itself) is what makes for good neighbors. Figure out together what processes add real value.
- Constantly look for ways to de-couple your work so that chunks/projects can be done in parallel. Serial thinking can often become an easy out, a lazy excuse. You’ll note that at least three of the points in the stakeholder list that led off this post have to do with conducting work in parallel.
- Lead. Without proactive, engaged senior leadership that constantly and effectively reminds everyone of the less visible goals, polls them on their reactions and then reframes the discussion, the stakeholder requirements list rapidly starts to include things that are frankly akin to wanting M&Ms for breakfast. Leadership brings balance and perspective.