While it has been nice having posts pre-scheduled this week given how the project is impacting my time (and my desire to even be near a computer at night), I thought I would add a small interlude about my work week.
We have entered what I like to call, the Sky-Is-Falling stage of the project. This is known more commonly by preparation for user acceptance testing – when we let the users into the system for training and testing purposes. Think of this stage as when the editor reviews an article and decides whether or not it goes into the current press run, or it needs to get reworked, etc.
This is the point where the core project team members start freaking the fuck out. The ability to rationalize decisions or analyze problems has left the building and is replaced by stressful, over-reaction to problems. People start running around like chickens with their heads cut off. And, all problems encountered mean that the sky is indeed falling – no acorns here.
Example #1: The PM on our side recently discovered that there was, what he decided, a major piece of missing functionality in the system. Basically orders coming in electronically from our major distribution partners would just go in untouched and shipped out untouched. This is the point behind setting up major partners in this fashion – no touch selling. If a person doesn’t touch it, it is cheaper to process. He asked what if the price was wrong – what would happen. The response: nothing would stop the order. We’ll have to catch it on the back end. He fucking flipped out – and spent the next five hours solving the problem. The problem with his approach – there is no problem to solve. This very rarely, if ever, happens with these partners. I spent about 30 minutes talking him down and getting him to call off development of a solution. Ironically the next day he acted as if others were freaking out and he was the voice of reason.
Example #2: Or the technical manager for the consulting team freaking out because our logistics partner that will remain nameless (but are large and brown) could not figure out why our electronic files were not processing. Lots of finger pointing ensued – in email (thus resulting in me getting about 60 emails on the topic in the span of 6 hours). The problem, in his opinion, is that someone more technical like him is not sitting next to that company’s technical resource helping them out. Wanna piss off an IT person really quick? Tell them you have someone who knows what they are doing that is going to “help them” solve the problem in a system the outside person is not familiar with. And that help has to be from a company that is a consulting firm too. It goes over really well! And the IT person you are trying to “help” will be super receptive to the help too. They will willingly play nice and not be pissy, stand-offish or anything that could inhibit immediate progress from being made. Yeah, we won’t be going that direction!
Example #3: The training & user testing schedule. In a business system, you have a natural process to things. If you are collecting your revenue from a customer, you must first ship product to them. In order to ship product, you must have an order. This is simply referred to as the Order-to-Cash process. Step 1, enter an order. Step 2, ship the order, and Step 3, collect the money for the order. Your training must follow this same progression. If you try to training accounting first, they will have nothing in the system to collect on. Why? No order. If you train the shipping team first, you have the same problem – no order to ship. Therefore, you must train Sales first so that they can put in orders. Then, you train the shipping team. Then you train Accounting. I have spent probably about 10 hours over the past five days trying to get our PM to understand this. I’ve drawn diagrams. I’ve even laid it out for him in documents. He cannot understand it. And, instead of looking at me and saying, “If you think you can do better, it’s yours to handle.” – he just argues. Finally yesterday, he drew up his fancy schedule – and I spent an hour asking him how shipping is going to practice shipping anything if there is nothing in the system to ship. Blank stare. Then I asked how accounting is going to have something to do if there are no orders in the system and nothings shipped. His face suddenly lights up in discovery. His comment, “I’ve been thinking about this wrong!!” Sigh.
So, this is what I’ve been dealing with this week. That and yelling at “partners” on phone calls. Partners that will admit they underestimated the number of hours we would need of their time, yet tries to turn it back to us. I mean, they are correct in saying that we didn’t explicitly say that we might need them to provide information back to us if something fails….like, say, what the error message was in their system. Assuming they would provide it to us instead of just saying “it didn’t work” would be expecting too much, I guess.
But then you know what they say about assumptions. When you assume you make an ass out of u and me!