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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Voice of Doom

Today, I became the voice of doom in a project status meeting. We've been scrambling to meet the project go-live date, but with 30 days to go-live, the basic development isn't done yet, the testing has barely begun, no test has been successfully completed end-to-end, and we're still talking about major interface changes. If we keep our current date, I need to get mailers to the printer on February 1st. This is the first domino in a fast moving chain of communications both inside and outside of my department. I expected by now that I'd be finishing the last touches on the training guide and finishing up the e-learning site and starting to work on the delta class for current users. I can't take screen shots for publication of the system as it is now, so none of that is done. I've got a lovely skeleton for the e-learning site. I've got a nice training guide that's 70% done, save for all the bits that don't work yet (like all the billing reports) full of screenshots of the system before the name change. I haven't even started on the delta class materials. The system is going to be down for a refresh starting tomorrow until Wednesday, and when it comes back, we won't be much closer to sure about the final version. So when the project manager suggested that we should just get the flyers printed with the current go-live date and then get them reprinted if it changes, I had to restate the issue. He looked really deflated.

It's like this: say the system comes back on February 1st, and we test on the 1st and 2nd, that gives me less than 2 weeks to prepare all those materials AND get them printed for classes starting on February 15th. Also, I need to prepare the other communications as well, like invitations to all the approximately 90 new Departmental Contacts, introducing them to the new system and inviting them to training, and invitations to the existing Departmental Contacts to tell them of the upcoming changes and to invite them to the delta classes, and preparing 2 articles for the internal newsletter, and getting on the agenda for the TIPS meeting, and probably writing a Stanford Report article too. I can't send out any of this in advance in case things don't come together and we have to shift the date, but I have to send them out by the first week of February. Oh, and by the way, I'm still working on five other projects at the same time, thankfully only 3 of which are actively taking my time right now. Add to that that the system will not be cheerfully fully functioning when we start testing on February 1st again, and thus compressing the timeline even further.

So I tried to explain this gently, in the broadest terms possible, really only saying that February 1st is just the first domino, and that there are other deadlines like the ITS&BITS internal newsletter article deadline on February 2nd, and that the classes are available for sign-up in STARS as of yesterday, and that the Department Contacts were scheduled for their first communication by email as of January 31st, so there's a whole series of things that really need either a go or no-go.

And then the project sponsor pulled out her calendar and got down to real business. If we didn't go February 26th, what are our options? Could we go March 5th (a one week reprieve)? Yes, but that's probably not enough to help. Could we go March 26th? Yes, no one has had any communication about the date yet, so we're fine there. Should it really be April 2nd, so that the refresh doesn't start on a Saturday (after the billing run completes mid-day on Saturday) so that there are people available to help if things go wrong rather than having to go through on-call services? Probably. What are the repercussions of that? I don't know.

The net result is that no one thought the possible date slip was a real issue until I made a big deal out of it, so they decided to decide at next week's meeting, even though there will only be a half of a day of testing before the meeting. I'll be very surprised if they decide to keep the current date at that next meeting, but they all need the intervening week to come to terms with it. If they do decide to press on at the next meeting, I'm going to disappear down a rabbit hole for the first 2 weeks of February trying desperately to get my work done well and thoroughly on a truly insane schedule. During those two weeks I will find some deity to pray to each day (maybe several deities prayed to on a rotating basis) that all of the technical issues will magically get resolved before I come to work the next day so that I can finalize the documentation for training.

So yeah, it was a surprisingly scary meeting. Lots of folks backed me up, but I was the one in the unique position to really push back, so I had to, and I did, and it was good. And really scary. And on my way out, down the stairs, out of sight of the rest of the meeting participants, my old boss Suzanne who is now the director of Order Processing hugged me and said, "Good job in there." And we talked for a minute, and it was all good.

I still love my job.


  • You rock !
    and it's very cool that you have a lot of people to back you up including your former boss.

    By Blogger Chris S, at 6:24 PM  

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