Recently, we successfully finished a web app project that had many specialties we never had before. Major issues were very tight budget and time constraints (about 3 months) including an absolutely unpostponable deadline. However, the bigger concern for us was the diversity of our customer. Although we had one or two main reference persons, for the project to be successful we depended on the collaboration of a total of 8 departments.
As a first step to meet those challenges we decided on one-week iteration cycles – the shortest ever for us. At the kick-off meeting, where delegates of all departments were assembled, we presented our strategy and tried to make clear that communication and collaboration would be essential for the project to succeed. We also invited everyone to come to iteration meetings even when the agenda is not exactly about their specific requirements. After the meeting we hoped for the best.
With (almost) all departments it went like this: We did one requirements gathering appointment with one or two delegates and they either showed up once or twice on following meetings or they approved our implementation based on emailed screen shots. With most departments, email response time was good, with some, well, let’s just say holiday season didn’t really help. But altogether it was sufficient to keep the project well on track.
But wait! Did I say all departments? Not exactly! One single department actually managed it to sent at least one delegate to every single iteration meeting. And they not only enjoyed coffee and cookies but contributed a great deal every time. This was very helpful for us especially because after every iteration, we were a little bit more confident that we were still on the right track. Towards the end of the project, when success was foreseeable, we had the idea that their outstanding performance had to be rewarded somehow. So at the last iteration meeting, again with people from every department, we presented them with the Continuous Collaboration Award. They were very delighted and for the others it was a good laugh. And with the help of a little champagne and some snacks it became a very nice last iteration meeting.
As many of you know, good understanding between customer and developer can never be taken for granted. This is why agile methods always put great emphasis on extensive customer communication. A-Story-of-Project-Failure-Mitch-Lacey shows that even agile-by-the-book projects can fail basically due to lack of understanding on customer side. So do it like us and, if they deserve it, show your appreciation to your customer once in a while in a more creative way. And if you use a cup, make sure that there is also champagne around to fill it.