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Understanding Project Expectations

By Kevin M. Berry

A day in the life of Dash Spiffy, IT Project Manager

We open with a shot of Dash bounding up the sidewalk, home from a rewarding day in the IT Project Management field. His lovely and vivacious wife, Sprite Spiffy, meets him at the door. Since Dash is a PM to the core, he hears everything through a Project Manager's ears.

The Project: "Dash, would you mind running to the store and getting some tomatoes for dinner? We're having the Megabytes over, and I want some nice ones for the burgers you're going to grill."

Dash files away a few pieces of data. Sprite is, of course, the boss and immediate customer. The Megabytes, who are influential, fussy, and gossipy, are the ultimate customers. He is also grilling hamburgers, which is a surprise to him. His project is to go get tomatoes. He can assume they must be ripe (used tonight) and high quality ("nice ones" and "Megabytes"). He also knows that it's currently 5:00pm, and when they have guests dinner is usually at 7:00pm. That means he has to start the burgers at 6:30.

Dash digs for customer preferences and derived requirements. "Sprite, honey, is there any particular place you'd like me to shop? And also, how many tomatoes and what size?" Sprite replies: "Well, try the produce stand first. They are more expensive, but they're much better, and more likely to have ripe ones. If not, then I guess Grocery Store A, and if not them, Grocery Store B. And I want 4 or 5, and get ones you can slice to the size of our hamburger patties."

Now, Dash is really gaining knowledge. He knows where to go, and how many. Since he makes and cooks the hamburgers in the Spiffy family, he knows what diameter he is looking for. Analyzing deeper, he also understands that quality is the top priority, with schedule close behind (for tonite's dinner) with cost running a far third. Dash, though, having worked on other projects with this customer (Sprite), is doing some risk planning.

"Honey, what happens if I can't find any quality, ripe tomatoes anywhere in town? Do you want me to call you if I can't find any?" Sue ponders for a minute. "Well, that's a problem. The Megabytes are true blue Americans, and I wanted to serve them the All-American meal, which means we HAVE to have tomatoes. I guess, if you can't find any, you better pick up some mushrooms, onion, and peppers, and some swiss cheese, and an avocado, and we'll do California burgers. California is still part of the U.S., right?"

Dash enjoys Sprite's sense of humor, but realizes he's building quite a "to do" list. On the plus side, he has a contingency plan in place, and it's all under his control. The down side is he hasn't quite built his communications plan yet.

"So, Sprite dearest. Do you want me to call you when I find good tomatoes, or else when I go for the California option?" "Dash, darling" she replies. "That is so thoughtful. Yes, I'd like a call when you figure out what we are going to do."

Our hero, Dash Spiffy, takes a moment to contemplate. He spent almost 10 minutes of his 90 working out details with Sprite. On the one hand, that's 15% of the time in his project schedule, but now he knows exactly what he's doing. And, as a bonus, his boss/spouse is pleased at his considerate efforts to make things right, so he is looking forward to a little bonus later.

He finds the perfect tomatoes, dinner is a huge success, and the Spiffy family moves up to the "A" list for the Megabytes next social event. Dash sleeps blissfully, gets up at dawn as usual, runs 3 miles, waxes the car, then heads off to another rewarding day as an IT Project Manager.

He practically skips into the building, looking forward to his day. His boss hails him as he trips by. "Hey Dash, get in here." "Sure, boss, what's up?" inquires our intrepid PM. "I need a database built, ASAP, and its for our biggest customer."

"Sure, boss, I'll get right on it" Dash replies, and heads off to get a programmer and start cutting code.

Ever seen this? Folks do a great job managing their personal lives, but can't bring that to work? Or vice versa, are super duper organizers in the office, but can't keep the same colored socks on their two feet?

If you substitute the word "tomato" for "database", and massage a few other terms, the conversation Dash and Sprite had is a model for gathering the requirements and expectations for a project. Dash's performance at work is how we usually do it.

Kevin M. Berry
copyright 2005
Private use welcomed, reproduction in other publications requires permission of the author.



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Wed Jul 20 14:23:09 2005: 820   BigDumbDinosaur


He also knows that it's currently 5:00pm, and when they have guests dinner is usually at 7:00pm. That means he has to start the burgers at 6:30.

Burgers on the grill for a half hour? They'd be crispy critters with the consistency of hockey pucks. <Grin>

Seriously, this was a good analogy -- and an oh so accurate assessment of many's work habits.



Wed Jul 20 15:15:34 2005: 821   anonymous


Obviously, you are looking at the top level schedule. The detailed IMS shows the following: Move items to the grill - 5 minutes. Put on the grill - 1 minute. Cooking - 9 minutes. Remove, close up grill, pick up trash, go inside - 5 minutes. Arrange attractively on platter, place on table - 3 minutes. Change from smoke smelling clothes - 5 minutes. Stand around looking like you didn't work at all, waiting for the guests - 2 minutes.

We all know that all 10 minute jobs really take 3 - 10x as long as the actual work would indicate!

Thanks for the comments.



Thu Jul 21 14:28:47 2005: 832   BigDumbDinosaur


Move items to the grill - 5 minutes.

Must have one heck of a big house if it takes five minutes to move a few burgers from the kitchen to the grill. &lt;Grin&gt; Around here, a crippled snail could make it in under 5.






Fri Jul 22 16:05:32 2005: 852   Kevin


That's 5 PARENT minutes. I have 4 kids, so there's tripping over toys, yelling at someone to close the screen door after me while I balance trays, trash and tools, yelling at someone to open the sliding door, fighting off the dog, yelling at someone to move their Barbie dolls off the kitchen table so I can set them down, keeping kids dirty fingers off them (me first! Daddy this one's still bleeding, ew!) and going back to CLOSE the screen door, sliding door (Hey! someone get the cat off the table and outta those burgers!)

Welcome to a brief glimpse of the life of Kevin! Thanks for the comments, BTW.

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