Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Working in Parallel

We are back into panic mode as the original unrealistic deadline is being kicked around as a target Go Live date.

We still do not have a fully functioning program.

The vendor’s Training Director is breathing down my neck for workflows, training documentation, and plans that do not exist because we still do not have a fully functioning program.

I spent time and money the past 2 weeks working on end-user functional documentation because the vendor did not have it until last Friday when they presented me with the documentation they had been working on.

On Monday, the vendor’s training director asked me why I worked on end-user functional documentation. I replied that it is very difficult to build training material without knowing how the program works (and, no, the software is NOT intuitive).

I also told her that we were running into issues with the program. She then had the nerve to say “Well, maybe you’re doing something wrong.”

Considering that the 2 visionaries of the program, the QA person, the primary programmer and designer, and their senior technical support staff have all been on-site and told us that there are large parts of the program still not functional, I can safely say that us not knowing what we are doing is a very small part of the problem.

I am very proud of myself for not screaming obscenities into the phone at that point.

When I started working on the end-user functional documentation, with the help of a subcontractor, there was no instruction manual of any sort. I had also been told not to expect any end-user documentation until well after our Go Live date. Since much of my training (as it currently stands) is based on teaching people to USE the software, I need the end-user functional documentation to build the other materials (trainers manuals, end-user quick references, online tutorials, customized workflow training, etc). End user documentation is tough to write when you don’t have a fully functional program.

I had also been directed to make the material general enough so the vendor could then use it at other sites. Since we still did not have a fully functional product, we also didn’t have a final configuration or anything resembling a workflow (including what the final user interface will look like), so I didn’t have much of a choice in my approach. The subcontractor was there for that week and that week only. I had to have her do SOMETHING. She wrote documentation on the functional parts of the not fully functional program.

This is one of the problems working in parallel. Duplication of effort. We have wasted 2 weeks worth of time and a few thousand dollars.

In any project, particularly software projects, certain things can’t happen in parallel. They have to follow the completion (or near completion) of certain tasks.

Training development needs to occur AFTER the product is mostly bug free. Otherwise, how do you know how it works?

Documentation and materials development, particularly customized end-user documentation, needs to occur AFTER the final configuration is completed. Otherwise, how do you know what it looks like?

Meanwhile, the clients (us) are getting the impression that the vendor’s training group (them) really has no clue about what is going on with the rest of the project.

1 comment:

Karyn Romeis said...

Ah, Wendy - the dilemma, the cleft stick! I am currently working on a project that has recently been resurrected after being parked for so long, I thought it was a goner.

But the client finds himself with unspent budget, which has to be disposed of by the end of the financial year, or it will be lost. So we are now also working to unrealistic timescales, building a learning solution around a system that doesn't yet exist, trying to teach people their new job roles, when these have yet to be defined. It is so obvious that no proper business analysis was undertaken before the project was outlined, and so the system is driving the process rather than vice versa. My goal is to support people in the process but, guess what? That hasn't been defined yet!

So I have a strict deadline with no way of identifying what it is I need to produce by then.

Familiar tale?