Friday, June 29, 2018

The Lean Gelateria | Part 6 | Daniel Brown and Mango

<<<<<<<<<< Lean Gelateria | Part 5

This blog post is Dan’s story. Dan is a medium built and upbeat UK born software engineer. He wanted to work with hi-tech teams in software engineering and immigrated to United States during early 90s. Traveling to places was his hobby. He spent his weekends and vacation in travel. Dan visited India in May’94 and spent a month. He visited all prominent states, cities and country side.  That is when he tasted Indian mangoes of different types – Alphonso, Kesar, Dussheri, Neelam, Rumani, Banganpalli, Rajapuri, Totapuri and so on. Like most travelers, he took pleasure in eating Indian mangoes.

Back in the United States, he found a neighborhood shop that served mango ice cream. He loved it.  Couple of years later, they started offering mango gelato! These days, Dan continues to frequent that shop to have a scoop of mango gelato!


Some of his close friends started calling him Dango (Daniel Mango) because of obvious reasons!

Dan’s Delight: On Monday after the Labor Day weekend of 2002, Dan was on top of the world because Tom, his boss, assigned him one of the most technically challenging projects in the company. Tom was the IT director of a large manufacturing company that supplied electronic utilities to households through retail outlets. Dan was one of his direct reports who played the role of project manager in IT projects.

This project, named DA (disconnected access), was about enabling their technical support team through a state-of-the-art application to support disconnected access to their central databases. Using this application, their support team could reach end users living in remote areas, provide them with necessary support, collect payment, and print invoices even if there was no connectivity to central servers. The goal was to improve customer satisfaction and this was one of the strategic projects of the year under the CEO’s radar.

Customer Confidence: Dan and his team of four engineers studied the high level requirements, analyzed the pros and cons of three different architectures, and selected the most optimal one. Considering the business demand and the estimates, they agreed to deliver the application in three months. Alicia was the point-of-contact in the business and she had worked with Dan on a different project a year ago. She had more than fifteen years of experience in her domain. In project DA, she worked closely with Dan and his team in creating and reviewing the user interface design during the initial weeks. She was happy with the suggestions and ideas from Dan and his team and was confident that the team would deliver results.

Iterative Approach: Dan believed in an iterative approach and decided with his team to execute this project in five iterations of two weeks each. As the application incrementally evolved over these five iterations, and the schedule was aggressive, Dan could not demonstrate the finished product to Alicia before the end of the fourth iteration. Alicia had also invited three customer support managers from different regions to attend the demo.

Delayed Demo: No wonder, in each step of the demo, Alicia and the customer support managers started discussing new options and asking Dan whether the user interaction can be improved further.  They suggested new ideas which turned into changes to the user interface or validation aspects. After a two-hour demo, Dan and his team came out with a list of 50 items, some of which were new features, some others were changes, and the rest were cosmetic changes and defects.

The Aftermath: Dan had a suggestion – that Alicia and her three managers plan a one-week acceptance testing after feature completion in order to explore all the features and provide him with their feedback. Alicia agreed. After a week of acceptance testing Dan’s list had more than 275 items. Alicia was not happy with the results and Tom, Dan’s boss, was shocked. Dan’s team was distressed that, in spite of their sincere efforts, they had to manage this escalation.

Dan had to forgo his visits to his favorite places including the neighborhood gelateria. He wanted to resolve all issues in this project and deliver the application.

What did he do is coming in the next part of this series.

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