Sometimes we are matchmakers in working to connect the business with the solution that we hope will turn into a long-term relationship. Depending on the project, we may also play officiants (think Justice of the Peace), therapists, obstetricians, pediatricians, geriatricians toward the end of the product’s life, and even funeral directors at the end. We play a role from before a solution is a twinkle in anyone’s eye to the point where we have to lay it to rest. I may have taken a blender to my metaphors from this point forward, so bear with me.
Our first job is to put the business and the solution together. Sometimes we help the business fill out a questionnaire about likes and dislikes, and then try to find a good match. Other times we are writing the equivalent of a Tinder profile, trying to get the user to swipe right. We might even try using agile techniques, which Is the requirements gathering equivalent of speed dating, and we keep sending the business likely candidates for a long term relationship them until they find something they like.
Once we get the two to decide they want to try going steady, we spend most of our time shepherding the relationship along. It’s critical to manage expectations so that the solution never gets the “It’s not you, it’s me.” speech from the business. If it ever gets to this point, they have already cast their eyes elsewhere because the solution isn’t meeting their needs, much like real life.
Once the business makes the commitment is to go a certain direction, we generally work with the Project Manager to finalize the whole relationship:
“I now pronounce you user and solution.”
This is where the trouble can start. As compromises are made, and needs change, it becomes critical to make sure that things don’t change so much that the business or user decides they want to get a divorce. As the saying goes, “Love is grand; divorce can be 10 or 20 grand”
Sometimes in this process, we end up playing therapists. “How did it make you feel when the Project Manager told you the feature you thought was a must have would have to wait until the next release?” Lots of negotiation and discussion, but hopefully no tears.
Other times, we get through all that and we’re ready to start the whole gestation period, preparing the business for the arrival of the solution they’ve been waiting to see for months and sometimes even years. If we’re smart, we’ve done lots of reviews, which are the SDLC equivalent of ultrasounds, so they know what to expect. If we’re not smart, we wait until the very end, only to find out they got a boy when they really, really, really wanted a girl. It’s usually not that drastic, though.
If we’re lucky, and we’ve done our jobs correctly, we deliver the solution to the business and everybody is happy and excited for a while. Then the business starts getting nervous, being new parents.
“No, it’s supposed to do that, remember, that’s what you said you wanted?”
Other times, we just burp the baby and move on, fixing data or making a configuration change to keep things moving. Then when the parents still complain, we have to play Super Nanny, because the parents need to understand that their own behavior is contributing to the problem. When that happens, we may have to explain that there needs to be consistency for things to work right.
As time goes on, the solution matures, and we sometimes have to help fix a broken bone or two or even do a face lift. These are the ongoing bug fixes and cosmetic changes that happen over the life of the system. Usually by the time it gets to this point, there is an emotional attachment, so we have to do everything we can to keep the solution alive.
But eventually things reach the point that we become geriatricians, dealing with gradually slowing performance, and technology that just isn’t able to keep up with the demands the business places on it. We will work with the surgeons (developers) to try to keep things going, but eventually, it’s clear that we’ve reached the point where we need to lay the solution to rest.
In those cases, we spend our time planning the funeral, and sometimes we end up having to play grief counselor, as the business comes to term with the fact that their beloved solution is no more. We have to figure out how to give everyone closure before we sign the death certificate.
Then the whole thing starts all over again. That’s why they call it a cycle.