Liz Douglass

Seeing the real thing

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About three weeks ago I moved onto a new project that has already been going for several months. My arrival on the team coincided with the team also physically moving into a bigger space in a different building about 10 minutes walk from where they were previously. However the users of one of the systems that we integrate with remained in the original location.

Last week Nick and I were pairing on two defects that were raised in QA in our application. Both of these were indirectly caused by some data coming from our fake test implementation of one of our integration points. Our aim was not to make our fake any more capable or complicated than we possibly needed it to be. However, we did need to modify our fake, both to avoid raising bugs, or fix them where they occurred.

A question arose about how the real implementation of the system that we are faking works. Nick called up the users of the real system and within 15 minutes we were back at the old building chatting with them.

The ability to quickly get in touch with real users and see exactly how they do their jobs is extremely beneficial for a project team. There is no description or diagram that can replace the context and ‘ah ha’ kind of understanding that you get when you see the real thing. I remember having the same kinds of experiences in past jobs that I’ve had when I was an aerospace engineer. Going down and seeing the relevant parts (or even similar parts) on the production line gives you tangible knowledge and recognition that no detailed “fancy” CAD simulation, or description, can.

Not being able to access real systems and users is one of the biggest challenges  facing any deivery team. Where you are not working in the same immediate space as the people involved (either directly or indirectly) with the team, you are immediately at a disadvantage. Lucky for us, our recent move was only a small one, and direct contact can still be maintained.

This need for ongoing contact is something that ThoughtWorks is very aware of when doing distributed agile projects – now I know why.

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Written by lizdouglass

August 20, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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